Red Cliff considers outdoor ice-climbing park | VailDaily.com

Red Cliff considers outdoor ice-climbing park

RED CLIFF — Red Cliff has long been a haunt of backcountry skiers and snowmobilers, but soon the little town tucked between Battle Mountain and Camp Hale may start drawing ice climbers as well. The town, in partnership with Avon-based Apex Mountain Guides, plans to build an outdoor ice-climbing park that they hope will draw enthusiasts from all over the state and the country. Plans for the park are still in the works, and the town's board of trustees has yet to vote on it. Still, Red Cliff Mayor Scott Burgess said he's optimistic that the park will be a social and economic boon for the town, bringing some of the benefits that ice-climbing destinations like Ouray have experienced. "We have a solid concept," Burgess said. "The cliffs along Water Street are perfect for an ice park. If we get it constructed, it'll be the second biggest ice-climbing park in the country behind Ouray. Plus, ice climbers are very respectful of their environment and the kind of people we want in town. Also, they spend a lot of money — some of these people are preparing to climb Everest." Not that Red Cliff is looking to become Ouray — Ouray's park is up year-round, with a set-up that Burgess said "is a bit unsightly in the summertime." Red Cliff's park would only be open three or four months a year, tucked away on the cliffs along Water Street. "We want to be green about it and keep it tucked away in the summertime," Burgess said. The park would probably draw water from the river and water the cliffs through a series of sprinklers and pipes. As a result, ice features are controlled, and designers can make routes of various levels of difficulty. Cost is estimated to be $250,000, funded by Apex Mountain School and various private investors. If the project is approved soon, Burgess said he thinks the park could be up and running by the winter of 2015-16. Details are to be determined, but the park will likely be open to the public and charge on a membership basis. Apex Mountain School would run many of their ice climbing trips at the park. Putting Red Cliff on the map The proposed project has drummed up considerable interest in the town, where almost 20 people (roughly the number of people who came to hearings about retail marijuana) came to recent presentation by Apex Mountain School's Scott Smith. Burgess said he feels most residents are in favor of the project or on the fence until they learn more. "I think this is a great opportunity for the town to have some economic development," Burgess said. "Mango's could have more people eating at it. The hotel would have more people stay at it. Most people won't know that it's there. I don't think it will be that big of an impact." Mango's Mountain Grill draws many snowmobilers coming over Shrine Pass and backcountry skiers ending their day with a drink and fish tacos. Others want an off-the-beaten-path mountain retreat away from the cities and away from the more expensive alternatives. Co-owner Mallory Parks said she would be excited to draw even more outdoor enthusiasts to visit the town. "I do think in general more draws to come to Red Cliff will help the town immensely," she said. "We have such a gem right here, and many people drive right past it. I only see (the ice-climbing area) as another benefit so we can share Red Cliff with more people." Avid ice climbers are excited at the prospect as well. East Vail boasts some of the top natural ice climbing routes in the state, but as Edwards climber Joe Drew points out, the area isn't for beginners, and the frozen falls can be difficult to access. "I usually go to East Vail, and it's good ice climbing, but it's not a good place to learn, access is an issue crossing some private land, and parking is a problem," he said. "This sounds like a good location (at Red Cliff) and would provide a controlled and safe environment." Assistant Managing Editor Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2927 and mwong@vaildaily.com. Follow her on Twitter @mwongvail.

Anonymous donor saves Red Cliff church

An anonymous donor has answered the prayers of Red Cliff Presbyterian church-goers by providing the needed funds to save the 113-year-old church.Faced with the prospect of losing the local church – and town landmark – parishioner and town Mayor Ramon Montoya led an effort to gather enough funds to keep the building. What they got was a heavenly deal. A generous soul has agreed to purchase the church on behalf of Red Cliff’s small congregation. The congregation, in turn, has agreed to pay back 50-percent of the $150,000 purchase price. The real estate agent for the sale decided to forego her commission on the deal, as well, Montoya said. The chapel will be renamed the Red Cliff Community Church and will provide a worship center for a multitude of the small town’s religious denominations. “I was so excited about it,” said Marika Cisneros, 10, who attends the church with her family. “It took my breath away. I thought we were going to lose it.”The Denver office for the church wanted to sell the Red Cliff and Minturn Presbyterian churches to free up enough funds to build a larger chapel in a more central location in the Eagle Valley, where more of the county’s population resides. Minturn’s church – in what is now the Holy Toledo store on Main Street – is gone. The blue-and-white Red Cliff church on Eagle Street was built in 1891. It’s status as one of the town’s oldest buildings made it even more important to the congregation.”That’s why we tried so hard,” Montoya said. About six months ago, the Denver Presbytery – which owned the building – put a lock on the front door and asked the congregation to stop using it. Since then, Red Cliff’s Presbyterians have worshiped at the Gore Range Natural Science Center building, Cisneros said.The congregation is small – Cisernos said only about four or five people attend church on a regular basis. “We need more people to come,” she said.While Cisneros said she’s grateful that she’s had a place to worship in the meantime, the natural science school doesn’t have quite the same feel. The church also has an organ and piano she likes to play. The purchase is scheduled to close at the end of the month. “We are very much looking forward to going back in there,” Montoya said. “We wanted it opened up to all the public. It is our desire to let everybody in and to provide services for the whole town.”Staff writer Tamara Miller can be reached via e-mail at: tmiller@vaildaily.com or by calling 949-0555 ext. 607.

Mango’s in Red Cliff could house pot dispensary

RED CLIFF, Colorado – Mango’s Mountain Grill could soon become famous for more than just its fish tacos. Restaurant owner Eric Cregon hopes to open a medical marijuana dispensary on the second floor. Along with selling medical marijuana, he want to bake foods made with the plant for wholesale to other dispensaries. “What I’m shooting for is: I want to be known for great ice cream,” he said. “Like high-end ice cream, no pun intended.” Cregon is seeking approval from the town of Red Cliff to open the M-Bar dispensary in a 24-by-15-foot space that currently houses a jukebox and foosball table. He said Mango’s has been struggling financially, and the dispensary would help him keep the restaurant open. “Without some form of income boost, we probably will be closing within six months,” he told the town board Monday night. The board tabled a vote on the dispensary, and asked for Cregon to present more information Jan. 11. Red Cliff approved dispensaries last month, and outlined several regulations for them. Red Cliff resident Caroline Bradford said she supports medical marijuana, but doesn’t think all customers at dispensaries are using the drug for legitimate medical purposes. She’s not convinced a dispensary is right for Red Cliff. “I’m not sure I want Red Cliff known for the first pot store in a bar,” she said. Staff Writer Sarah Mausolf can be reached at 970-748-2928 or smausolf@vaildaily.com.

Resort ‘dating’ Minturn, not Red Cliff

RED CLIFF ” Tim Parks thinks the Ginn Development Co. would benefit Red Cliff and not just because resort residents and visitors may dine at his restaurant, Mangos Mountain Grill. He needs customers to fill beds and to buy beer after construction is completed at his Green Bridge Inn, which would include a liquor store, but Parks has better reasons to support Ginn, he said. “I think the entire town of Red Cliff will benefit,” said Parks, Red Cliff resident for almost two years. In a town beset by financial problems, residents and the mayor talk hopefully of help from Ginn, which wants to build a private ski resort on Battle Mountain and employee housing on the north edge of town. Ginn wants Minturn to annex its property, but has repeatedly said it work in a “partnership” with Red Cliff. Some residents remain skeptical in a town known for its reluctance to embrace Ginn. The town attorney and manager once brandished a petition signed by 19 people who opposed annexation of Ginn to Minturn. Ron Mitchell moved to Red Cliff to get away from traffic along the stretch of Interstate 70, he said. Ginn construction traffic would take away from the reason he moved to Red Cliff. “It’s just going to be a traffic nightmare for people going up and down this scenic byway,” Mitchell said. An average of 2,930 more vehicles per day would pass through Minturn by 2023, up from 5,992 in 2006, according to a Ginn study. Even without the development, expect an average of 1,615 more cars per day, the study says. Ginn does not know how many more vehicles would pass Red Cliff along U.S. Highway 24, but during construction and at build out, Ginn has agreed that its workers and resort guests would use its main entrance near Gilman and would avoid going through Red Cliff. “Unless Red Cliff wants us to go through Red Cliff, we will not go through Red Cliff,” said Bill Weber, Ginn senior vice president. Ginn has told Red Cliff it will conduct a traffic study, but “we haven’t seen anything yet,” Red Cliff Mayor Ramon Montoya said. Ginn’s traffic engineer will complete the study soon, Weber said. Red Cliff wants to repair its wastewater treatment plant, expected to cost $2.3 million, Montoya said. So far, federal, state and county grants account for $1.3 million ” the other $1 million could come from Ginn, Montoya said. Red Cliff could build that plant without Ginn’s help, but would have to pay interest on some of the $1 million because a portion would come from a federal loan, he said. Ginn has not committed to repairing Red Cliff’s wastewater plant, or anything else, he said. Mitchell worries that property taxes would rise after construction of the Ginn development. “We’re going to suffer financially come tax time,” he said. That Red Cliff is nestled between two world-famous ski resorts probably would have more to do with rising property values, said Dominic Mauriello, planner for Ginn. “I don’t know that we can speculate on what causes property values to go up,” Mauriello said. “I think it’s just that the rest of the valley is built out.” Some people want property values to go up, said Cliff Thompson, spokesman for Ginn. Last year, Red Cliff’s property tax rate was 97.76 ” the highest of any town in Eagle County, though the rate in areas such as Cordillera are higher. Ginn actually could decrease Red Cliff’s exorbitant tax rate, easing the burden on taxpayers, Parks said. Parks points out that Red Cliff residents paid twice the tax rate that Vail residents paid. Red Cliff has accumulated a hefty debt and Ginn’s wastewater treatment plant would help ease that, he said. “Someday someone’s going to have to pay for all of this,” Parks said. The plant would decrease the town’s debt, property tax rate and $129 minimum water bill, he said. Ginn also would create jobs for Red Cliff residents, Parks said. Ginn wants emergency services such as a fire and police station to be located near Red Cliff. That would decrease emergency response times and insurance rates for Red Cliff residents, Ginn officials said. Ginn is “dating” Minturn, not Red Cliff, Parks said. And Montoya said that until Ginn has finished in Minturn, the company cannot commit to Red Cliff. “It’s been frustrating,” Montoya said. The company has met with Red Cliff town staffers “as often as we like,” Montoya said, though the mayor has not requested additional meetings because Ginn hasn’t committed to improvements, Montoya said. Ginn can meet in private with Red Cliff town staffers because the company is not dealing officially with the town. All meetings with Minturn town staffers must be open to the public. Ginn has held “two or three” public meetings in Red Cliff, Thompson said. Maria Tucholke attended only one of those public meetings, but she thinks Ginn could communicate more with the town’s residents. “I think there’s just a lot of misunderstanding and I think that’s why some people are for it and some people are against it,” Tucholke said. “That’s why I’m neutral, because I don’t think we have all the facts.” Staff Writer Steve Lynn can be reached at 748-2931 or slynn@vaildaily.com.

Vail Daily obituary: Amos Mondragon, 1957–2014

Amos Mondragon, 56, of Red Cliff since 1962, passed away at his residence on Saturday. He was born on Aug. 25, 1957, to Florencio and Sadie (Lopez) Mondragon in Ojito, N.M. He attended Red Cliff Elementary and graduated from Battle Mountain High School in 1977. Amos worked as a miner at the New Jersey Zinc Mine in Gilman and at the Climax Mine. He worked construction for various construction companies. Amos and the Mondragon cousins built Mango's and the Green Bridge Inn. His most recent employment was for the town of Red Cliff. Amos was a great asset for the town of Red Cliff. He enjoyed the outdoors, snowmobiling, hunting and fishing. Fishing the high country lakes was his passion. He could hardly wait for the ice to melt off so he could travel to the mountains to fish. Amos deeply loved spending time with his family and his grandchildren. Amos is survived by his mother, Sadie, of Red Cliff; son Ross and wife Delicia and their children Darian, Amelia and Eli Mondragon, of Minturn; sisters Louann, of New Mexico, and Joyce and husband Sammy Cordova, of New Mexico; and brother Florencio Mondragon Jr., of Red Cliff. He was preceded in death by his father and numerous aunts and uncles. A memorial Mass of Christian burial will be held at 6 p.m. on Thursday at St. Patrick's Parish Church in Minturn with the Rev. Father Jim Baird as celebrant. A reception will follow the memorial Mass at the St. Patrick Spirit Center in Minturn. Internment will be at a later date in New Mexico. Bailey-Kent Funeral Home of Leadville is assisting the family with arrangements. Please visit http://www.bailey kentfuneralhome.com to send a condolence to the family.

Red Cliff gets serious about parking

RED CLIFF, Colorado ” Parking in Red Cliff, Colorado may not be so carefree anymore. The Board of Trustees has drafted an ordinance that would restrict parking in town to make snow removal easier and maintain clear school bus and emergency vehicle lanes. Town Attorney Ruth Borne said the board took notice of parking problems last winter, with bus and plow drivers making several complaints about carefree parking of cars, trucks and snowmobiles. “During the winter, some people were parking haphazardly and blocking the ability for emergency vehicles to get through,” she said. “It’s something that other communities struggle with and are concerned about. We’re trying to create a safe community for everybody.” Red Cliff’s neighbor to the north, Minturn, recently implemented parking restrictions to make the snowplowing easier. Borne said while an ordinance in Red Cliff has been drafted, the trustees are waiting to hear back from the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office “-who would be enforcing the ordinance “-on any recommendations or changes. Trustee Eric Cregon said the intent of the ordinance isn’t to hassle people or make their lives more difficult. “We’re just trying to make it so we can stay clear and get the bus in town,” he said. And if that doesn’t happen, Cregon added, “At least there’s an opportunity for us to call the cops.” Cregon said a lot of the town’s enforcement may be dealt with on a case-by-case basis. Eagle Street resident Ron Mitchell said his snow removal and parking relationship has been working out well the last two-and-a-half-years he’s lived in town, and he hasn’t noticed any of the problems brought to town officials. “Everything seems to be fine in my eyes, but that’s easy for me to say, I’m not the one plowing the snow,” he said. “Maybe there is a problem in town.” The draft ordinance would limit parking outside the downtown district and eliminate parking on Turkey Creek Road and High Street, as well as prohibit on-street parking of trailers, snowmobiles and any car or truck that isn’t registered with the town. And, like in Minturn, there would be restricted parking on the north and south sides of certain streets on alternating days. Even though he has no problems now, Mitchell said he’d have no problem with the restrictions, if they’re passed by the board. “I’m willing to park on one side of the street on alternating days,” he said. “I’d do that if it makes (the snow plower’s) life easier.” Borne said there could be changes made the ordinance before the board approves it, which she said could be as early as its next meeting, on Dec. 15. Dustin Racioppi can be reached at 970-748-2936 or dracioppi@vaildaily.com.

Red Cliff water service is restored after pipe freeze

RED CLIFF, Colorado – Red Cliff residents have gotten their water back, but the Eagle River Water & Sanitation District is asking that people conserve their water in order to prevent putting too much demand on the freshly repaired system.Water District crews have been working around the clock to restore water to households after learning that part of a water main had frozen last week.The Water District is the contracted service provider for the town of Red Cliff, but the town owns its own water system.Diane Johnson, spokeswoman for the water district, said crews got a heating system operational Saturday that heats small portions of the water coming from the town’s water tank and then feeds down through the cold pipes into town.”The system pumped 140 degree water into the existing 28 degree water,” Red Cliff Mayor Ramon Montoya said. “The blended warm water broke through the ice.”The water district had also been flushing the system in recent weeks, meaning it moved water through the system and flushed hydrants, which created demand to pull water through the system, Johnson said. The water district had been using this strategy for the past couple of weeks to resolve Red Cliff’s freezing issues, she said.Warm weather on Saturday helped fix some of the problems the town had faced in recent weeks, too, she said. The Water District also did excavation work to heat the ground and nearby water pipes, which may have helped.Red Cliff also got a full water-storage tank in recent days because of the frozen blockage in the water main, which created more pressure in the pipe leading down to town. Johnson said the tank had not been full for a few weeks because of all of the water bleeding that had been done to keep water flowing through the system.There’s no way of knowing exactly which remedy worked best, but a combination of these fixes got the town’s water running again as of 4:30 a.m. Sunday.Johnson said the water is safe to drink but conserving water will help the water district get Red Cliff’s water system back to normal operations she said.Community Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or lglendenning@vaildaily.com.

Tiny Red Cliff readies for big resort

RED CLIFF ” The employee housing planned off Shrine Pass Road to shelter private ski resort workers makes some Red Cliff residents and officials nervous. The Ginn Co. ” which wants to build the private resort on Battle Mountain ” wants to build 80 to 100 employee homes near Willow Creek just outside Red Cliff. Residents worry about the traffic, transients and destruction of pristine environment the development might bring. Jake Spears lives above the town’s high road entrance and he foresees increases in noise and traffic. “Any kind of growth is going to impact people living down there,” Spears said. “It’s not what I want to see.” Developer Bobby Ginn plan two entrances to his as-yet-unnamed resort, one over Battle Mountain and the other through Red Cliff. The representatives said employees will be required to drive over the mountain to reach work. But Red Cliff resident Jim Bradford said they’ll drive through town while off the clock because it’s “faster than going up Willow Creek and back over.” “Also, I’m not sure Mr. Ginn is going to want them traveling back and forth over his property doing their daily errands,” Bradford said. Bradford opposes the development but said Red Cliff should get something in return if employees eventually living just outside town drive through. He suggested road improvements to handle additional traffic and a wastewater treatment plan. “Then I would say it would probably have a positive impact on Red Cliff,” Bradford said. Whether Red Cliff controls what happens outside town is unknown. The Ginn Co. owns 5,300 acres on Battle Mountain and it is currently is trying to annex 4,300 acres into Minturn. The remaining 1,000 acres where the employee housing is proposed is still in limbo. Bradford said he wants the company to annex the 1,000 acres into Red Cliff rather than Minturn so his town is able to shape development. “It’s not fair to Red Cliff to let Minturn make those decisions on our borders,” said Bradford, a former town councilman. Fellow resident Tim Parks owns several businesses in town. Increased traffic doesn’t bother him. He thinks Ginn’s employees might create more business and sales tax revenue for the town. “We need more people with good year-round paying jobs,” Parks said. Even though Parks isn’t concerned, he wants the company to fund improvements to the high road. Parks said he suspects company representatives will be ready to discuss Red Cliff’s needs this summer when and if they finish with Minturn. “I don’t think they’ll screw us,” he said. “They want a functioning cute town at the lower level of their resort.” Michael Scola doesn’t want development to ruin Red Cliff’s small-town character. “I bought in Red Cliff because I wanted to live in a sleepy little mountain town,” he said. “It’s my dream home. It’s Rocky Mountain living at 9,300 feet.” Red Cliff officials relayed several concerns to their Minturn counterparts. The concerns included traffic increases. Red Cliff’s attorney, Ruth Borne, wants the town and company to clarify how employees will use the entrance through Red Cliff, she said. “Their streets and roads aren’t prepared to double the size of our town at this time,” Borne said. “Our real concern is having Minturn and the Ginn Co. take those aspects into consideration during approval.” Staff Writer J.K. Perry can be reached at 748-2928 or jkperry@vaildaily.com.

Remaking a place to play

Across the street from the liquor store in Red Cliff stands a small playground once full of rough wooden equipment – and a million splinters. The many dogs who reside in Red Cliff have made the playground home. For some, it’s more of a dog paradise than a safe harbor for kids. But all of that is changing. Volunteers and residents are starting to get their hands dirty. “I live across the street from the playground and I have two small children who have never been able to play in it,” says Red Cliff resident Beth Reilly. “It’s never been safe or ready. And it’s never been safe and poop-free.” Red Cliff isn’t re-doing a “puppy park,” adds Susie Davis, development director for the Youth Foundation. The foundation has decided to help re-do the park because they know the kids in Red Cliff don’t have a playground. “There were great visuals at the park, but it was pretty limited,” Davis says. “There’s fencing around the common area for dogs right now, but we prefer it to be for the kids. We’re not doing a puppy park.” Tie a yellow ribbon Remodeling the playground has been an ongoing project for some time, says Guy Patterson, Red Cliff’s town manager. Yellow-taped ribbon is draped around the playground, easy for the resident dogs to meander through it, but Reilly says the town has made huge progress on the park. There is a toddler park up the street from the playground that’s safe, Reilly says, but “it’s not poop-free.” “The kids aren’t going to play (at the Red Cliff playground) until the caution tape comes off,” Reilly says. “But we’re excited about the playground; we’re filled with anticipation that it will be close to completion.” Officials have made some attempts to ensure the playground was safe, but somehow the playground still didn’t meet code, says Davis. People driving through the small town might now find large bags of playground surfacing material lined around the playground. That alone has made the progress of the park more sustainable, officials say. Patterson, meanwhile, says he’s happy the Youth Foundation was able to “talk the talk and walk the walk.” “We need to level it first,” Davis says. “I can’t wait until everyone shows up, and we actually get after it.” “Getting their hands dirty’ The Youth Foundation jumped aboard the refurbishing of the playground after its success “getting their hands dirty” on other projects throughout Eagle County. Two years ago, for example, the foundation helped clear a mile-and-a-half pathway behind Gypsum Elementary School. “The path was done in a day,” Davis said. “We had senior citizens out there serving water. It was better than a retreat.” Since then, the Youth Foundation has searched for more hands-on projects. The foundation looked at Dotsero Park, but it was privately owned, and Davis said it just wasn’t “right for their project.” When the director of the Eagle River Youth Coalition, Beth Reilly – who just happens to live in Red Cliff, across the street from the playground – informed the Youth Foundation about the park, the foundation’s founders said it was perfect, Davis says. “We resurrected the workday,” Davis says. “We made it the same day as a clean-up day.” More than 30 people already are slated to volunteer their time during the volunteer work day, scheduled for July 11. The Youth Foundation asks that people bring work gloves, sunscreen, shovels and rakes for the day, beginning at 9 a.m. and ending at about 6 p.m. “We have a punch-list of to-dos,” Davis says. A wooden jungle gym will get sanded and repainted, she says. The playground itself will be re-graded, weeded and seeded – “whatever they all decide to do with it.” The playground has the equipment already, however, Davis says. Grants to help Three years ago, the Eagle County School District wrote a grant for recycled rubber materials to resurface playgrounds throughout the county. Davis says resurfacing a Red Cliff playground could cost as much as $6,000. Patterson says Red Cliff received a grant to buy recycled rubber composite materials for 75 percent of the regular purchase price. The Youth Foundation, meanwhile, wrote a check on the spot for $550, half of the remaining balance, to the Red Cliff Town Council, which paid for the rest. “People love to come in and get $1,100,” Davis says. “We pitched in $550, and let’s get a move on this thing.” Volunteer work day Help Red Cliff refurbish the Red Cliff playground July 11 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.. Bring your strength, your sweat and your talents – as well as work gloves, sunscreen, shovels and rakes. For more information, call the Red Cliff Town Administration Office at 827-5303. Christine Ina Casillas can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 607 or at ccasillas@vaildaily.com.

Senator rolls through Red Cliff

He stepped out of his car and declared Red Cliff "the coolest place in Colorado I've never been," and with that Sen. Michael Bennet strolled up the street — unaccompanied and grinning. In less than one block, he met both sides of Red Cliff's body politic, a third generation miner and an artist. Both were happy see him, smiled, shook hand and asked him for nothing. They just welcomed him to their town. Bennet is the first U.S. senator to visit Red Cliff. He and his staff helped Red Cliff's town staff negotiate the federal minefield to refinance the bonds that paid for the town's new water treatment plant. Bennet stopped by to see how it was all working. Swimmingly, said Red Cliff Mayor Scott Burgess. Burgess is relentlessly positive about his town and especially its water. He did have one request, not specifically for Bennet, but for valley residents in general. "I want people to stop asking how Red Cliff's water is. We have the best water in the valley," Burgess said proudly. Red Cliff had $2,000 in the bank when Burgess took office, so when Bennet and his staff helped them refinance those bonds it was a big deal for the small town — about 350 people, more or less. The town is saving $20,000 a year on its propane bill, money it was spending to keep the water from freezing in the water plant's storage tank. Red Cliff is the water's first stop as it rolls down the mountain, so you know it's pure mostly. Until the town built its new water treatment plant — 10 years ago — residents were subject to the occasional boil order because the water wasn't safe to drink. They've had two in the last several years, but both were due to operator error, not their water plant. Bennet smiled, looked around and said, "We're glad to help." Rich past, bright future Red Cliff is Eagle County's oldest town, settled in the 1800s with the mines. Burgess and Mango's owner Tim Parks led Bennet, his wife and a couple staffers to the roof of Mango's, the best view in town. They pointed out the land at the edge of town that Union Pacific railroad abandoned 130 years ago, that the town really could use. They pointed out the former bordello and the former sheriff's house — it was the same house — but not at the same time. Red Cliff's past is rich and colorful, but Burgess, Parks and others are trying to create a brighter future. For that they need fiber-optic cables and high-speed Internet connectivity, Burgess told the senator. "It's like rural electrification," Parks said. Bennet helped push fiber optic cable into Silverton, above Ouray, but it took five years. "If you can solve Red Cliff, you can solve anything," Burgess said to Bennet. Bennet's Tour Bennet rolled through Red Cliff as part of his statewide tour, "Infrastructure Colorado: Planes, Trains, Automobiles and More." Bennet listened more than he spoke in Red Cliff, but he had a few choice words for his congressional colleagues. "Across the country, we don't even have the decency to maintain the assets that our parents and grandparents graciously built for us, let alone build a better future for the next generation," Bennet said. "Fortunately, Coloradans have found innovative, collaborative ways to finance critical, forward-thinking projects." This week, Congress passed another short-term fix — this time for the Highway Trust Fund. Earlier this year he sponsored the Partnership to Build America Act, with Republican Sen. Roy Blunt, of Missouri. The Bennet-Blunt proposal establishes a $50 billion infrastructure fund that can potentially support hundreds of billions in loan guarantees and financing authority for state and local governments. Bennet said it's not a replacement for keeping the Highway Trust Fund solvent, but it will help finance transportation, energy, communications, water and education infrastructure projects. "Congress continues to live up to its reputation as the 'Land of Flickering Lights,' where keeping the lights on from month-to-month is considered success. Instead of finding a long-term solution for the Highway Trust Fund, we have another short-term extension that kicks the can down the road," Bennet said.