Mountain Town News
By Allen Best
Clean energy fine, if elsewhere
BRECKENRIDGE, Colo. – Breckenridge has held back on plans to install solar panels at two prominent locations, the local golf club and a venue called the Riverwalk Center often used for weddings.
The town, reports the Summit Daily News, will move forward with less visible solar panel installations at nine other public buildings, including the community recreation center, the police station and the ice arena.
People who spoke out against the panels said the solar panels would damage the historic feel of the town, might impact property values of nearby homes, and would lock the town into technology that might change or improve in coming years.
As measured financially, however, the technology works well already. At the Riverwalk, 10 stand-alone panels standing 18 feet high would have been erected along the parking lot, producing 23 percent of the electricity consumed by the building and saving the town $6,700 in just the first year alone.
Understandably, some council members were vexed. “We want to be green as long as we don’t have to see it,” said Councilman Mike Dudick.
Whistler goes dark to make point
WHISTLER, B.C. – During the last Saturday evening in March, the light switch went off at many places on the planet in an observance called Earth Hour. In San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge turned dark. In London, it was Big Ben.
Whistler and Blackcomb ski mountains also went dark, save for a few snow groomers, while in the town below, many restaurants turned off lights and lit candles for the hour of observation and one high-end restaurant served cold cuts.
To further make the point, four bicycles were outfitted with generators to produce sufficient electricity for 57 minutes to amplify sound and provide lighting at a concert that attracted 400 to 500 people.
The lesson drawn from this hour of restrained electrical use and sturdy pedaling was that “energy conservation can be tackled in a meaningful way,” according to Ken Melamed, the mayor. “
Aspen opts against bottle ban
ASPEN, Colo. – A ban on plastic bottles? Not in Aspen, which has instead decided to emphasize the positive; the high quality of its native waters high in the Rocky Mountains. The idea for the ban came up after a councilman noticed all the plastic bottles littering the water in the British Virgin Islands while on a vacation earlier this year, notes The Aspen Times.
But Aspen has decided to follow in the footsteps of Telluride to discourage plastic bags, and it hopes for coordination with other municipalities in the Roaring Fork Valley in adoption of a policy.
No clucking about hens
HAILEY, Idaho – City officials in Hailey, the locals’ oriented town down-valley form Ketchum and Sun Valley, say there has been very little clucking about a trial ordinance that allowed three hens per house. Save for one household that tried to duck a ban on roosters, the experiment worked well, they say, in moving to make the provision permanent. But one blogger on the website of the Idaho Mountain Express cautions that three hens is only half as many as are needed for adequate production to satisfy the needs and wants of a family.
Banff limits gifts
BANFF, Alberta – Town officials in Banff have drawn up rules governing what an elected official can accept in the way of gifts and other gratuities.
The policy formation had been underway for several months, but its need was underscored by a recent controversy involving the mayor of Calgary, who had accepted a free airline ticket to Toronto from an architectural firm.
The Rocky Mountain Outlook says city officials were most concerned about golf outings, concerts, and ski passes.
Gifts valued at more than $250 are banned outright. Those below $25 are allowed.
Bear collars head to Durango
ASPEN, Colo. – The electronic surveillance collars placed on bears in the hills surrounding Aspen are now being removed. They will next be used in a study of bears around Durango.
The Aspen Times explains that the collars had been placed on 62 bears during the last five years in an attempt to better understand whether bears get addicted to human food.
Sharon Baruch-Mordo, a doctoral candidate at Colorado State University, who led the study, concluded that bears will remain in the wilds when natural food, like berries and acorns, are plentiful. In years they are not, then the bears look to glean what they can amid dumpsters, garbage cans and even houses and garages.
Last year, 10 bears were killed under Colorado’s three-strikes policy. The year before, there were 20. In some cases, bears were relocated 100 to 200 miles away, but still returned to Aspen to rustle their meals.
With this first study done, wildlife graduate student David Lewis is starting another. “We’re trying to find out if Aspen is a source for the bear population or a sink for the bear population,” he said. “Aspen should be a source, because it has such good habitat, but it may be a sink because of the euthanizations … “
Animal group claims vandalism
WHISTLER, B.C. – A Los-Angeles based group called North American Animal Liberation Front has claimed responsibility for vandalism to the storefront of a company in Whistler involved in the killing of unneeded sled dogs.
A number of sled dogs no longer needed for a commercial operation in Whistler were reportedly killed last year in a blood-bath that shocked British Columbia and many others beyond. By one account, the killings numbered 100 dogs. They came to light earlier this year.
The targeted company, Outdoor Adventures Whistler, had a partial financial interest in the sled dog operation, and has admitted it knew some dogs would be euthanized for quality-of-life reasons.
But the killings seem to have gone far beyond that, to economic reasons. There wasn’t enough business after the Olympics to justify so many dogs.