2012 Year in Review
Ryan Summerlin December 28, 2012
Matt Nelson, a local backcountry skier, triggered a 300-foot wide avalanche that slid nearly 400 feet from its crown in Second Creek near Berthoud Pass, on New Year’s Day of 2012, and was subsequently rescued by his skiing partner after he had been buried up to his head by the avalanche.
A man and a woman claimed to have robbed a crime scene in order to stay alive. Jerod Morris Reeves and Kimberly Mae McCaffrey, both of Craig, happened upon the scene of a father-son murder-suicide in December of 2011, on the Trough Road southwest of Kremmling, and took the deceased’s wallet, cell phones, and other valuables, as well as siphoned the gas out of the vehicle where the father and son were found dead. Reeves cut the father’s fingers off with a hacksaw in order to attain a gun that was frozen in the dead man’s hand. The two were charged with tampering with physical evidence, criminal possession of a financial device (stolen credit cards), first degree criminal trespass, and abuse of a corpse, on Jan. 9 in Grand County.
Kremmling Police officer Todd Willson was assaulted during a routine bar check in the early morning of Saturday, Jan. 27. Terry Collins, of Denver, and Scott Folven, of Erie, were arrested in relation to the crime. Collins was arrested on charges of assaulting a police officer, a felony crime, and Folven was charged with obstructing a peace officer.
The Colorado Passenger Tramway Safety Board issued an emergency shutdown order to the Colorado Adventure Park, located near Fraser, on Jan. 26. The adventure park’s tramway license expired on Jan. 24, but the area continued to operate its tramway on Jan. 25 and 26. After officials agreed to a Board Order that included a Letter of admission and a fine of $5,000, Colorado Adventure Park was issued a renewed license on the same evening.
Robb Rankin and Merrit Linke announced their candidacies for the Grand County commissioner seat for District 2. Rankin is a former superintendent of schools at East Grand and has been a Grand County resident for longer than 12 years. Linke, a native of Grand County who was born in Kremmling, was a former teacher and is a rancher in the Grand County area. Chas McConnell, a 32-year resident of Grand County, challenged incumbent James Newberry, of Tabernash, for the County Commissioner seat for District 1.
A fire ravaged the Parshall General Store on Feb. 12, due to a malfunctioning, old forced-air furnace. Fire departments were forced to haul water to the scene of the fire because the buildings in Parshall are serviced by water wells. Around 150,000 gallons of water were hauled to the scene to extinguish the fire, which destroyed the building that had been built close to 80 to 90 years before the blaze.
An arrest warrant was issued Feb. 9 for Kyle Sandusky, an officer with the Fraser-Winter Park Police Department, on charges of second degree burglary, criminal tampering, and second degree official misconduct. Sandusky turned himself in to the Jefferson County Jail the same day the warrant was issued and was freed on a $10,000 bail. The charges that Sandusky faced stemmed from incidents that took place the night of Dec. 10, 2011. Sandusky allegedly became intoxicated at a bar and, after his date had dropped him off at his home, drove to her house were he broke in through a dog door and spent the night in her home. The charges were altered and reduced throughout the court proceedings to include only a first degree criminal trespassing charge. Sandusky was found not guilty of first degree criminal trespass in a Grand County Court on Friday, Sept. 21.
Brian Macchione of Middle Park High School claimed the wrestling state championship title for Class 3A 195-pound weight class for a second consecutive year. He finished the season with an undefeated record of 43 wins and 0 losses.
West Grand Superintendent Kevin Chalfant resigned. He had served as the superintendent of West Grand since 2009. Chalfant said he planned to search for a position on the Front Range that would be closer to his home.
A one-vehicle accident that took place Feb. 19 left the driver of the vehicle dead and closed Berthoud Pass. Michael Baker, 56, of Tucson, Ariz., was pronounced dead at the scene of the accident. Baker was driving a 2012 Dodge pickup truck heading east-bound on U.S. Highway 40, on the east side of the pass, when he negotiated a left turn and drifted to the right, out of the travel lane and off the right-hand shoulder. He hit a snowbank and then went over it and the guard rail and down the embankment 60 feet.
Matthew O’Neill, 52, of Kremmling, pleaded guilty to one count of providing false information related to a terrorism offense. O’Neill faced up to five years in federal prison and $250,000 in fines related to the offense. O’Neill sent a package to the Colorado Department of Revenue in Denver containing sodium bicarbonate (baking soda). The recipients believed the package to contain some kind of harmful chemical and called the Denver Fire Department and Hazardous Material (HAZMAT) team, who evacuated the building prior to discovering what the substance in the envelope was.
Bob Mydans, an assistant U.S. attorney from the Front Range, collapsed and died while snowshoeing on the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park Feb. 18.
Grand County opted to undergo a $8 million fix for the county landfill that was in danger of sliding into Coyote Creek. County commissioners reviewed a number of engineering alternatives to address the landfill landslide that has plagued the county since 2007 before deciding on a highly technical dewatering project. The decision to undergo the dewatering project came after the county had already invested $4 million in 2007 to create a large buttress that stabilized the slide. However, after the initial stabilizing project it was determined that there were actually two sections of earth sliding as part of a greater landslide.
The East Grand School Board voted 5-2 to reject a request from the Indian Peaks Charter School for the school board to endorse the school’s application for a Building Excellent Schools Today state grant. The grant application was for a $6 million to $8 million state grant to build a 13,000-square-foot school in the Granby area, which would have replaced the school’s three modular structures. “If it was an extremely well-performing school and enrollment was increasing every year, I think I would see it differently,” said Chip Besse, a school board member.
A mixed martial arts fighter out of Kremmling, Cody Mumma, went pro and fought in his first professional MMA fight against Jeremy Osheim. He lost his first fight during the Mardi Gras Brawl at the National Western Complex in Denver.
Middle Park Electric rebated $9,500 to customers who installed renewable energy systems within its service area in 2011. The maximum rebate that was available for residential systems was $2,500 and $10,000 for businesses and organizations.
Ronald Chrivia, 49, of Aurora died after getting caught in a fire in his motor home at the T Lazy W RV Park near Grand Lake on March 14. It appeared Chrivia had gotten his motor home stuck in the snow while trying to access his family’s vacation getaway at the RV park. It was assumed that Chrivia was revving the engine at a high RPM, which was most likely the cause of the fire. While he was overrevving the motor the rubber on the rear tire was flying off of the tire and then the drive shaft broke. It was expected that there may have been an explosion as part of the fire. An autopsy confirmed the man died of “thermal injury.”
Grand Lake received presence on Interstate 70 for the first time when a sign was placed underneath a brown Rocky Mountain National Park sign for Exit 232. The sign is a nod to Grand Lake that notes the famous national park shares its entrance with the town.
The regular municipal election for the town of Grand Lake scheduled for April 3 was canceled because the only matter before the voters was the election of persons to office and there were no more candidates than offices to be filled. The following people were elected to office: Mayor Judy M. Burke; and trustees Jim Gasner, Elmer Lanzi, Kathy Lewis, and Tom Ludwig.
The Town of Granby had plans to build a paved trail along the west side of Highway 40 and a pedestrian overpass above the railroad tracks. The trail would be similar to the paved trail between Fraser and Winter Park and would run from the southern end of the bridge near the fire station to City Market. The project’s preliminary design includes a railroad overpass that would connect the downtown district to Kaibab Park. The town was granted $382,000 in Transportation Enhancement Funds through the Colorado Department of Transportation.
The Colorado Health Foundation awarded the Grand County Rural Health network a two-year grant totaling $356,285 to expand patient navigation services for low-income, uninsured individuals in Grand County.
A project that would upgrade electrical lines in the Three Lakes Area proposed by Western Area Power Administration is suspected of being connected in some way to the Windy Gap Firming Project. Grand county officials believed there was some correlation between the transmission-line project and the water-delivery project and ordered the environmental impact statement to include cumulative effects to aquatic and scenic resources in Grand County. Western did not agree and maintains that the projects are separate from each other while the county maintains the two projects are not independent.
The snow pack for the month of March was near record low for Middle Park at 58 percent for the Colorado River Basin. The low amount of snowfall during the 2011-2012 winter would lead to a drought for 2012 and a heightened danger of wildfires. The dry conditions across the state were a major catalyst for some of the state’s largest wildfires that took place during 2012.
Two out of three men fell through the ice and into Lake Granby while fishing on April 7 and were rescued by the Grand Lake Fire Department.
State Rep. Randy Baumgardner (now a state senator-elect) sponsored a bill that would eventually authorize a stretch of the Fraser River to be designated as the “Eisenhower Memorial Reach.”
Mayor Peggy Smith was sworn into office as the mayor of Fraser on April 4, as was new trustees of the town; Eilleen Waldow, Vesta Shapiro, Cheri Sanders, and Phillip Naill. Kremmling Mayor Tom Clark also swore in five new town council members: Gina Schroder, Casey Curran, Mark Mahorney, Scott Crandall and Wes Howell. Their first order of business was to unanimously appoint Grant Burger as the mayor pro tem.
The Bureau of Land Management announced it would open motorized routes near Kremmling.
Due to the lack of snow pack, mountain biking trails began drying up earlier than normal to allow for some early season riding.
Chris and Cheryl Brown were named the Kremmling Citizens of the Year for their dedication to area youths.
The Colorado Department of Transportation submitted a draft proposal to improve safety on Highway 9 that would include seven wildlife crossings, two of which would be wildlife overpasses and five of which would be underpasses. Because of the road’s hazardous track record for deaths related to vehicular accidents caused by wildlife, the Blue Valley Ranch outside of Kremmling, which is owned by billionaire hedge fund manager Paul T. Jones of Greenwich, Conn., donated $805,000 for CDOT work to get the project “shelf ready” for when state and federal funding become available to fund the project.
John Coffey, a citizen of Hot Sulphur Springs, was awarded a certificate of appreciation from the town for his act of heroism when he risked his life to rescue three children who had fallen into the Colorado River while playing on the river ice.
Three new board members, Christine Lee, Robert Shirley, and Ken Anderson, were sworn in as trustees of the Town of Hot Sulphur Springs as well as one person was sworn in as a trustee of the town of Fraser, Adam Cwiklin, to fill the vacant position left when Mayor Peggy Smith assumed the position as mayor of Fraser.
The Three Lakes system of Grand County broke a record for ice break-up. Most of the ice was broken up by April 9 with nearly all of the ice gone by the end of the month.
The West Grand School Board hired Terry Vanderpan of Bozeman, Mont. to fill the district’s superintendent position. He started work on July 1.
Moffat Road was listed as endangered in a 2012 Colorado’s most Endangered Places List by Colorado Preservation Inc. Numerous historic structures along the historic rail line that changed Grand County forever were identified as endangered due to demolition, neglect, natural forces, land-value fluctuation, and unsympathetic owners.
The Colorado River Cooperative Agreement was signed into law by Grand County officials, Gov. John Hickenlooper, Summit County officials, Denver Water representatives, Eric Kuhn of the Colorado River District, and members of the Clinton Ditch and Reservoir Co. on May 15.
Middle Park pitcher Tyler Franek almost pitched a perfect game on May 4, when he struck out 21 out of 22 batters in seven innings and walked only one, resulting in a no hitter. Middle Park won the game 11-0.
Montana-based contractor Five Rivers Inc. completed work on six sections of the Fraser River from County Road 8 south to CR 804 to stabilize the banks of the river.
Trail Ridge Road opened at 11:05 a.m. Monday, May 14, for its third earliest opening since 1932.
Bike Granby Ranch opened for the 2012 season on May 25 with the addition of family-friendly lift-serviced trails and an enhanced cross country trail network.
The Sylvan Fire was burning in the national forest south of Hot Sulphur Springs until it was contained by firefighters to one acre and received 4 to 5 inches of snow to aid firefighters in suppression efforts. The cause of the fire was traced to a lightening strike.
The Headwaters Trail Alliance, led by Maura McKnight, was moved to a new building in downtown Fraser at 120 Zerex.
Colorado Ski Country USA announced that it saw an 11.4 percent decrease in skier visits at its 22 member resorts for the 2011-2012 winter.
A fire ban was implemented in Grand County that prohibited most open burning and private fireworks. The fire ban would continue and become stricter throughout the summer in Grand County and would not be lifted until fall.
Ride the Rockies travels through Grand County and makes a stop at Polhamus Park on Wednesday, June 13. A team of riders from Grand County participated in the event and was made up of: Alan Findley, Mike Hulley, Peter Kerswell, Julie Kerswell, Bill Alpin, Dave Alpin, Kathy Alpin, Adam Pring, Rob Gillespie, and Ryan Kunisch.
Emergency responders and equipment from Grand County was on deck to aid in firefighting efforts for the High Park Fire, which ravaged Fort Collins. The increased fire danger across the state caused all of the fire departments in Grand County to remain on high alert.
Winter Park Resort’s Trestle Bike Park opened June 16 with a trail, “Cruel and Unusual.” The spring provided a quicker-than normal melt-out and as a result left the bike park in great condition for opening day.
The Lariat Saloon in Grand Lake reopened with new owners after closing the previous fall.
The Old Fall River Road in Rocky Mountain National Park opened Friday, June 15.
The Town of Granby called off its Fourth of July fireworks show due to a heightened fire risk from the dry conditions that plagued the state throughout the summer. Many of the other municipalities on Grand County followed suite as well as across the state.
Grand County commissioners unanimously voted to bar medical marijuana businesses in unicorporated Grand County despite the fact that voters voted to allow the businesses during the Nov. 2010 election.
Grand County ramped up its fire ban to Stage 2, which included prohibiting smoking outside as well as the use of charcoal grills. The last time the county entered a Stage 2 fire ban was in 2002.
The highest temperature ever recorded at the Kremmling McElroy Airport was recorded as 95 degrees on Monday, June 25. The second highest temperature was recorded as 94 degrees in 1949 and 1971.
A 1999 Dodge pick-up truck caught fire on June 24, just outside of Granby on U.S. Highway 40. Squirrels had wreaked havoc on the wiring of the truck, and when the truck’s owners were on the highway, sparks from the wiring caused the truck to catch fire.
The 10th annual Blues from the Top music festival took place June 29, 30, and July 1, in Winter Park. The Royal Southern Brotherhood headlined the festival with acts from Dana Fuchs and other artists entertaining festival goers.
Fourth of July activities continue throughout Grand County despite the lack of fireworks due to the drought.
Fraser-Winter Park police officer Brett Schroetlin received a new police canine named Argo, a 3-year-old German shepherd. Schroetlin retired his first canine officer, Astra, due to medical issues.
Pat Wallace, of Lafayette, went missing on July 3 while hiking in the Indian Peaks Wilderness. She was 74 at the time she went missing and was reported as suffering from the early stages of dementia and minor memory lapses. The search for the woman was suspended after more than two weeks due to the search and rescue’s crews exhausted resources and leads. Grand County Search and Rescue and Boulder County Search and Rescue searched for the woman. Wallace remains a missing person and the case has been considered inactive as no further leads have developed.
The U.S. Forest Service contracted for numerous hazardous tree removal projects across Grand County including work in the Grand Lake area and Winter Park area. The projects removed beetle-killed trees from popular areas to make the areas more safe for backcountry travelers as well as helped to mitigate the fire danger in Grand County. Hazardous tree removal projects will continue into 2013.
Rocky Mountain National Park allows fires again after the county begins to receive some rain after a long and dry period which was made exponentially worse by the lack of snowpack to feed the rivers. Much of the county and region remained under a Stage 2 fire ban.
Former Fraser Mayor Fran Cook retires from the working world and moves to the Denver Area from Grand County to be closer to her family.
The Solshine Music Festival takes place in Winter Park, with headliners Little Feat and Trampled by Turtles bringing a large crowd to Hideaway Park.
The Silver Screen Cinema in Winter Park closes after 33 years of providing movie magic to the community.
The third fire of the year takes place at the Byers Canyon shooting range.
The 30th Annual Jazz Festival took place in Winter Park on July 21 and 22.
The Grand County Search and Rescue team lowered a 60-year-old woman down a snowfield. The woman had taken a 200 foot fall.
Grand County rolls back its fire restrictions after a spine tingling year that saw some of the state’s largest fires.
A Denver man drowned in Lake Granby on July 20. Jesus Jiron, 34, was recovered and the man was pronounced dead at the scene.
The Colorado Freeride Festival debuts at Winter Park Resort, bringing many competitors to compete in the freeride mountain bike event.
A lightning strike ignited a house in Grand Elk on July 24. Most of the volunteers with the Grand Fire Protection District No. 1 were training at the time of the fire so the district responded in force and quickly extinguished the blaze.
The owner of a gun shop in Hot Sulphur Springs was questioned by federal agents regarding possible contact between him and James Eagan Holmes, who entered a movie theater in Aurora and killed 12 people and left 58 others injured. A request by the Sky-Hi News for information regarding the possible contact was denied by Fraser-Winter Park Police Chief Glen Trainor, who cited a gag order put in place by the judge who was handling the Holmes case. Holmes was charged with 24 counts of first degree murder and 116 counts of attempted murder as well as one count of possession of explosives and one count of a crime of violence. It was believed that Holmes may have used the Byers Canyon Shooting Range and may have bought ammunition from the gun shop in Hot Sulphur Springs. The owner of the shop, Clark Branstetter, denied having ever seen Holmes saying “I would have remembered selling ammunition to a guy with orange hair.”
Former district attorney for the 14th Judicial District, Elizabeth Oldham, did not run for re-election and was replaced by Brett Barkey.
The town of Winter Park began projects to remodel Wolf Park
Grand County ranks seventh in the Colorado for foreclosures with a rate of 1 in 222 homes completing foreclosure for the first seven months of 2012, according to a Colorado Division of Housing foreclosure report. Grand County saw a 22.5 percent increase in the number of foreclosure filings from 2011 to 2012, and an 11.5 percent increase in foreclosure sales.
While foreclosure rates are up, the number of building permits issued by the county for single-family homes had doubled since last year.
Former Winter Park police officer Kyle Sandusky was acquitted on charges of criminal trespassing.
The Colorado Department of Transportation gave the green light on a traffic light to be installed at the intersection of U.S. Highway 40 and East Kings Crossing Road in Winter Park.
East Grand schools began the search for a new superintendent to replace Nancy Karas, who plans to retire from her position after the 2012-2013 school year.
A Grand County paramedic suffered injuries when the response vehicle he was driving rolled two-and-a-half times.
The Winter Park town council approved $15,000 in funding for a bus to deliver East Grand School District students involved in after-school activities in Granby to the Fraser Valley area.
Colorado Timber Resources LLC purchased the former Valley Recycling property near Parshall to open a lumber mill operation.
The Granby Library closed for construction as the district sought to remedy long-standing problems related to the library’s fire suppression system.
The last leg of the Fraser to Granby Trail was completed and opened after a ribbon cutting ceremony on Oct. 15.
Trail Ridge Road through Rocky Mountain National Park officially closed for the season on Oct. 17.
Grand County voters re-elected James Newberry for county commissioner District 1, and elected Merrit Linke for commissioner district 2. Two-term commissioner Nancy Stuart of district 2 was defeated in the Republican primary. Regionally, voters elected Republican Randy Baumgardner for state Senate and Democrat Claire Levy for the state House..
The Winter Park Chamber unveiled its new branding initiative that entails a simplified marketing name, new tagline and a map of additional initiatives.
Winter Park Resort opened its 73rd season on Nov. 14.
Fran Cook, the former Fraser mayor, was named Citizen of the Year by the Winter Park-Fraser Chamber of Commerce.
A family of moose, a cow and her two calves, were shot, killed and abandoned in an empty lot in the Mountain Shadow Estates subdivision near Grand Lake. Colorado Parks and Wildlife Officials launched an investigation to try and catch the perpetrator.
The Middle Park Panthers reached the second round in the state playoffs for the first time in more than 20 years, losing to defending 2A state champ Florence Huskies, 12-0.
Barbara Ahrens was named Grand Lake Rotary’s Citizen of the Year.
Enrollment increased after the Oct. 1 official student count in both East and West Grand school districts.
The 14th Judicial District Attorney Brett Barkey did not relax due process of alleged violators of pot laws even after statewide voters approved Amendment 64’s legalization of small amounts of pot. “It’s still illegal until the governor proclaims the amendment is in effect,” Barkey said. “Those cases already in the pipeline will be processed.”
Precinct votes in the county showed the line between Democratic leanings and Republican leanings is more or less at Red Dirt Hill. And the measure to legalize small amounts of pot in the state passed in all precincts of the county, save for two precincts in the Kremmling area. But even in those Kremmling precincts the measure barely failed, losing by two votes in the larger of the two precincts and by 13 votes in the other.
Fraser Valley Elementary received the Governor’s Distinguished Improvement Award for academic growth on campus.
Ski Granby Ranch, formerly SolVista Ski Basin, opened for the season on 12-12-12, as did Mary Jane mountain. Two couples tied the knot at Devil’s Thumb Ranch on that day, walking down the aisle at 12:12 p.m.; meanwhile, a Broomfield boy turning 12 years-old on 12-12-12 held his birthday celebration at Ski Granby Ranch.
Officials at the town of Kremmling have narrowed down their search for a town manager to five candidates.
Grand County Commissioners approved the 1041 permit for the Windy Gap Firming Project, with a long list of negotiated conditions and agreements designed to protect the Colorado River and Grand Lake from continuing degradation.
The 2-1 commissioner vote granted the Northern Water Municipal Subdistrict a boost in its plans to build a Chimney Hollow Reservoir west of Crater Lake near Loveland, and divert more water from the river-reservoir system of Grand County.
The Colorado Department of Transportation is looking to install an automated, fixed avalanche control system in the Stanley Slide area, the largest slide path on Berthoud Pass.
The long-term imbalances in supply and demand for Colorado River water is projected to be a 3.2 million acre-feet shortfall by 2060, according to a Colorado River Basin Water Supply and Demand study released in 2012.
In the wake of the tragic shooting in Connecticut on Dec. 14, Grand County community members wonder “how safe are our schools?” Granby Police Chief Bill Housley along with school administrators and other local enforcement officers arranged to meet to review school security at the East Grand School District. West Grand School administrators met with law enforcement in Kremmling.
Awareness and vigilance of a community are critical to help avert or minimize any incidences such as the tragedy at Sandy Hill Elementary, Housley said.