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Steamboat firefighters need help

Allen Best

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. There’s some heartburn in Steamboat Springs about the ability of the fire department to respond to a major fire. As the city has grown in population and territory, the fire department has not grown proportionately. The result has been more calls for help, which has caused Steamboat to call in outlying communities to the west and south for help, explains The Steamboat Pilot and Today. Bryan Rickman, who is chief of a fire protection district based in Hayden, 27 miles west of Steamboat, says his department has been called to assist Steamboat more times during the past three months than in the rest of the past 32 years.Steamboat has 12 full-time firefighters. The recruitment of non-paid volunteers has slackened since pension benefits were withdrawn.Good ol’ vs. new boy small-town networksGRANBY, Colo. Granby is struggling through an effort to recall the town’s mayor. The sources of discontent are not particularly clear, but Sky-Hi News publisher Patrick Brower believes the story can be broken down into good ol’ boy vs. good new boy networks.In the good ol’ boy network, issues are dealt with in communications that are face to face, often over coffee or through extended family connections, he observes. Most small towns have that good ol’ boy network. But as a place grows, he says, it increasingly relies upon its more formal government network. Formal governments are more constrained by laws that are intended to provide a level playing field.As such, the town officials were barred by law from talking with fire board members when the firefighters Brower says in a demanding and haughty demeanor came in with a proposal to waive normal zoning for a new fire station. “Direct person-to-person (not in a board meeting) discussion might have smoothed some ruffled feathers,” writes Brower. He adds that he hopes the current brouhaha will bring the two networks the good ol’ boys and the good new boys closer together. The election is set for early April.Much ado in Whistler about motors on snowWHISTLER, B.C. – Backcountry skiers and snowmobilers are snipping at each other in the pages of Whistler’s Pique. A complaint from a self-described “self-propelled backcountry enthusiast” named Mark Grist seems to have been the volley fired over the bow.Indignant snowmobilers responded that Grist was arrogant, and suggested that people who don’t like snowmobiles should instead go to the provincial parks, where motorized uses are banned. Further, they question whether backcountry skiers weren’t being hypocritical. After all, they use motor vehicles to get to the trailheads, while downhill skiers use lifts.From Australia, a reader named Dan McDonald writes to describe the troubles with four-wheel-drive motorists on the beaches of Queensland. While outwardly the issue may seem one of value-laden objections over noise and visual impacts, a recent study showed broader, more harmful consequences, he says.The pressure from truck wheels is compressing the sand, killing about 40 percent of the clams and crabs that live below the surface. Those crabs clean organic debris, processing the nutrients and making them available for other organisms that, in turn, feed the small fish (that then feed the big fish), the shore birds (over 40 species) and keep the sand itself clean.And clean sand and wildlife are vital to the tourism economy there, he argues. “How long can Whistler afford to remain neutral over motorized use of its backcountry?” he asks.San Juan County hope to curb young ATVersSILVERTON, Colo. San Juan County officials are preparing to step up efforts they hope will reduce the number of young users of off-highway-vehicles in the backcountry around Silverton.What most drives public officials is a concern about safety of the drivers. Forest Service regulations require only that drivers be at least 10 years of age. But county officials believe these young drivers tend to be reckless, endangering themselves in the high roads in the rugged topography around Silverton. As such, they want off-highway drivers to be at least 16, the legal driving age in Colorado, and insured.A lesser concern is that younger drivers tend more toward irresponsible off-road driving on delicate above-timberline tundra and in other sensitive areas.The first step is adoption of a law that formally prescribes a minimum driving age on county roads. But to put teeth into that law, the county commissioners are looking into hiring a part-time staff member for the sheriff’s department who will patrol backcountry roads.Yet another issue is consistency of laws among various jurisdictions in the San Juan Mountains. Many OHV riders cross passes in the Telluride-Ouray-Silverton-Lake City area. That means four counties, three national forests, and the Bureau of Land Management property could be crossed in a (long) day of riding. Rules about OHV use vary, and the county commissioners hope for more consistency.Helicopter noise in Lake TahoeLAKE TAHOE, Calif. The woof-woof-woof of helicopters bearing sightseers at Lake Tahoe is generating some on-the-ground grousing. The Sierra Club and others say that the helicopters are getting to be too much for human ears and also a danger to eagles. Commercial helicopter tours say that they avoid skimming over the lake, and hence pose no disturbance. They blame the complaints on a few bad eggs. But Jim Hildinger, a resident of South Lake Tahoe, says all the helicopters collectively add up to a disruption of the basin’s serenity, an instance of the few marring the vacations of the many.The Tahoe Daily Tribune notes that while helicopters are now banned in the Grand Canyon, such a uniform ban would be impossible at Lake Tahoe, because private land is mixed with federal land.


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