Guest Column: A glimpse into a possible Fraser future
Ryan Summerlin April 9, 2013
On an afternoon bike ride yesterday the cadence of pedal pumping paced my rhythm of recollection. As I rode across the Byers Peak meadow near its upper limit I stopped to read the history sign outside President Eisenhower’s old summer retreat – it is hard to believe this beautiful summer afternoon in June of 2050 is nearly a hundred years after Ike worked St. Louis Creek with his fly rod.
Nearby ponds shimmered in the summer sun, storage reservoirs built to help the town feed the creek when resident demands depleted this precious stream. I learned about these waterworks while thumbing through old newspaper articles and town records, reviewing Fraser’s history during the community’s transition years during the second decade of the century.
The economic downturn of 2008 could have left valley residents hungry for immediate returns on land development, but instead it appeared residents and their representatives took advantage of a lull in the pace of development to change the direction of the valley. I was happy decisions made then left a place where I could afford to live, free of onerous taxes and fees. I looked east across the open meadow toward far-off railroad tracks where I saw an electric inter-community trolley car plying the rails on its regular run from the ski area to Granby. I always enjoyed the ride through the Fraser River Canyon on this nearly silent conveyance.
I pedaled across the nearby parking lot, full of empty tour buses, bicycles and valley cars (electric restorations of old classics). Everyone was riding on the narrow gauge train to be dropped off at the top of the Flume restoration – the old wooden water chute had been re-created to carry summer tubers from the Experimental Forest station back to this parking lot.
I rode south through the Elk and Leeland Creek hills where three small villages had been built tucked in the forest, regrowing after the beetles had decimated the woodlands during the early part of the century. During my research, I read how the town had worked with the landowner on moving possible developments out of the meadows and into the hills. They had no way of knowing then, but we discovered as I grew older the demand would drop for second homes, but would grow for new residents who wanted to move to these cool hills from the cities below, finally beginning to cool after the environmental sins of our fathers resulted heat waves which wilted everyone at low altitudes.
Climbing up and blasting down hills I marveled at what a wondrous landscape our mountains cradled. We are blessed with a broad alpine valley, from a high point I could see bits and pieces of the paths which tied Tabernash, Fraser and Winter Park to the Devil’s Thumb and Snow Mountain Trail systems, carrying bikers, hikers and – in winter – cross country skiers from resort to destination.
My reading had uncovered the debates of those who struggled to guide the Fraser Valley through yet another course change. More than 200 years ago my valley had been a summer hunting paradise for many plains and mountain Native American tribes. The first white settlers found this was a tough place to make a living as a rancher. Loggers followed, struggling to make a living felling and processing the slow growing trees. Constructing the railroad over Corona Pass offered a living, but when the Moffat Tunnel opened the valley had to re-invent itself once again.
Skiing was a fun way to make a living, but it finally plateaued and shorter winters forced my forbearers to again re-invent the valley. I was happy their broad vision left the specifics up to us, decisions left to a time when the direction being taken by a rapidly changing world came clear to a new generation.
A great valley I thought as I headed downhill along the Fraser River Trail, a great valley indeed.