| VailDaily.com

Peterson: Tuesday night fever

The thought of getting up and dancing in front of 700 people in the middle of an airplane hangar would make most people want to run in the opposite direction. 

But Patrick Scanlan isn’t most people. P-Dawg, as he was known during his days booting field goals for the Battle Mountain Huskies, was born to boogie. 

Maybe you wouldn’t know it to look at him, but Scanlan says he’s always been a natural performer at heart. Which is why, when he was approached by reps from the Vail Valley Foundation’s YouthPower365 to be a participant in Tuesday night’s Star Dancing Gala at the Eagle Valley Jet Center, Scanlan couldn’t have said yes quicker. 

“It’s a great organization that I believe a lot in, especially growing up in this valley,” said Scanlan, who did Teach for America after college and now mentors local youth at Berry Creek Middle School through YouthPower365. “Financially, no buildings are getting named after me, but giving time and some sweat, that’s the best way to give back.”

And, man, was Scanlan willing to give some sweat. He admits to maybe sending the most enthusiastic email in the history of the gala to Colin Meiring of the Vail Valley Dance Academy, who has coordinated the performances for the fundraiser since its inception. 

“I went over to my neighbor’s house, Michael Holton, and told him I was doing it,” Scanlan said. “And we were just talking in the yard and he’s like, you know what, just looking at you, you’re not an amazing Flamenco dancer. You don’t know East Coast swing or anything like that. So you’ve really gotta do something fun … like fall off the stage into a table or do like a tribute to ‘Top Gun.’ I was like, OK. It kind of evolved from that.”

Meiring’s response to the “20,000-word email” that Scanlan said he sent? Dude, you only have three minutes. 

“I was imagining an hour-and-a-half show with me up there with a 15-minute intermission. But that wasn’t the case.”

Patrick Scanlan does an interpretive dance of the movie “Top Gun” with professional dancer Danielle Barry at the YouthPower365 Star Dancing Gala, raising funds for education.
Rex Keep | Courtesy Vail Valley Foundation

What gala attendees did see was a 3-minute dancing homage to “Top Gun” that would have made Iceman want to be Scanlan’s wingman.

Not that Scanlan was the only star Tuesday night. Hardly. 

This Star Dancing Gala, now in its 11th year, more than lives up to its name. It has become the Vail Valley’s biggest party of the summer and raises planeloads of donations to power extended learning opportunities throughout Eagle County for kids of all ages and their families.

It’s one of those things that makes you realize just how special this place is, and how many talented, dedicated people call this valley home. 

The stars of this dance party? An interior designer, a veterinarian, a dermatologist, a yoga instructor, a CEO of a lifestyle brand, a professional hockey player — and, well, Chris Lindley, who has enough degrees and jobs for maybe three people.

Lindley, the executive director of the newly-formed nonprofit, Eagle Valley Behavioral Health, just left his job as director of Eagle County Public Health and Environment. He’s also the founder of two successful fitness companies with 10 different locations, including Endorphin in Eagle Ranch; a former professional firefighter; and the former prevention services director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. Oh, yeah, he’s also a former unit commander for the US Army Medical Reserves who has received a presidential commendation and the Bronze Star Medal for saving multiple lives during a suicide bomber attack in Iraq. 

And he’s got three — yes, three — masters degrees. When this guy sleeps, nobody knows.

But of all the things Lindley has done in his life, nothing compared to getting up on that stage.

“I’d like to consider myself somewhat athletic, but, man, dancing is a whole different skill set,” Lindley said.

Often, in the months leading up to the event, Lindley was certain that he was going to be “just awful.”

“Like, I would forget something, I would drop her, and I would be the ass of the entire show,” he said. “I couldn’t remember the steps, I couldn’t move my hips.”

Victoria Jones, the interior designer, said she had similar thoughts — and she trained as a dancer growing up and placed the winning bid at last year’s gala to secure a spot on stage this year. 

“I was like, I can do that,” said Jones, who in her younger dancing days once performed a routine on stage at Red Rocks. “But when you’re practicing, you don’t know what everyone else is doing. I thought it would be like riding a bike, but after 10 years, it didn’t come back as quickly.”

Jean Urquhart, the dermatologist, said she lost two toenails during the more than 20 hours of rehearsing she did with her partner in the months leading up to the event. 

Liz Logan Sterett, the CEO of her own lifestyle brand, BeSOUL, said her initial reaction when asked if she’d perform was: “Are you crazy?  The only time I dance is with tequila and girlfriends.”

But it’s the kids, and the cause, that won out — and helped make all the grueling hours of practice worth it. 

“Every year I tell myself I’m going to do one thing that pushes my limits, tests my strength and I can honestly say this was humbling,” Logan Sterett said. “But when I think about the impact my dancing shoes made, along with all my fellow dancers, I realize we are all here to do our part in making our community thrive.”

“I was reminded how fun it is to get out of my comfort zone,” said Rachel Nelson, the yoga instructor. 

“Walking out in front of 700 leaders and influencers in this community and kind of just showing them who you are and being completely vulnerable, I think, is a good thing for all of us,” Lindley said. “That ties into our behavioral health efforts. We’re all human, and we may not be as thin as we want to be, or as athletic as we want to be, or as funny, or whatever, but just being out, and having fun, and being human — the more we can all be out doing that as a community, it’s just going to help us along that path better.”

Couldn’t agree more. 

As for Scanlan, if you’re still interested in seeing his full hour-plus routine, just give him a call. He’s available to do weddings, birthdays and any other event this summer.

Email Vail Daily Editor Nate Peterson at npeterson@vaildaily.com

Wissot: No rocking chair for these old folks

I ran the Vail HillClimb over the July 4 weekend. It’s not the first time I’ve run it. Counting the number of race T-shirts in my closet, it looks like I have 13 times. That means I missed 30 other times, because the race celebrated its 43rd running this year.

The race begins by the Covered Bridge in Vail Village and takes the runners up mostly Forest Service roads for 7.7 miles to just below the gondola in Mid-Vail. The altitude gain is a little over 2,000 feet. I said mostly Forest Service roads for a reason. This year, because of the road construction taking place between Eagles Nest and Mid-Vail, the last half mile or so took place on singletrack.

I’m not much of a runner to begin with, and the singletrack is to me as Kryptonite was to Superman: my worst nemesis. I just need to look at a tree root and I’m guaranteed to trip over it.

But I digress. This column isn’t about me. It’s about the 14 other men and women in my age group (70 to Death) who joined me on the climb that day. These 12 septuagenarians and two octogenarians were there to prove that the young at heart don’t need to be confined to a comfy chair reading a nice book. Doing something physically hard is not only for the young of body.

Having said that, please let me make it clear that there is no beneficial health reason for a person over 70 to be running up a hill at altitude. Running does not increase your life expectancy. Some of the greatest marathoners in history did not make it out of their 60s and 70s. A brisk walk in a park or swimming laps in a pool done on a regular basis offers older people many of the cardio benefits needed to remain healthy.

I should note that not all 15 of us were running up the hill. Some of us definitely were and I’ll get to them in a bit. But the majority of us, including yours truly, chose other means of locomotion. Many ran the flatter portions of the course, of which there were precious few, and walked or hiked the hills. Others felt they had a better chance of getting to the top by dispensing with running altogether, and simply walked the entire distance.

Me? I opted for fast walking, though in my case using the word “fast” is debatable, and then when the climbs got steeper and steeper, switched to lumbering my way up. I was fortunate to be feeling good because when I’m not, lumbering can quickly turn into stumbling, or worse, bumbling aimlessly around like a man lost in the desert searching for a water hole. A very disturbing sight indeed.

I am happy to report that all fifteen of us made it to the finish line. Some much faster than others. A big shoutout, therefore, to Richard Katz and Frank Kunkel. Richard finished in a scintillating time of 1 hour, 19 minutes, 4 seconds, and Frank followed behind in 1:35:46. I’d rather not report how far behind them I was. Let’s just say that Richard and Frank had time for a quick shower and a light lunch before returning to watch me finish.

I don’t know either of these gentlemen. But I sure do admire their running talent and training ethic.

On the distaff side (I’m hoping that word has something to do with women because I sure liked using it), kudos to Peggy Nicholls and Gail Scoby, who finished first and second, as well as to the three other women in their age division who also made it to the top.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention three outstanding age-70-plus male runners — Tom Edwards of Gypsum, Jim Mykleby from Leadville and Marlin Smickley who lives in Edwards.

Tom and Jim are stalwart competitors, have run the course many more times than I have, and are usually standing at the finish line ready to greet me each year.

Marlin is no stranger to readers of this paper. He was written up a year ago at this time in the Vail Daily because he celebrated his 80th birthday on the day of last year’s race. He was back at it this year and for local runners is seen as an inspirational treasure.

In fact, I’d like to close this column by telling you that when people ask me if I’m going to run next year’s hill climb, I will answer in the affirmative. The way I see it is if Marlin can do it at 82, I sure as heck can muster the motivation to do it at 75.

It’s how us runners think.

Jay Wissot is a resident of Denver and Vail. Email him at jayhwissot@mac.com.

Eagle Valley Community Foundation: The childcare gap in Eagle County

According to a study by Qualistar Colorado, the annual cost of sending your child to preschool in Eagle County is $11,100 a year. The same study found that the average annual cost for childcare for young children is $13,000 which is 53% higher than the median cost across U.S. school districts.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has stated that no more than 10 percent of a family’s income should be spent on childcare for it to be considered affordable. However, in reality, low-income families spend a much larger portion of their income on childcare.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, families above the federal poverty line spend an average of 8 percent of their income on childcare, whereas families below the federal poverty line spend an average of 30 percent.

Feeling the pinch locally

Pamela Ramos, a Gypsum resident and mother of three, said she recently had to quit her job and stay home to take care of her kids because she was spending so much of her income on childcare.

“When we first moved here, Santiago was 5,” she said. “For him to attend preschool, in Avon, it was $30 a day and then an extra $3 a day for his lunch. So I went to work and made $60, $70 a day at the restaurant then half of that is already gone.”

Ramos said these costs do not include the money she spent on transportation and additional childcare after Santiago got out of school for the day.

“All of the jobs that I was looking into, they start at 6 or 7 in the morning and then these preschools they start at 8 a.m. and end at 3 p.m.,” she said. “But if you don’t get out of work until 5 p.m. then you end up paying somebody else to go pick up your kid and watch them.”

‘It just feels … impossible’

Based on population and enrollment figures provided in the 2015 Eagle County Child Care Market Assessment, 4,300 children from birth to age 5 live in Eagle County. Approximately two-thirds have one or more parents employed, yielding 2,881 children who may need childcare. Infants and toddlers comprise roughly half of that number.

Currently, there are 1,500 children in licensed care, leaving 1,381 children whose families may need or want licensed care, but may not be getting it. Many of these families will choose license-exempt family, friend or neighbor care, while others may turn to unlicensed care, juggle work schedules, or sacrifice employment to have one parent stay home.

“You don’t know where to go to get services and you don’t know if the bus will get you there and you don’t know if you’ll be eligible,” Ramos said. “I don’t know, it just feels … impossible.”

Ramos said that she relies heavily on family members to take care of her two youngest children. Even now, she said that whenever she has to leave the house her oldest daughter Veronica (15) is often tasked with looking after Santiago (6) and Daniela (9 months).

“I have to basically rely 100% on my sister-in-law or Roni,” she said. “And if they’re not available like if my sister is gone and Roni is at school then I can’t do anything, I can’t go to work. I’ve thought about having Roni skip school for the day but then I know that’s not right.”

Ramos said that, ultimately, she had to weigh whether she should try to keep a job so that the family could save up to repair their car (which has been sitting in the driveway since breaking down a few weeks ago) or whether she should stay home so that her daughter can go to school and lead a normal, teenage life.

“I grew up taking care of all of my siblings so I know how hard it is to manage that with everything else going on in your life as a kid, as a teenager,” she said. “It’s really hard and then you don’t get to go out and be a kid yourself because you’re stuck at home being, like, a parent.”

“I always tell Roni, you know, you have to focus on school. But then it doesn’t make sense for me to say that and then, at the same time, ask her to focus on taking care of the kids too,” she added.

For this reason, Ramos said she quit her job to be more present for her kids, which has made things very tight financially. Ramos worked in education for a while when she was still living in Mexico and said that she understands how important it is for children to have access to a good education, especially in the early years of their lives.

“To me, education is very important and at that age they should be exploring, learning, getting to know things and using all of their senses to learn,” she said.

Critical for success

According to Ounce of Prevention, a Chicago-based organization which develops early childhood education solutions for low-income communities, “Nearly 5 million children under the age of 5 live in poverty in the U.S. and the majority don’t have access to high-quality early childhood programs that could dramatically improve their future. The first five years of a child’s life are critical for setting the foundations for lifelong health, learning and success.”

Ramos said that many low-income families in Eagle County understand this, but are simply unable to afford the rates at local childcare centers and, thus, have to turn to cheaper alternatives.

“If you can’t afford daycare, then you end up just trying to find a babysitter and with that, you never know how qualified they are,” Ramos said. “I have no idea like if they know CPR, if they are good with kids, if they’re going to engage with the kids. There are a lot of babysitters who just sit the kids in front of the TV all day or who are taking care of 6 or 7 or 8 kids at once.”

While statements like these outline the need for childcare providers to be properly certified and trained in how to support young children in the most important years of their development, trained childcare providers are still paid very poorly and often do not receive the support they need.

Trying to fill the gap

Eagle Valley Community Foundation is working with Colorado Mountain College to try to close the childcare gap in Eagle County by empowering and supporting the next generation of early childhood education professionals.

By providing professional development scholarships to students currently studying or interested in pursuing a career in early childhood education, ECVF is not only increasing the quality of care given by individuals currently in the field, but also incentivizing others to enter the field. So far, EVCF has provided scholarships to 60 students studying early childhood education at CMC over a period of 10 semesters. The organization also works with CMC to provide childcare for students while they are in class.

“I’m really grateful for the ECE scholarship because it has allowed me to attend classes and still make my rent and have food to eat,” one student, Jill Romanek, said. “Without the scholarship I would be taking one class at a time and struggling to pay rent.”

Another scholarship recipient, Maria Cage, said, “In my two years returning to the Vail Valley, I am both alarmed by the level of need in the ECE field and likewise heartened by philanthropic efforts to move our professionals and environments closer to meeting standards of developmentally and culturally appropriate practice to better support young children and their families.”

Director of Community Impact for EVCF, Susie Davis, said that the early childhood education scholarship program is very near and dear to her heart.

“Early childhood professionals are a special breed, their open hearts, their endless patience and thoughtful approach with children helps to grow good humans,” Davis said. “We are lucky that 60 people in our community care enough to expand their education to keep offering what’s best for our community’s kids.”

Davis said that while the response to the scholarship program fills her with hope for the future of access to childcare in Eagle County, she knows there is still much work to be done in order to truly close the gap.

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

Letter: Credit where credit is due

While not earth-shattering, on the front page of the July 14 Vail Daily you attributed the artwork in the weather section to Jenna Kisker. It was drawn by Addison Kisker, her younger sister. Artists should get due credit!

John Oliphant (Grandfather to Jenna and Addison)

Eagle

Letter: In East Vail debate, the choice is clear

Editor’s note: This letter was originally addressed to the town of Vail’s Planning and Environmental Commission.

Per your request at the last meeting and because I am out of town at this time, I am putting my concerns about the Triumph project and the bighorn sheep on record.

As I said at the last meeting, we labored over the words on the council chamber walls. In fact, it was tedious and sometimes painful to sit through all of the discussions of the correct wording and even where the commas should be. But there was a motive. Because the whole purpose of the exercise was to provide the very words that would guide all future decision-making.

In the case of the project under discussion, clearly the mission statement to “preserve our surrounding natural environment” and the vision statement of “environmental stewardship” should provide enough guidance. But I have an additional take on the subject.

We have been led to believe that affordable housing is such a severe crisis that we should throw all other considerations to the wind in the pursuit of its solution. And perhaps I, too, would fall into that trap if it weren’t for my long history of support of affordable housing.

Because unfortunately, I remember the squander of possibilities on the first phase of Timber Ridge. And while we are on Timber Ridge, would it not make sense to complete that fiasco before disturbing the last refuge in Vail for these the sheep? 

I also find it difficult to work up a lather over this when our last big project was for subsidized housing of high-end units sold to people who arguably could have afforded places to live without being underwritten by the Vail taxpayers — but, of course, I just digressed.

Perhaps more to the point, however, is the fact that this project is being spurred by Vail Resorts and their sudden urgency to solve the housing crisis. So, I must ask, if the crisis is so severe as to finally bring them to the table, why not develop property for which they have already received the green light, for which no one will challenge, in fact for which most will applaud — namely Ever Vail. Tell them to go for it — knock themselves out. And leave the bighorn sheep to fight another day.

My personal opinion is that this property should only be under consideration when we have exhausted all other options. Disturbing the natural environment and endangering these beautiful creatures is a decision that should only be made when there is no possibility of solving the problem in another way. Fortunately for us, we have other choices and I hope you have the common sense to acknowledge that fact and act appropriately.

Unlike many people who spoke at the last meeting, I do not think you have a difficult decision. It is as clear as the writing on the council chambers wall and should be apparent to anyone who reads it, understands its original intent and is committed enough to act accordingly.

Kaye Ferry

Vail

Romer: Employee retention key to success

Richard Branson is credited with saying “Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.”

I think he’s right. We need to take care of our people in order to build a healthy business. I’ll take it one step further — business owners need to take care of their employees in order to build and maintain a strong community.

Plenty of data and research support investing in employee engagement to improve your business. Engaged employees can help companies outperform competitors by more than 200% according to research from Glassdoor, an employer review and hiring site.

Organizational cultural keys all had a massive impact on employer choice according to Deloitte’s 2015 millennial survey, including items such as work-life balance, personal development and advancement, flexible schedules and sense of meaning from work

When asked “What element of a work environment is most important to you?” in the Business Journal study of more than 1,800 respondents, the top answers were:

  • Flexibility and technology that allows for work from home — 46%.
  • Having individual offices/private workspaces — 32%.
  • Amenities including free coffee, snacks, athletic facilities and daycare services — 9%.
  • Smaller, collaborative workspaces for impromptu meetings — 7%.
  • Open office plans to maximize interaction with colleagues — 6%.

Quantum Workplace, in its 2018 employee engagement trends report, shows the best workplaces are fun, challenging, friendly, engaging, and rewarding.

The research clearly shows that investing in the employee experience and taking care of your employees can help with employee retention and satisfaction. But of course, it’s never just that easy; businesses across the industry sector are short-staffed, creating numerous pressures on employees that manifest in service delivery and retention. Add the high cost of living in mountain communities and other societal pressures that cannot be controlled by businesses, and the pressure increases.

Thus, the importance of taking care of employees in order to help build, grow, and maintain a successful community. We need business leaders and elected officials who are committed to the community — after all, quality of life begins with a good job and our employees are the foundation for a successful business.

To simplify things, leaders can be equated to basic math equations. Leaders can add to an organization, or they can subtract from it. Leaders can divide, or they can multiply. Successful leaders — through vision, motivation, and inspiration and/or through empathy, service, and improving — need to focus on addition and multiplication, not on subtraction or division.  

Focusing on employee engagement and team development adds to your employee retention, creating an environment where people can thrive and provide higher levels of service to your customers. Leaders create an environment which focuses on the addition of service, resulting in the multiplication of effort and higher satisfaction scores. Leaders who do not focus on the employee experience and who do not invest in professional development and growth opportunities instead focus on subtraction and division — creating an environment that is detrimental to the customer experience and likely the bottom line.

Consider how your business values employees because employee retention can be a strategic initiative that leads directly to your business growth, with the added benefit of building a stronger community.

Town and county leaders should take note as well. Housing access and availability continues to resonate as our largest community challenge and we need to find ways for the public sector and private sector to address the retention issue together.

Chris Romer is president and CEO of the Vail Valley Partnership, the regional chamber of commerce. Learn more at www.vailvalleypartnership.com.

Letter: Thanks from bocce tournament organizers

The Swift Eagle Charitable Foundation would like to thank everyone for making its 12th annual La Bella Festa Bocce Tournament fundraiser another wonderful success. The day stayed sunny and beautiful until the 160 bocce participants finished 10 rounds of bocce and then the rain came.  But by then everyone was inside and enjoying the Italian dinner served by Gourmet Cowboy ….e stato delizioso!

Congratulations to the tournament winner, Carquest, and runner-up Gold Team Realtors.

Thank you to all our sponsors including: Carquest Auto Parts, Merv & Laine Lapin, Slifer Smith & Frampton Real Estate, FirstBank, Beck Building Company, Select Surfaces, Citywide Banks, Larsen & Lynch LLC, Alpine Bank, High Country Copiers, BJ & Garrett Smith, Nedbo Construction, Inc., Shaw Electric, Steammaster, Wall Street Insurance, Gourmet Cowboy, EPS Design & Print, Vail Daily, Orrison Distributing, Eagle-Vail Metro District/Eagle-Vail Property Owners Association.   

A huge thank you to our 60 silent auction donors and all the bidders who made this year’s auction our most successful yet.

And an extra special thanks to the Vail Daily and publisher Mark Wurzer for its outstanding advertising and editorial support … we couldn’t do it without you! 

The monies raised by the tournament will go toward providing financial assistance to Eagle County residents for living and personal expenses during times of crisis and hardship. For more information on Swift Eagle Charitable Foundation, or to download an application, please go to www.swifteagle.org.

Swift Eagle Charitable Foundation

Letter: Something we don’t know about Booth Heights proposal?

Despite the overwhelming arguments against this project — environmental and economic — the town of Vail and the Planning and Environmental Commission seem determined to approve the project in pursuit of the “holy grail” of workforce housing. Commission member John-Ryan Lockman telegraphed the commission’s ultimate, evidently prenegotiated decision in his comment, published in the July 10, 2019 issue of the Vail Daily, that “the developer has done a good job and put good faith in the process.”

Interestingly, the proposed project has already been given a name — Booth Heights — only very recently disclosed to the public. Ginny Culp’s arguments, also published in the July 10 issue, reiterated many of the arguments against the project, including the virtually ignored costs to the town of Vail in meeting the transportation demands of the proposed project. However, Kirsty Hintz’s comments published in the July 12, 2019 issue of the Vail Daily were spot on. The entire East Vail employee housing project has emitted a decidedly bad odor from Day 1 and the very carefully orchestrated public meeting agendas have been heavily skewed toward the prenegotiated conclusion.

In a corrupt political environment, one might assume that when a governmental entity ignores the overwhelming evidence against a proposed project there has been some form of undisclosed “quid pro quo.” It would be extremely disappointing to find that such a quid pro quo influences the decisions of the town of Vail.

Joe McHugh

Vail

Eagle River Watershed Council: Reject Trump’s Dirty Water Rule

What in the world is WOTUS? Simply put, it stands for Waters of the United States. Currently, the determination of what is a water of the U.S. is being questioned and could have damaging effects to the environment and people of this country.

In 2015, the Obama administration passed the Clean Water Rule (part of the Clean Water Act) to clarify rules for the management of our nation’s waterways — and pollution thereof. In 2017, President Trump signed an executive order for the review of the 2015 rule with the ultimate goal of rescinding or revising it. The revisions are now referred to as the Dirty Water Rule, which includes these changes:

  • Eliminating protections from interstate waters, such as streams that flow through more than one state.
  • Excluding from protection isolated water bodies that are not connected with downstream waterways, wetlands and prior converted agricultural lands and ephemeral watercourses (streams that flow only briefly during and following rainfall).
  • Inviting comments on any and all other issues. This could create a slew of possible negative environmental factors. Policy experts speculate that this single change could lead to the elimination of water quality standards and regulation of oil spills, sewage dumping and more.

This would eliminate federal punishments for the dumping of pollutants into these waterways.

In a recent seminar, representatives from the National Resource Defense Council and National Wildlife Federation noted that this repeal would affect 70% of waters in the United States if passed. There has been no analysis by the Trump Administration of the effect these rule changes would have on public health and safety, environment and ecological systems, and the economy — a stark contrast to the countless hours the scientific community spent researching the 2015 Clean Water Rule prior to its implementation.

We can consider ourselves lucky here in Colorado. Our state officials have created stringent laws to protect our waterways. But our state would not go unaffected if this change were to be implemented.

Tribal nations (such as the Southern Ute and Ute Mountain Ute nations in Colorado) are not subject to state law. This federal law would directly impact these communities that already struggle with clean water access in the arid desert.

Furthermore, we are an interconnected country. Any degradations upstream could flow right through our state. Not to mention that, like many of you, I have friends and family all over the country that would be hard hit by the Dirty Water Rule.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Cuyahoga River fires in Ohio, which was caused by the unregulated dumping of industrial waste into the water. We cannot return to such conditions.

The public comment period is now closed, but a resounding 525,000 comments were received in the two months that public comment was open, showing the clear public concern for this issue.

So what can you do now? Even though the public comment period is closed, you can contact your political leaders and government agency representatives and ask them to oppose the Dirty Water Rule. Do it soon, however, as it is set to take effect at the end of this year.

The EPA and Army Corps of Engineers will ultimately decide the fate of this proposal. Write letters or send emails to them and your state officials to demand accountability from the deciding entities.

You can find your representatives at house.gov or senate.gov or by calling the U.S. Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121. Tweet using @EPA, #ProtectCleanWater, and #DirtyWaterRule to call attention to the issue. And most importantly, educate yourself and stay in tune with how this rulemaking is progressing by visiting epa.gov/wotus-rule or protectcleanwater.org for more information.

Kate Isaacson is the Projects & Events Coordinator for Eagle River Watershed Council. The Watershed Council has a mission to advocate for the health and conservation of the Upper Colorado and Eagle River basins through research, education, and projects. Contact the Watershed Council at (970) 827-5406 or visit www.erwc.org.

Van Beek: Sexual abuse and children

Imagine this …

You’re in bed and it’s almost morning. You begin thinking about the day.  You’ll be meeting new people and you’re excited about all the many things that will be happening today. What will you wear? It will be an amazing day!

Then the door creeps open. Your heart sinks. You decide to pretend to be asleep. Then the covers are lifted and an all-too-familiar, heavy weight is upon you. Hands are everywhere. Underwear is pulled down and there is heavy thrusting. You’ve learned to think about other things; it helps to take your mind off of the regular visits. You know to just keep quiet and soon it will be over.

A few minutes later, the door closes. You’ve been warned not to say anything, or things will get really bad. You get up and clean off, trying to get your mind back on this great day ahead. You put on your best clothes and run out the door, so as not to be late. You arrive, just in time to hear … “Welcome, class, to third grade.”

It’s never easy to discuss child sexual abuse. With the Jeffrey Epstein case dominating the news, I wanted to cover this very sensitive element of abuse that is often overlooked. There is no such thing as sex with underaged women or underaged men … it’s sex with children and no one is immune to the dangers. With online predators, or worse, vulnerabilities with a trusted adult, the situation is a silent threat across all communities. 

According to Crimes Against Children Research Center, one in five girls and one in 20 boys are sexually abused by age 18. While it is a difficult topic to discuss, we must be reminded that our communities are safe, but only because we are aware, and make a conscious effort to protect one another. 

Sexual abuse is not just the stuff of headlines, and it can happen to both girls and boys. The Epstein case simply highlights that those who appear reputable can be sexually abusive, and yes, even to children. Sadly, many of these cases cannot be prosecuted because the victims are too scared to testify, and often, they worry that they won’t be believed, or worse yet, that they somehow deserve it.

Looks can be deceiving

We often stereotype an abuser, which almost gives a free pass to those that don’t fit the expectation. These behaviors cross all barriers — economic, cultural, age, gender, professions. It can happen anywhere, even in Happy Valley. The most tragic is discovering that it is within a family, perhaps from someone you trust implicitly, which becomes their ticket to do as they please with little inhibition.

Online predators are the hardest to spot, especially with children. They engage their victims through games and chatrooms, usually disguised as another child. Parents assume it is an innocent interaction, not realizing they just let a child predator indirectly into their home. It usually begins with fun chats about the game, then moves into more personal information about school, friends, and family. 

Predators exploit vulnerabilities the child expresses, causing the child to question the love and loyalty of those around them, redirecting it toward their new best friend, “the only one who truly cares.” They become the child’s secret confidant and ultimately the in-person invitation is extended.  It is always a secret meeting with specific instructions. Sadly, it is often the last time the child is seen. 

Warning signs

How do we recognize sexual child abuse? 

According to the organization, Child Molestation Victims, many of us are not aware of the warning signs of sexual child abuse. We sometimes discount certain behaviors as simply exposure to inappropriate movies or video games from an older sibling, but that misconception is what the abuser counts on to provide them cover. 

The three main types of sexual abuse in children are, touching, non-touching, and exploitation. Touching is obvious and will sometimes be disguised as a game. Non-touching can include viewing pornography, live or on film, or exposing private areas. Exploitation may involve taking pornographic images or videos or at the extreme, soliciting a child for prostitution. 

Some signs of abuse may include physical signs, but also, unusual fear, excessive crying, eating disorders, sleep disorders — too much or too little, behavior regression, being overly clingy or dependent, anxiety, bedwetting, nightmares, social withdrawal including family, friends, or favorite activities, aggression towards others, depression, academic decline, substance abuse, suicidal thoughts, and other uncharacteristic behaviors. 

Of course, sexual abuse is not limited to children, and in Eagle County alone, we have had over 500 sexual abuse cases since 2009, from inappropriate fondling to rape, from young children to adults. In pornography cases, it is often difficult to identify the perpetrators, making prosecution difficult. This is why being aware and not staying silent is so critical. You may be saving a life. 

Finding help

If you are concerned, contact anyone in law enforcement, they will get you help; if urgent, 911 will get an officer out immediately. We have trained specialists who will work to bring victims to safety, regardless of age or gender or circumstance. 

Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline: 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453)

Prevent Child Abuse America: 1-800-CHILDREN (1-800-244-5373)

James van Beek is the Eagle County sheriff. You can reach him at james.vanbeek@eaglecounty.us.