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Vail to host virtual stewardship workshop

Vail residents take part in an April public input session for the town’s Steward Vail project.
Daily archive photo

The Vail community is invited to join a June 6 online public engagement session to share input into Vail’s Destination Stewardship Plan.

The session — set for 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday, June 6 — will round out in-person workshops that took place April 27 and 28. It has been scheduled to accommodate community members who were not able to attend the in-person sessions.

To learn more about the Steward Vail plan and review takeaways from the April sessions, go to EngageVail.com/Stewardship. Register here for the June 6 session no later than 5 p.m. Sunday, June 5.

Steward Vail project manager Mia Vlaar, the town’s economic development director, says the series of workshops is structured to gather ideas on major elements of the plan, including four major themes:

  • Workforce and housing
  • The Vail economy
  • Environment and sustainability
  • Quality of life/quality of experience

Anyone with a stake in Vail’s future, including full- and part-time residents, business stakeholders, employees, nonprofits, governmental bodies, public land managers and others are encouraged to take part in the planning process.

Another two rounds of public workshops are planned. Public engagement sessions on Tuesday, June 28, and Wednesday, June 29, will provide an opportunity to share feedback to initial findings. Workshops on Wednesday, Oct. 19, and Thursday, Oct. 20, will give participants a chance to share thoughts on the plan’s draft recommendations.

The goal of Steward Vail is to create a 10-year vision and management plan that will advance Vail’s sustainability goals in step with local priorities while building Vail’s tourism economy. Specifically, the town is seeking ways to attract visitors who will support and respect the destination, while encouraging more equitable access to all that Vail offers.

The plan is being facilitated by a consultant team representing three leading tourism organizations — Better Destinations, based in Denver; MMGY NextFactor of Vancouver; and the Travel Foundation, an international NGO focused on improving impacts of tourism. For more information, go to engagevail.com/stewardship or contact Vlaar, 970-479-2452 or mvlaar@vailgov.com.

Town of Vail, High Five share award for ‘Sustainable Landscape’ series

Helping Gore Creek includes taking care with landscaping techniques. The town of Vail and High Five Access Media have shared an award for a series on sustainable landscaping.
Vail Daily archive

Vail’s “Sustainable Landscape” series, produced by High Five Access Media, took first place in the Informational Talk Show Series category in the 2022 Hometown Media Awards from the Alliance for Community Media Foundation.

The town of Vail partnered with High Five Access Media to create the videos to promote native and sustainable landscaping to replace some of Vail’s in-person education events during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The three-part series featured experts from Betty Ford Alpine Gardens, Colorado Department of Agriculture, and ET Irrigation to educate viewers about native plant species for mountain areas, controlling pests without the use of chemicals and optimizing irrigation systems for water efficiency. The video series can be viewed on High Five Access Media’s website.

“High Five Access Media took an idea we had for remote education programming and turned it into an engaging and informative series of videos that will help people take a more sustainable and attractive approach to their landscaping,” Vail Watershed Education Coordinator Pete Wadden said. “The pandemic put all our in-person education and outreach programming on hold, even as reservoirs were dwindling and fires were raging across the West. We couldn’t just sit on our hands and ignore these serious problems in 2021. High Five gave us the tools we needed to spread an important message, and the series they produced for us was absolutely top-notch.”

Each year, nearly 1,000 video entries are submitted to the Hometown Media Awards. A panel of judges awards over 100 winners based on criteria such as creative approach, addressing community needs, developing diverse community involvement, challenging conventional commercial television formats and moving viewers to experience television in a different way.

Red Canyon High School honors its 2022 graduates

Graduates celebrate during the Red Canyon World Academy Class of 2022 commencement Friday at 4 Eagle Ranch in Wolcott.
Madison Rahhal/For the Vail Daily

WOLCOTT — Every graduation ceremony is a time for cheers, joy, hugs and, in many cases, relief. Red Canyon High School has all that, with all those emotions turned up a notch or two.

The Red Canyon High School Class of 2022, along with the graduates of World Academy, brought all that joy to a bright, warm morning Friday at 4 Eagle Ranch. The celebration was huge for a group of just 64 graduates. All the available chairs were quickly occupied, with dozens left to stand, or sit on the sagebrush-covered hillside or antique farm equipment.

For those who don’t know, Red Canyon and the World Academy are set up for students who don’t really fit into a standard school. The reasons are as varied as the students themselves.

In her speech about alternative education, graduate Ari Swartz noted that in a world often tied to expectations, students at Red Canyon are “worth what you really are, not what everyone else wants you to be.”

The school itself “doesn’t look like a school should, it doesn’t perform like a school should,” Swartz said.

Ari Swartz speaks at the Red Canyon World Academy Class of 2022 commencement Friday at 4 Eagle Ranch in Wolcott.
Madison Rahhal/For the Vail Daily

Honoring the family

And that school over the years has created a family from all the different people who have attended and taught there.

Alumni Wilber and Natalie Mendez were on hand to present the first Encourage YOU Scholarship.

Wilber Mendez noted that he, Natalie and other alumni have come together to fund the scholarship, which is only for Red Canyon graduates.

The school made its investment into students, Wilber said. The Encourage YOU founders wanted to return at least some of that investment.

Natalie said it was difficult to choose a recipient from the qualified applicants. She then introduced Xavier Rafael Figueroa as the scholarship’s first winner.

Choosing a winner from among the seven applicants for the YouthPower365 Dollars for Scholars scholarship was so difficult that the organization awarded money — ranging from $1,000 to $3,000 — to all the applicants.

Red Canyon and World Academy are all about individual attention, and that continues to graduation. Red Canyon teachers took turns providing quick glimpses of every graduate as those students came to the stage to accept their diplomas.

Graduates celebrate during the Red Canyon World Academy Class of 2022 commencement Friday at 4 Eagle Ranch in Wolcott.
Madison Rahhal/For the Vail Daily

Honoring with rhyme

Jordan Bamberger put most of her vignettes into rhyme, including this one:

Such bravery, grit, resilience and determination,

Let your future unfold as a beautiful creation.

You have grown up and matured into someone so wise,

Overcoming the lows to reach these new highs.

A true burst of light como una estrella,

I proudly present to you Carly Valenzuela.

When teacher Dave Hanson introduced graduate Damon Ralston, he noted “When I first met this young man, I could barely get him to stay in class or give me the time of day. By the time he left, he was engaged and genuinely positive to interact with. I can’t wait to see where he goes!”

Many of the students had to overcome something to cross the stage Friday at 4 Eagle.

That hard work to make progress in life was what Swartz spoke about in her address:

“People will tell you this school is a last resort for kids with nothing left. They will tell you we are delinquents. We are lazy. We aren’t gifted, we aren’t special, we aren’t anything. Red Canyon and World Academy is our last chance, they say as if it’s some sort of rehab for children that will never be good enough. This simply isn’t true. Red Canyon works so hard to retain its reputation, but not the way other schools will.”

As graduates, parents, relatives and friends made their way back toward cake and lemonade, one parent, seeing a pair of Red Canyon staffers walking past said a loud and hearty “thank you!”

He certainly wasn’t alone.

By the numbers

12 World Academy graduates

54 Red Canyon High School graduates

64 Graduates attended Friday’s ceremony at 4 Eagle Ranch


Vail Valley’s best honored at annual Success Awards

The Behavioral Health Team from Colorado Mountain Medical was honored by the Vail Valley Partnership with its Chairman’s Award at the recent Success Awards.
Chris Dillmann/Vail Daily

The Vail Valley Partnership, the valley’s regional chamber of commerce, on May 13 honored some of the valley’s best at the 19th annual Success Awards.

This year’s awards honored nine businesses and three individuals at a ceremony held at the Riverwalk Theater. But there was a lot of work to do to get to the ceremony.

The Partnership in February calls on the community to nominate businesses and individuals who have gone above and beyond usual standards of service in the previous year. Each nominated business and individual is asked to fill out an application showcasing their achievements. Each application is reviewed by the selection committee, composed of the previous year’s Success Award winners. Votes are then taken and tallied.

There were 142 businesses and organizations, along with 62 individuals, that received nominations this year.

“Eagle County’s business community and supporting partners in the nonprofit and other sectors have shown amazing resiliency and it is validated by receiving over 140 peer nominations for the Annual Success Awards,” said Vail Valley Partnership President and CEO Chris Romer.

This year’s winners included a small business standing up against single use plastics, a bike shop providing educational programming and a 19-year old who has done more than many of us do in a lifetime. There is an organization that recognizes its employees must recharge in order to show up and do their best work, and another that increased visitation to a local treasure all the while decreasing its own water and energy usage.

“Our selection committee had their work cut out for them and did a great job identifying the finalists and winners among so many deserving nominees,” Romer said. “These exceptional businesses and individuals impacted our valley in 2021 and will continue to do so for years to come.”

This year’s winners are:

  • Actively Green Business of the Year: Betty Ford Alpine Gardens
  • Best Place to Work: Eagle County Government
  • Chairman’s Award: Colorado Mountain Medical’s Behavioral Health Team
  • Community Impact Award — Individual: Ariana Lopez Gonzalez of the local United Way
  • Community Impact Award – Organization: Your Hope Center
  • Emerging Business of the Year: Seagull’s Cycles of Eagle.
  • Excellence in DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion): Community Consciousness Series
  • Member of the Year: Amanda Spannagel of Eagle County Schools
  • Organization of the Year: Bright Future Foundation
  • Small Business of the Year: Fill & Refill
  • Small Nonprofit of the Year: My Future Pathways
  • Young Professional of the Year: Colby Lefebvre of Alpine Pizza Company in Vail

Tune in to the Vail Valley Partnership Facebook page and The Partnership Podcast for upcoming interviews with the winners.

Eagle County travelers can expect some heavy holiday weekend traffic

Travelers can expect some heavy traffic this holiday weekend.
Vail Daily archive

Despite gas prices that average nearly $4.25 across the state, expect a busy holiday weekend on the state’s roads, particularly Interstate 70.

Skyler McKinley of Colorado AAA said that organization expects roughly 730,000 state residents to travel this weekend. Roughly 90% of those people will travel by car.

McKinley said that estimate is roughly on par with 2017, when the Eisenhower Johnson Memorial Tunnels saw May average daily traffic of about 28,300 vehicles.

“We may see increased traffic,” above the past couple of years, McKinley said, adding that this year’s holiday traffic is expected to increase roughly 8% from 2021 for both the Memorial Day and Fourth of July holiday weekends.

The increase will come thanks to visitors from out of state, but also because gas prices may be encouraging state residents to travel, but stay closer to home.

While gas prices are still hitting historic highs nationwide, McKinley said those prices may have the effect of softening demand. On the other hand, the country’s daily supply is still about 700,000 barrels short of the 9 million barrels per day available at this time in 2021.

Margaret Bowes of the I-70 Coalition, a nonprofit coalition of governments and business interests along the I-70 mountain corridor, said she expects “a busy weekend” over Memorial Day. Bowes noted there have been some traffic delays the past couple of years on the holiday weekend. But this year’s addition of a westbound mountain express lane — between roughly Idaho Springs and the junction with U.S. Highway 40 — should help ease some of that westbound congestion, Bowes said.

“We’ve already seen some data from previous weekends, and there’s been a noticeable difference (in congestion) on Fridays and Saturdays. That lane is free for now. Bowes said she expects toll charges to begin in early July.

Eastbound traffic this weekend should be fairly typical during the typical times, and Bowes recommended using the I-70 Coalition’s website for real-time traffic information.

Bowes said the Colorado Department of Transportation’s new Pegasus shuttles may have some impact on weekend traffic.

While the daily Bustang large bus service is aimed at “human services” travelers to Denver, Bowes said the Pegasus vans are geared toward weekend recreation. The vans can carry four bicycles now, and have room for luggage and gear. The vans are also equipped with comfortable seats and USB chargers for devices.

“I think it’s going to be really popular,” Bowes said.

Heading east?

Friday and Saturday are probably the best days for eastbound trips on Interstate 70.

If you’re going Sunday or Monday, leave early, or stay until Tuesday morning.

You can find real-time traffic information at CoTrip.org or GoI70.com/travel.

Vail Valley author releases fifth young adult novel, ‘Burying Eva Flores’

Jennifer Alsever’s fifth young adult novel is titled, “‘Burying Eva Flores.”
Courtesy photo

If everything you wrote came true, what is the story you would write?

This is the question that Vail Valley author Jennifer Alsever explores in her latest (and fifth) young adult novel, “Burying Eva Flores.”

Alsever was inspired to delve into this question after certain aspects of her first trilogy of books began coming true, specifically, a pandemic.

“I wrote (‘Burying Eva Flores’) after seeing how so many of the things that I wrote in 2016 for my trilogy — ‘The Trinity Forest’ series — came to fruition. It was kind of odd, because I had written things like a pandemic, without knowing that that was going to come out,” Alsever said. “It was still a very magical book, yet there were still some eerie things.”

Alsever describes this latest novel as a paranormal mystery about a war between two girls: Eva Flores, a TikTok star who moves to Paonia, and her classmate, Sophia, who has no interest in people or social media.

“That war comes to a head when Sophia receives a notebook and everything she writes somehow changes her future. She finds a new power, and now, the whole town thinks she killed Eva. It takes time to untangle the true story of both girls. It’s a story of revenge, power and the stories we project to the world,” Alsever said.

While the question serves as the main inspirations for the story that unfolds, Alsever found her inspiration all around her while writing the novel.

Jennifer Alsever lives in Eagle, freelancing for a number of national publications and writing fiction.
Courtesy photo

Alsever initially entered the world of writing as a journalist — writing for publications such as Fortune Magazine, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, Wired and Fast Company. She still writes as a freelancer, but jumping into fiction has opened up a whole new world of writing. While her first four novels followed a more “traditional” format, “Burying Eva Flores,” departed from this and drew more on her journalistic writing style.

Inspired by a number of books — including “Daisy Jones and the Six” and “Good Girls Guide to Murder” — her fifth book combines a variety of styles to tell the story. This includes everything from documentary interviews and newspaper articles to text messages, point of view and prose.

“That’s what really finally clicked, and then the story really poured out of me during lockdown 2020,” she said.

Writing during the COVID-19 lockdown also allowed Alsever to really lean into the creative space that it allowed her.

“It was so quiet and I was able to connect with my kids, I was able to get on my mountain bike every day and I was able to pour myself into writing,” she said.

While the actual experience of writing may have been different, connecting with her kids — Jake, 21, and Brendan, 16 — has always influenced her writing. In fact, it’s initially what drew her to write young adult fiction in the first place.

“I was reading so much with my kids at the time and my oldest son was 14, so we started reading a lot of young adult books,” Alsever said of the time during which she wrote her first novel. “I loved how young adult (fiction) was this coming of age, where young people are exploring the world and identifying who they are and who they want to be, and I loved that fiction could help them explore that world and think more critically about themselves, even subconsciously.”

And today, a large part of the world that young adults exist in is social media.

During her writing of “Burying Eva Flores,” Alsever said she was “watching how social media was impacting young people today and how it was productizing young people and shifting how people view themselves.”

As such, she explored in the novel how adults are preying on and manipulating young adults to “become micro-famous.” Her hope is that “through storylines like that, teens can explore and learn about the world in a safe space — in a book.”

Not only relying solely on her sons’ experiences to shape her stories, Alsever also interviewed one of her friend’s daughters, a 19-year-old Eagle Valley High School student who couldn’t care less about social media and what people thought of her.

“She was kind of this anomaly in her generation and I really loved her perspective, and she also fixed up her own car and learned how to do that at EVHS and I just thought that was super cool, and so I modeled Sophia’s character after her,” Alsever said. “I interview people and I’m constantly listening to what people have to say and the way they talk and the way they interact, taking little bits and pieces of experiences around me and rolling them into my stories.”

The town of Paonia served as inspiration and location for “Burying Eva Flores.”
Jennifer Alsever, Courtesy Photo

The final piece of inspiration came from the novel’s location itself: Paonia. Alsever visited the Colorado town initially for a yoga retreat but was immediately drawn to it and kept returning.

“I spent a lot of time in Paonia the last couple years and there was something about the town that really drew me to it for the setting for the stories,” she said. “I like stories of small towns and how small town life shapes people. I thought about what it would be like if a TikTok star moved in, and that’s what happens in my story.”

In drawing experiences from the world around her, Alsever had a hard time picking her favorite thing about the novel.

“I love that it’s pretty timely right now, with TikTok and social media. I really love the characters; they are very real to me. And I loved the idea of: ‘If everything you wrote came true? What is the story you would write?’” she said.

Alsever will be hosting a book talk at the Bookworm in Edwards on July 7 at 6 p.m. to discuss her latest novel, “Burying Eva Flores.”

Finishing strong: Vail Mountain School graduates its Class of 2022

Outgoing Vail Mountain School Head of School Mike Imperi was given the Honorary Class Pin during the 2022 Commencement Friday in Vail.
Chris Dillmann/Vail Daily

The Vail Mountain School class of 2022 graduated on a perfect spring day Thursday afternoon. The Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater was surrounded by blue skies and sunshine, and filled with graduates and their families watching proudly from the stands.

The Vail Mountain School is a K-12 institution, and the close connections and relationships between different grades was highlighted throughout the ceremony. The seniors walked into the theater in their best dresses, suits and blazers, and were met with a line of special people picked by each graduate, known as “honor guards,” waiting with their caps and gowns in hand. As the juniors helped the seniors don their graduation attire, the image of one class helping another move onto the next phase of life set the tone for the whole ceremony.

Vail Mountain School Graduate, Stella Addis, is given her cap and gown before the 2022 graduation Friday in Vail.
Chris Dillmann/Vail Daily

Later, the seniors were given yellow roses by their kindergarten buddies, who clambered onto the stage dressed like miniature versions of their mentors, a reminder of how far the seniors had come since their first years in school. Senior Emmie Urquhart reflected on the value of the buddy program, and what the seniors had learned from the class of 2034.

“The gift of presence is something we can all take with us,” Urquhart said. “Seniors, remember that excitement for life that your buddy has, and I hope you will find that kindergarten-like glee and presence in everything that you do.”

A cap and gown is ready to be presented at the Vail Mountain School 2022 commencement Friday in Vail. It's a tradition for Vail Mountain School graduation for friends and family to hand the graduates their cap and gown.
Chris Dillmann/Vail Daily

Fifth grader Clara Foster stood side-by-side with senior Gaby Gish to deliver a reflection on their Lower School experiences, before the graduating fifth graders were awarded pins that signified their transition into middle school.

“​​There are parallels to where we are in life,” Gish said. “We are the oldest students in the building, but soon we will be the youngest ones on campus. You are the oldest students in lower school, and soon you will be the youngest in middle school. These transitions are opportunities to build community.”

Many of the speakers spoke in fond remembrance of school trips that are a right of passage for every Vail Mountain School student, such as hut trips with the class and visiting Denver as a group. While each student took away their own memories, it was clear that the shared experiences tied all of them together in a school-wide bond.

Vail Mountain School graduate Rachel Snyder gets a yellow rose and hug from her kindergarten friend during the "Yellow Rose of Friendship" for the 2022 commencement Friday at the Gerald R. Ford Ampitheather in Vail. It's a tradition at VMS for kindergarteners to present roses to the seniors who have hung out with them throughout the year.
Chris Dillmann/Vail Daily

Isaac Silvers gave a reflection on Middle School ahead of the eighth grade pin ceremony, and emphasized how as a new kid in school this past year, he had instantly felt embraced and supported by his class.

“We are on the same team,” Silvers said. “If we spend the next four years supporting each other in our strengths and differences, see each other’s plays and cheer each other on, all of us will find our way. Show me your friends, and I’ll show you your future.”

Six seniors were honored with individual awards. Stella Addis received the Faculty Award for Citizenship, for her representation of the school’s values as she led the environmental club, her soccer team and was a constant support for her fellow classmates. Emmie Urquhart received the Faculty Award for Service to the School Community for going above and beyond in contributions to the school through her work at the school store, as leader of the prom committee, as a dance instructor and other initiatives to make the school more fun and inclusive.

Frankie Marston and Connor Provencher both received the Faculty Award for Scholar Athlete, for their contributions and dedication in the classroom and on the field. Catie Reihe received the Faculty Award for Outstanding Evidence of Intellectual Curiosity for her commitment to the pursuit of knowledge and deep inquiry.

Lastly, Cami Johnson received the prestigious Sally Johnston award, the highest honor for a graduating senior at Vail Mountain School awarded by faculty vote to the student who most embodies the core values and mission of the school. Johnson received her award from Sally Johnston herself, before delivering the senior address.

“I once found it odd that I would deliver the senior address facing away from my class, but now it seems only natural that they are backing and supporting me at this moment as they always have,” Johnson said. “My hope is that we will never be afraid to return to the memories and moments we share, and that this group will continue to support and love each other as we have all these years.”

Three teachers were celebrated for completing 10 years at Vail Mountain School: technology director Dean Chambers, facilities manager Brian Counselman, and science teacher Steph Lewis. Two teachers, Brett Falk and Ross Sappenfield, were each celebrated for 30 years of teaching at the school. Tanya Boderck, the chair of the math department, received the Oliver Compton Teacher of the Year award in recognition of her tireless efforts to support and educate her students. All of the teachers received standing ovations and heartfelt thank you speeches from the graduating seniors.

Head of school Mike Imperi was also celebrated as an honorary member of the class of 2022, as he is moving on from his position after nine years at the school.

The final group of students to be recognized at the ceremony were the “Thirteeners,” the 12 graduating seniors who had been at Vail Mountain School together since kindergarten.

At the end of the ceremony, the parents and family members of each graduate walked on stage to award them their diplomas, in a symbolic gesture that recognizes how the effort and support of the family is what got each student to that stage, ready to take on all that lies ahead.

Superintendent: Safe schools must focus on ‘the antecedence to school violence’

In lieu of his typical Superintendent Report, Eagle County Schools Superintendent Philip Qualman addressed the board to talk about the recent tragic events in Uvalde, Texas, and the importance of school safety.
High Five Access Media/Screenshot

On Tuesday, May 24, a gunman killed at least 19 children and two teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.

Eagle County Schools’ Superintendent Philip Qualman addressed the shooting — which has been denoted as the deadliest in America since the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012 — and reflected on what it means to create safe schools in these troubling times at the district’s Board of Education meeting Wednesday night.

“Safe schools are the product of complex systems that work together to focus on the health of the whole child, and the security of the facility and the level of safety in our schools; reflect the value our society places on our most precious and vulnerable citizens,” Qualman said.

Qualman began his remarks on Wednesday by reflecting on the start of his own education career, which began around the same time as the school shooting at Columbine High School.

“In April 1999, I was a student teacher at Durango High School when the Columbine shooting occurred. At the time, it was impossible to comprehend the horror of that event. Yet, I was able to convince myself that it was an anomaly and it wasn’t something likely to be a regular occurrence in our schools. I had to believe that if I intended to be a teacher,” Qualman said.

He recounted how it felt one year after Columbine to visit the Lakewood school and see the fresh drywall and paint at the library entrance.

“23 years ago, I would have never imagined that dry wall and a coat of paint would be a metaphor for how our country would address the issues of school shootings in the decades to come,” he said. “There’s been 15 mass shooting events in Colorado since Columbine. There’s been five fatal shootings in Colorado schools since Columbine. All told, 331 schools and over 300,000 students have been traumatized by gun violence in American schools since Columbine.”

“Faced with those startling statistics, I don’t know if my 22 year-old self would have been so eager to become a teacher,” he added.

Later, Qualman acknowledged that during his 20 years in K-12 education, “some pretty scary things” have been added to educator training. He went on to list school shooter drills, training and trauma informed care, major bleed kit training and suicide prevention as just some examples of this shift.

A comprehensive strategy

As Qualman recounted receiving a note from a mother of three students in Eagle County Schools, he then addressed how the district has moved to ensure student safety across all its school campuses. He called the district’s strategy “comprehensive,” consisting of three-prongs: structural changes, partnerships with law enforcement and pre-emptive measures.

“To honor those lost at Robb Elementary School, Sandy Hook Elementary School, Virginia Tech University, Stoneman Douglas High School, Columbine High School and hundreds of others too long to list, we have to expand the discussion beyond gun control. We have to recognize that it takes a lot more than secure entrances and beefed up gun laws to make schools safe,” Qualman said.

The structural changes included ensuring secure entrances with cameras and monitoring from front office staff, practicing emergency drills, training students and staff to be engaged in their safety, as well as improving threat assessment procedures at its campuses.

The district also leverages its relationships with law enforcement, which has included adding more school resource officers in recent years.

“The purpose of SROs is to build relationships with students and staff and be a resource to school administrators as it relates to the safety and security of each campus,” he said.

In the wake of the Robb Elementary tragedy, while the district did not request additional presence, certain agencies did increase their visibility at schools on Wednesday. In a post to its Facebook page, Eagle Police Department said “there will be extra presence from Eagle Police Department officers at local schools for the remainder of the school year.”

While Qualman acknowledged the importance of these changes and partnerships, he said the bulk of the districts efforts in building safe schools was to address first “the antecedence to school violence.”

“Much of the rhetoric in the past 24 hours has focused on common sense gun laws and standing up to the gun lobby. There may be value in amending gun laws, but that’s akin to re-writing the end of a story to provide a happy ending, while ignoring all the terrible chapters that led up to the tragic ending,” he said. “We have to talk about antecedence to acts of terror. We have to address root causes, we have to have the courage to rewrite the early chapters before we hope for happy endings.”

These chapters, he followed included challenges like isolation, bullying, anger, depression, abuse, neglect, self-harm and hopelessness.

“We commit time and resources to making sure every child feels welcome and celebrated for who they are,” Qualman said. “To do that, our teachers are trained to develop inclusive and respectful learning environments. We believe and owe model that every child regardless of color, language, race, gender or sexuality or any lens of difference is to be celebrated for who they are.”

He also listed programs and partnerships that help promote kindness including its recent focus on social-emotional wellness for students with things like a universal screener, surveys to measure student wellbeing, leveraging its partnership with Your Hope Center, promoting student voice and more.

“We’ll do the job with whatever tools we’re given. We’re up to the challenge of teaching students academic content and supporting their social emotional needs. But to be safe and successful, our students need to be prioritized, our schools need to be revered and our educators need to be respected,” he added.

For a list of resources to assist parents in talking about violence and tragedy, visit EagleSchools.net.

CDOT opens Independence Pass for the 2022 season

Approximately fifty vehicles were waiting on the west side of the pass at reopening time.
CDOT/Courtesy photo

Crews with the Colorado Department of Transportation have reopened Independence Pass on Colorado Highway 82 for the season. Workers unlocked seasonal closure gates on Thursday at noon, reopening CO 82 on each side of the pass to vehicles. Approximately 50 vehicles were waiting on the west side of the pass at reopening time.

In order to reopen the road for the 2022 season, crews fixed potholes, cleared rockfall and repainted (striped) the roadway. Cracked or loose rock is common along CO 82 on Independence Pass and can develop due to regular and frequent freeze/thaw cycles in mountainous locations with year-round winter weather.

Like previous years, CDOT crews worked with the Colorado Avalanche Information Center to perform avalanche mitigation before reopening. Avalanche mitigation work was light due to rapidly melting snow in April and May.

CDOT reminds motorists that commercial and recreational vehicles 35 feet or longer are prohibited. The restriction is due to tight curves, steep inclines and narrow lanes on some sections of the pass, and applies to vehicles and trailers with a combined length of more than 35 feet. Motorists should plan for the restriction to be in place on CO 82 between Mile Point 47.2 (west side, near Aspen) and MP 84.2 (east side, near Twin Lakes/Leadville and about one mile west of the junction with US Highway 24).

Motorists and cyclists should check weather conditions prior to traveling mountain passes, as spring snowstorms can prompt closures or slow traffic. Real-time road conditions are available at COtrip.org.

East Vail hikers reminded to respect wildlife and consider alternatives

This time of year is critical for East Vail’s bighorn sheep, according to a reminder from the U.S. Forest Service, Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the town of Vail. As such, the entities are requesting that hikers stay clear of Booth Creek or Pitkin Creek trails for the next two weeks.

Bighorn sheep are particularly sensitive to disturbance during late spring, especially from unleashed dogs and hikers approaching too closely.

“Lambs are very small this time of year. When they are forced to run from real or perceived predators, they may be separated from their mothers or to run into dangerous situations like a high-running creek, and any stress can limit their survival,” said Colorado Parks and Wildlife District Wildlife Biologist Devin Duval.

“Respecting wildlife is an important part of hiking responsibly,” said Eagle-Holy Cross District Ranger Leanne Veldhuis. “Please keep your dog on a leash. If you see bighorn sheep, please do not approach them and consider turning around and visiting another trail instead.”

Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep have experienced range-wide declines and are listed as sensitive on the Forest Service Region 2 sensitive species list.

“We are fortunate to have this incredible resource so close to home, but the bighorns’ survival is very tenuous this time of year, they require space and time to grow up, before they move on into the Gore Range for the summer,” said Vail’s Environmental Sustainability Director Kristen Bertuglia.

The three entities request that residents and guests consider not hiking the Booth Creek or Pitkin Creek trails for the next two weeks to protect the bighorns and their young, and enjoy the trails again starting June 6. In the meantime, lower Bighorn and Gore Trails can be better options, provided they are not muddy, in which case hiking causes damage to the trails and surrounding areas.