| VailDaily.com

Avon’s Pier 1 will soon close its doors

AVON — Earlier this month, Eagle County’s most loyal Pier 1 customers were the first to hear some sad news — the store is closing.

In an email sent Jan. 16, Pier 1 contacted customers to say the Avon location was closing and a sale had been launched. Soon after, large banners declaring “store closing” were plastered at the front door.

The store is one of the victims of the Pier 1 Imports companywide cutback, announced in early January.

Christy Brown is the interim manager at the Avon Pier 1. She laughingly said she may have to form a support group for her disappointed customers.

“I really think this closure is going to hurt the whole valley,” Brown said. She noted that designers, restaurants and event planners all frequent the Avon Pier 1, along with average home-goods shoppers.

Brown noted that the Avon store was one of the busiest stores in the company during the holiday season, but shoulder seasons were tough for the local store. At full staffing, more than a dozen full- and part-time employees worked at the Avon Pier 1.

As part of the companywide closure strategy, Brown said Pier 1 has targeted its more remote locations for the shutdown.

“But we don’t have an actual closure date yet and we are still receiving freight and hiring staff,” Brown said. She said the store will remain open until the spring.

As the closing sale commences, Brown noted the Avon Pier 1’s markdown prices are limited to the inventory at the store. Business hours have been cut back to 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.

In addition to customers, the town of Avon will feel the sales tax impact of the closure. There will soon be two, large empty retail spaces at the Beaver Creek Place shopping area.

Despite repeated attempts to speak with Avon representatives about the impact of the store closing, no one from the town responded to the Vail Daily’s requests for information.

Closing half its stores

A Jan. 6 report from Associated Press noted that Pier 1 Imports planned to close nearly half of its 942 stores, evidence of the company’s struggles to draw consumers and compete online.

The home decoré company announced it would close 450 stores, shutter distribution centers and lay off workers at its corporate headquarters in Fort Worth, Texas.

In the January announcement, the company didn’t say how many workers would be impacted.

Pier 1’s January announcement has left investors wondering if a bankruptcy filing is imminent. Pier 1 has added two members to its board with expertise in corporate restructuring and named a new CEO with a background in corporate turnarounds. Robert Riesbeck previously served as the company’s chief financial officer.

The company — which was founded in California in 1962 — has been trying to revamp its cluttered stores and change its offerings to appeal more to younger customers. But it is struggling to compete with budget-friendly home decor sites such as Wayfair.

But all this restructuring news comes too late for the Avon store. The inventory shrinks daily and its permanent closure looms.

“I am sad about it,” said Lisa McKinzie, a former Pier 1 employee. She worked part-time at the Avon store for three years. “There isn’t another store like it, with that kind of pricing, in the valley.”

“It is pretty disappointing. I feel like lots of people shopped there,” said Kristine Perry, another former Pier 1 employee. She worked part-time at the store for six years.

“People really enjoyed that store,” she said. “I shopped there, too. I still use my Pier 1 white plates every day.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Pedestrian hit by a car in Avon, taken to hospital

A male driving an SUV ran into a female pedestrian Tuesday afternoon at the Avon intersection of East Hurd Lane and Avon Road. The injured woman was conscious when emergency personnel arrived on scene, according to Avon Police Chief Greg Daly, and left in an ambulance.

The male driver of the vehicle cooperated with police when they arrived on the scene and was released. Charges are pending.

Daly said the driver was heading westbound on East Hurd Lane and came to a full stop at the intersection and looked left before pulling out. The driver told police he didn’t see the pedestrian to his right.

“He hit the pedestrian and she went down to the ground,” Daly said.

A passerby who happens to be a nurse came to the pedestrian’s aid to provide emergency care and get the injured woman into a recovery position, Daly said. Another person with medical training who was driving by also stopped to help.

Daly said the department is currently investigating the accident by taking photos and measurements of the accident scene and talking to witnesses before making a decision on charges.

This story will be updated as more details become available.

One of the Vail Valley’s fur-baby favorites, Dr. Julie Alt, is calling it a career

EAGLE — One of your fur baby’s favorite humans is calling it a career.

Veterinarian Dr. Julie Alt is a fourth-degree black belt and breast cancer survivor who helped pioneer pet acupuncture and traveled twice to Africa with her college roommates to treat both people and their creatures.

Her retirement reception is Sunday afternoon in Eagle’s Brush Creek Pavilion.

Castle Peak Veterinary Service will continue with Dr. Denny Simonton, Dr. Steve Conlin and Dr. Jennifer Wells.

“I am so fortunate to have had this wonderful friend, colleague, and business partner for the past 31 years,” Simonton said. “It has been a great run along the way and we have built something very special at Castle Peak Vet.”

Dr. Julie Alt, left, is retiring, and Castle Peak Vets wiill continue with Dr. Jennifer Wells, Dr. Denny Simonton and Dr. Steve Conlin.
Special to the Daily

All about Alt

Julie Helm Alt was born in Yokohama, Japan, in 1958. Her mother and siblings moved to Oakland, California, in 1973. She graduated from Colorado College in Colorado Springs with a biology degree, and from the University of California Davis with a degree in veterinary medicine in 1985.

Between Colorado College and vet school at UC-Davis she worked in the Eagle-Vail Animal Hospital with Dr. Bill Nusz’ large animal practice. She was told that Eagle needed a vet. She finished up at UC-Davis, hung her shingle in Eagle and Nusz sent his small animal cases to her. She started on a shoestring in a log cabin on the corner of Broadway and Highway 6. It was the mid-1980s and many of Eagle’s businesses were boarded up following the oil crash.

Family matters to Alt. That’s Julie, left, with her mother and siblings.
Special to the Daily

Things picked up quickly, though.

“The town and I grew up together,” Alt said.

She soon needed some help, so she brought in Simonton. They’ve been together since 1989.

Her vet clinic had an X-ray machine before the doctor’s office did. The docs used to send their patients to their vet clinic for X-rays.

There were the calls in the middle of the night from people asking for help for their kids. Fishhooks in legs were remarkably common.

People took their dogs skiing and ran over them. The skis cut the dogs and Alt sewed them up.

Castle Peak Vets was home to Willy the Cat, the mayor of Chambers Avenue. Willy wandered around to other businesses to greet people as a successful politician would. Alt would get a call at 2 a.m. saying the cat was in the bar and asking what they should do with him.

The Alts, from left: Wyatt, Julie, Myron and Brian.
Special to the Daily

Willy was even entered in Eagle’s Flight Days parade as the mayor of Chambers Avenue. A massive cat named Meatball soon joined the Castle Peak crew.

Alt married her husband, Myron, in Eagle and raised sons Brian, 23, and Wyatt, 21.

She earned a fourth-degree black belt in karate, studying with James Lee.

“Julie Alt is an absolute warrior. She comes from a family of military officers in Japan. Her energy, motivation, heart and spirit are unmatched. As long as I have been in the martial arts, I have never met another person like her,” Lee said.

Dr. Julie Alt earned her fourth-degree black belt, studying with James Lee Karate in Eagle.
Special to the Daily

Alt traveled twice to Kenya with her college roommates from UC-Davis for humanitarian tours through the African Network for Animal Welfare and Vet Treks, which arrange working tours for veterinarians.

Alt and her traveling partners stuffed as many medical supplies as they could into a few duffel bags to treat both people and their creatures — spaying and neutering to help curb the overpopulation of animals, taking care of donkeys and the people who depend on them, and giving rabies vaccinations — around 3,000 each trip.

In Kenya, Alt helps care for animals and the people who care for them.
Special to the Daily

As recently as 2014, Kenya had 6,033 rabies cases. The U.S. had one that year, according to the Centers for Disease Control. The World Health Organization estimates that 55,000 people die from rabies every year; 44% of those are in Africa.

“Rabies is a scary, scary thing,” Alt said. “If we can make a difference in how people can handle rabies in their country, it’s a great thing. Even the little bit you do can add up. In those villages, it can make a difference.”

While she’s in Kenya, Alt and her colleagues will vaccinate as many as 3,000 animals against rabies.
Special to the Daily

As her retirement draws nearer, testimonials have poured in from current and former clients.

Like the times Alt sat on the floor with Chewie, Lora Silagy’s dog, until Chewie calmed down. “No other vet has put as much care into my babies as she has,” Silagy said.

Julia Denault Parker’s cat Molly was near death at age 7. Alt took care of her and Molly lived to 19.

“Julie is one of the most passionate, compassionate, fearless, caring people I have ever met. She cries when the owners cry. She hurts when her patients hurt,” said Kelley Church Bontempo. “She is a wonderful teacher to all of us who have gotten the privilege to work side by side with her and an amazing veterinarian and is a pillar of our community.”

She’s not completely done. Alt will stay involved with animals because she loves it. She’ll do some animal acupuncture and pretty much anything else she wants to do, and not much she doesn’t.

Vail’s Red Sandstone parking structure’s impact uncertain

VAIL — The new Red Sandstone parking structure is now fully open, but its place in the town’s parking picture is still coming into focus.

Officials from the town of Vail, Eagle County Schools and Vail Resorts were on hand for a Tuesday ribbon-cutting at the structure. At that ceremony, Vail Mayor Dave Chapin praised the partnership that created the structure, which adds as many as 160 weekend spaces to the town’s inventory. That partnership included cash contributions from the school district and resort company as part of an extensive renovation of Red Sandstone Elementary School.

But the structure, which was largely completed in late 2018, had a few stumbles on its way to completion.

Vail Public Works Department Director Greg Hall the delays were due to a couple of common problems in Vail construction: soils and weather.

Hall said in addition to the extra work required to firmly stick down the structure, the foundation had to be reinforced to accommodate extra levels. Both of those projects delayed the work.

The structure was also partially closed between April and November of 2019 to take of what Hall called “some structural deficiencies” on the third and second levels.

When the project partially opened in November of 2018, there were roughly 80 public spaces available. Those spaces can be accessed through a structure-specific pass the town sells — the structure is accessible only via town-issued “red” passes. About 60 of those structure-specific passes. The school has 40 spaces available on weekdays, but that parking is available for weekend use. Hall said the structure was opened last season to those who hold “green” passes.

For the current season, Hall said the town sold about 85 of the red passes.

Over the Christmas holidays, the town opened the structure to those who hold town value cards. Those cards work much like prepaid credit cards.

The structure is intended in large part for people who work in town. The facility is a stone’s throw from the pedestrian overpass that links the north and south sides of Interstate 70. And, Hall said, there’s frequent bus service into Vail Village.

At the moment, the structure doesn’t often fill. Hall said the intent is to ensure red pass holders always have access.

But it may take some time for the structure to find its true place in the town’s parking picture. Hall said that the picture will become more clear when the 453-space structure at Vail Health Hospital opens late this year. The end of the hospital’s massive, multi-year renovation and expansion program will also mean fewer construction vehicles and hospital employees park at the Lionshead Parking Structure.

With that work done, town officials will have a chance to fully understand how the new structure will affect parking in town, Hall said.

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at smiller@vaildaily.com or 970-748-2930.

Eagle County ranchers: Wolf reintroduction is a bad idea

EAGLE COUNTY — Wolves were a problem for ranchers when Kip Gates’ great-great-grandfather homesteaded in the area. He doesn’t want the problem to return.

Local ranchers say they’re concerned about a November ballot question asking voters to approve restoring wolves to western Colorado.

Gates, part of a longtime area family, has a ranch on Derby Mesa in northwestern Eagle County. That operation includes cattle and horses. In the fall, the ranch opens to hunters willing to pay to hunt deer and elk on private land.

Wolves are a threat to every part of that operation, Gates said.

“It hits my livelihood,” Gates said.

Gates said he and other ranchers are used to dealing with predators. Colorado Parks and Wildlife will allow limited hunts for mountain lions if those animals become a problem for ranchers.

“We can try to keep those numbers down,” he said.

A concern for town residents

Lloyd Gerard’s family has long ranched up Gypsum Creek south of Gypsum. The operation runs cattle on large public land permit areas.

“I think the public ought to be worried as much as me,” Gerard said. He noted the decline in deer and elk populations in Eagle County, and worried that wolves might start preying on livestock and other domestic animals.

“There’s no mule deer anywhere, and this was a trophy area a few years ago,” Gerard said. Given that wolves will eat what they can catch and kill, that means livestock will be in danger.

Gerard noted the irony of letting state voters — the vast majority of whom are on the Front Range — making wildlife decisions for the Western Slope.

“They’ve outlawed pit bulls in Denver, and they want to bring the wolf back here,” he said. “There’s nothing about it that makes a lot of sense.”

Dillon and Samantha Kujala run about 500 cow/calf pairs on Derby Mesa. Samantha Kujala said she believes the agricultural community is just about universally opposed to wolf reintroduction.

“I think Colorado already has a predator issue with mountain lions, bears and coyotes,” Kujala said. And, she added, the studies she’s seen from Colorado Parks and Wildlife indicate the state doesn’t have the wildlife to support the introduction of another predator.

When predators don’t have natural prey in their habitats, they turn to what’s available. If that’s a cow with a calf, it can be a big loss for a rancher.

Any loss is ‘devastating’

“Any kind of death loss is devastating,” Kujala said. Livestock gets stressed the same way prey animals do when there are predators in the area, Kujala said. Like wildlife, stress affects breeding success with livestock, she said. And livestock animals under stress don’t gain weight the way they should.

While Colorado Parks and Wildlife reimburses ranchers for predator losses — and loss reimbursement is part of the ballot issue — Kujala noted that much of that agency’s revenue comes from the sale of hunting licenses. Further depletion of the state’s wildlife populations could lead to fewer licenses being sold, and less revenue available for operations, she said. That means taxpayers could be responsible for paying for predation losses.

None of the ranchers interviewed for this story is anti-wolf. But all said Colorado isn’t the right place for them.

“In states with wolves, the population isn’t close to Colorado’s,” Kujala said, adding that development has taken much of the winter range for deer, elk and other species.

Then there’s the fact that a small group of wolves has already wandered into the northwest part of the state. Introducing more wolves will create a conflict between packs, Kujala said.

If wolves return to the state in any numbers, Gerard said he’s worried about the future of agriculture in western Colorado.

Ranching’s been good to me in Eagle County,” Gerard said. “That may be coming to an end.”

And given the way wolves wander, Gates wonders where packs will travel if given the chance.

“Once you get (wolves) back down here, you’ll never control them,” he said.

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at smiller@vaildaily.com or 970-748-2930.

Climate expert to Vail Valley leaders: ‘Nowhere close to the new normal’

EDWARDS — The only rational response to the greatest threat to mankind is a radical one.

That was the message delivered Wednesday night by Dr. Robert Davies, a renowned physicist and climate science expert, to a packed auditorium of more than 400 attendees at Battle Mountain High School. Davies’ lecture, “Getting to Zero: From Radical to Rational,” was hosted by the Climate Action Collaborative and attended by elected officials from Vail, Avon and Eagle County as well as local Vail Resorts mountain executives and other community leaders.

“The bad news is that we’re not even close to meeting these challenges,” Davies said during a sobering hour-plus monologue. “The good news is that we haven’t even tried. We’re going to have to figure it out.”

‘This isn’t alarmist’

What will the Vail Valley and the world look like at the turn of the next century? It’s a terrifying sight if we, as humans, continue on our current pace of carbon dioxide emissions, Davies said.

Picture local winters with no snow, just rain. Imagine hotter temperatures, food and water shortages. Picture 2 meters of sea-level rise globally, complete extinction of coral reefs and as many as 200 million humans displaced from coastlines and 600 million more annually flooded. Envision global political chaos.

“This is why the U.S. defense department views global climate change as the single largest security threat our nation faces,” Davies said.

 The only words to describe such conditions are catastrophic, un-adaptable and irreversible. It’s enough to make anyone despair, but Davies plainly stated that climate scientists around the globe aren’t projecting doomsday scenarios to make headlines.

“We’re nowhere close to the new normal,” he said. “This isn’t politics, this is just physics. This isn’t alarmist. The information is alarming … Humans are very adaptable, but we’re very finely tuned to the climate we have and where we get our food and water, how we move around … Once we cross thresholds and tipping points, the planet will be a dramatically different place, and once you cross, the likelihood that you can return to the place in which human civilization is very highly tuned is essentially zero. The chances of going back become dramatically reduced.”

He added: “When you don’t know where the edge is, you want to stop before you get there if the consequences are big.”

A cultural problem

For more than a decade, Davies has been recognized in critical science outlets for his work on global climate change and sustainable human systems, and he has delivered hundreds of public lectures during that time.

While his talk Wednesday was heavy on climate science, and the overwhelming scientific consensus about the increasingly alarming effects of global climate change, he sprinkled in asides on history to put into context the response required to save the planet.

More than anything, Davies said global climate change is a cultural and political problem to solve — and that there’s a role for every single human to play. There’s also no time to wait.

“We’ve got to find a mindset where we can move forward in response to the problem,” he said. “Our job is to take the next step with the mindset of an emergency. In an emergency you don’t hope you get out, you just get out … We have no time to fix climate change. The next decade is the most important any of us will ever live through.”

To use a very simple metaphor, he likened climate scientists to the engineer on board the Titanic who knew the ship was doomed when he saw that five compartments had flooded while the rest of the crew thought that the iceberg had only delivered a glancing blow.

“Yes, it’s extremist, but it needs to be,” he said. “We’re clearly nowhere near the response it requires, according to the physics.”

Viable solutions

To solve the problem, Davies said the framing of the problem has to be a mindset of resolve on a global scale.

“You resolve to do something and then you figure out how to do it,” he said.

He then provided historical precedents for meeting such a challenge. He spoke of the Apollo 13 engineers who figured out a way to get the astronauts back safely to Earth against impossible odds, or Winston Churchill rallying Great Britain when surrender and Nazi occupation was all but assured during World War II.

Among other things, he said nobody would think that U.S. automakers shutting down the production of new cars would be a viable solution, nor would grounding all domestic flights. And yet, the United States has done both things before. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Congress banned the production of new autos and pushed automakers to make tanks for the war effort in the fall of 1941 and we grounded all flights in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

“What is radical is knowing and not responding,” he said. “It’s got to take us out of our comfort zone, plugging ourselves into efforts that change whole systems.”

With help from The Community Market, CMC Vail Valley campus opens no-cost food pantry for students

Thanks to a partnership between The Community Market and Colorado Mountain College Vail Valley, students can now access nutritious food at no cost to them without having to leave campus.

Tuesday, Jan. 14, marked the opening of The Community Market at CMC, a quaint but fully stocked food pantry on the main floor of the Edwards campus.

The Community Market, a project of Eagle Valley Community Foundation, strives to “improve access to healthy food” for everyone in Eagle County.

Bridget Bradford, development assistant and office administrator for EVCF, said the pantry’s opening will help them come closer to meeting that goal.

“Students and staff have been very excited to have a food pantry available,” she said. “We saw lots of smiles and felt the appreciation.”

Filling a need

Over 100 students visited the pantry in the first week alone, Bradford said.

Dr. Marc Brennan, vice president and campus dean of CMC Vail Valley, said the first week’s numbers show that administrators made the right decision in providing additional resources and support to help make the pantry a reality.

“Clearly this is an issue that is affecting our students and, you know, our faculty and our staff are just so totally on board with this because they can also see it’s an issue for our students,” Brennan said.

For now, the pantry will be open Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 3:30-6:30 p.m. in room 114. Brennan said these hours were carefully selected to reflect the times when the largest number of students are on campus at once.

Piper Scherr, daughter of Diana Scherr, the regional development officer for Colorado Mountain College Vail Valley, stands with Susie Davis, director of community impact for the Eagle Valley Charitable Fund.
Special to the Daily

“On Wednesday nights we offer our English as a second language classes,” he said. “So there’s an opportunity there as well to reach more members of the community that we potentially wouldn’t otherwise.”

Fresh and healthy

True to TCM’s values, “about half of the groceries in the pantry are fresh produce, prepared meals and healthy drinks” with non-perishable grocery items making up the other half, Bradford said.

Brennan said he was surprised to learn from The Community Market team that approximately 16 percent of Eagle County residents experience food insecurity. He said that this statistic, combined with the fact that almost all CMC students at the Vail Valley campus live locally, made him realize how important it was to take action.

“To be honest, I was totally surprised,” he said. “When you hear that kind of information, it’s a call to action, isn’t it? And you really want to help in whatever way you can. And realizing I think, at that moment, what an impact this has on our students … it’s huge.”

Dr. Marc Brennan is vice president and campus dean for Colorado Mountain College Vail Valley at Edwards. Brennan said he was surprised to learn from The Community Market team that approximately 16 percent of Eagle County residents experience food insecurity.

The presence of food insecurity amongst CMC students came as no surprise to Bradford, who was a student there herself. She said that, for students, the cost of textbooks and classes is compounded by the heightened cost of living in the valley.

“As a CMC sustainability studies graduate, I’ve experienced and witnessed the need for an on-campus food pantry,” Bradford said. “This gap has been visible for a long time, and thankfully the infrastructure is now in place to feed the need.”

Making connections

Bradford said students were elated to partake once they learned more and met members of the TCM team.

“Students have expressed gratitude, surprise, and even offered themselves up as willing volunteers,” she said. “Several students were already familiar with our warehouse in Gypsum and were happy to see our presence on campus.”

From left, Michael Gonzalez, CMC student and TCM volunteer, stands with William Schmick and Bridget Bradford at the opening of The Community Market’s food pantry at CMC.
Special to the Daily

One such student volunteer is William Schmick, who has been volunteering with The Community Market for quite some time. Schmick said he is happy to serve as lead volunteer and liaison to the CMC community, walking fellow students through the fresh food options in the pantry.

Brennan and Bradford agreed that Schmick has been an important asset to the operation.

“Someone is always there when it is open and Billy [Schmick], one of our students, is often there as well,” Brennan said. “One of the great things about that is it’s just a really great opportunity for making connections.”

Schmick described his role with The Community Market at CMC as “chief encourager to take more,” and agreed with Bradford that the need amongst students goes deeper than many may realize.

“Students are hungry, often between jobs or classes, and purchasing food often means sacrificing health for convenience and affordability,” Schmick said.

Achieving The Community Market’s ambitious goal of improving access to healthy food for everyone in the valley means making healthy food just as affordable and available as the cheap and greasy alternatives, Schmick said.

“While the Community Market does an excellent job reaching throughout the valley, students may find it difficult to arrange their school and work schedules around finding a bus to one of our markets,” he said.

TCM hosts weekly free food markets across the valley from Avon to Dotsero. Placing a similar market in CMC is an innovative way to make good food more accessible to students who need to be properly nourishing their bodies so they can reach their full academic potential, Brennan said.

“The stress that is associated with being hungry or worrying where your next meal will come from is not going to help you in your studies at all,” Schmick said. “We know that people come to CMC because they want to change their lives or improve their lives so we’re just trying to remove any barriers to doing that.”

‘The problem is distribution’

For Schmick, his studies at CMC center around sustainable business. He also works with the zero waste team at Walking Mountains Science Center. Schmick said his passion for green business practices gives him a unique perspective on food waste as it relates to food access.

“I found that, like many places in the U.S., there is plenty of food in the valley. The problem is distribution,” he said. “As a sustainable business student, the externalities resulting from distributional inefficiency interest me.

“The idea that food is scarce is a fiction created by the people wanting you to buy it before you need it, keep it in your fridge and, after it goes bad, throw half of it away.”

According to its website, the majority of TCM’s food is “rescued” from local farms, grocery stores and restaurants where it would have otherwise been wasted.

Volunteering gives Schmick an opportunity to work at the intersection of food systems and food justice, learning from the TCM team and looking for potential solutions in his own community, he said.

“Until the means of producing fresh and healthy food is regarded as a public good and guarded by an understanding that food is a basic human right, The Community Market at CMC will continue to redistribute the valley’s leftovers,” Schmick said.

Schmick said he encourages anyone interested in learning more about these issues to consider volunteering as a way to broaden their sustainability knowledge while also engaging with fellow students and community members in a meaningful way.

“Vail is an incredibly welcoming environment, and it did not take long for me to realize that many of the people that have helped me here need help themselves,” he said. “We all need help — to give it and to receive it, and we all need food, and I think volunteering in an environment where those needs are met is a good and worthwhile use of my time.”

Student volunteers are welcome to reach out to info@eaglevalleycf.org to find out how they can help create a more sustainable culture on campus, Bradford said.

Kelli Duncan is a marketing and volunteer coordinator with The Community Market, a project of Eagle Valley Community Foundation.

VIDEO: First tracks through Stone Creek Chutes at Beaver Creek on a powder day

Eagle Valley Behavioral Health launches quality of life survey for Vail Valley

During the next two months, residents in Eagle County will have the opportunity to help Eagle Valley Behavioral Health, an outreach of Vail Health, improve the quality of life in the region.

Phone surveys with approximately 400 individuals in the area will be conducted by the national research firm PRC of Omaha, Nebraska, between mid-January and March. An online survey will also be available at EagleValleyBH.org. The confidential survey will ask questions about residents’ community connections, quality of life, and health needs related to mental health and alcohol use.

“Previous surveys have focused on broader issues in the community, and this survey will narrow in on behavioral health issues, providing us a baseline and identifying the top gap areas,” said Chris Lindley, executive director of EVBH, in a news release. “The intent is to conduct this survey every two years, allowing us to back up with data what our communities have been saying anecdotally and create a baseline for proving out over time what is working and what still needs to be addressed.”

The households that receive a phone survey will be selected at random, and both the online and phone survey will take less than 10 minutes to complete. Phone and online surveys will be available in English and Spanish.

“It is crucial that we have a variety of demographics that respond to the survey because we have a variety of people that reside in our valley,” Lindley said. “Our population in Eagle County is more than 30 percent LatinX, and input from everyone is vital to creating a more holistic view of what is happening in the behavioral health space in our community.”

The results of the survey will help local organizations understand where the greatest needs exist and identify ways to strengthen the services and community connections that improve the quality of life for all residents.

For more information regarding the survey, or to take the online survey, visit EagleValleyBH.org.

Edwards motorists face one more summer of road construction

EAGLE — Based on anecdotal evidence, Eagle County Commissioner Jeanne McQueeney believes the Edwards roundabout project completed last year has been a big community success.

McQueeney said that when her personal errands or official duties find her speaking to Edwards residents, she brings up the topic. “People seem very pleased,” she said.

Now officials from the Colorado Department of Transportation hope to repeat that success as they look at a second summer of construction in 2020.

Earlier this week, CDOT Project Manager Matt Figgs presented the Eagle County Board of Commissioners an update regarding the Edwards Spur Road. He noted that 2019 was a hectic construction season at the busiest intersection in the county as crews built a new two-lane roundabout to replace the four-way traffic light at U.S. Highway 6 and the Edwards Spur Road. Additionally, new roadway and pedestrian bridges were built over the Eagle River and underground utilities were installed as part of the construction project.

“It (the roundabout construction) was a great success because we did it outside of the school year and finished 10 days ahead of schedule,” Figgs said.

Unfortunately, that feat did not extend across the entire project. Construction crews will be back at work in Edwards this summer to complete a four-lane vehicle bridge and a pedestrian bridge and connecting trail work over the Union Pacific railroad tracks.

Massive layoffs

“Due to massing layoffs by Union Pacific, we were delayed in getting our construction permits from them,” Figgs said. “Our goal now is to have the bridge open for four lanes by September.”

Figgs said that while Union Pacific delays pushed construction to a second summer, the railroad has granted an at-grade crossing permit. That decision will make for an easier construction scene this summer.

“We can work from below and build up,” Figgs said. “We feel it’s going to be a lot less impactful for the traveling public.”

Eagle County Senior Engineer Rickie Davies concurred. “I think it is going to be very low impact to the traveling public for the rest of the project.”

Figgs said the cost impact of continuing construction into a second summer will be around $525,000.

“We have enough in our construction budget, by a slim margin, to afford that cost,” he said “ We have been proactive and our contractor has been working with us very well. We are being very strategic with how much this all costs.”

The total project cost — including design and engineering — is approximately $26 million, Figgs said.

Road in action

With motorists now becoming accustomed to the new road alignment, McQueeney asked if crews have had to tweak the design.

“Are the pedestrial crosswalks working as we hoped they would,” she asked. “Are they in the right places?”

Figgs said that after a summer where pedestrian access through the construction area was difficult, motorists have seemingly embraced the crosswalk configuration. He noted that as soon as the roundabout shift was made, drivers quickly figured out how pedestrians would navigate the intersection.

“We do feel they are in the right spots,” Figgs said.

Construction at the Edwards site is on hiatus until May, when crews will complete landscaping and begin work on the railroad bridges.