Letter: The power of print journalism in our community | VailDaily.com

Letter: The power of print journalism in our community

Since the time I picked up the first edition of the Vail Daily, a mimeographed single sheet, from the counter in a convenience store in West Vail, 40 years ago, I don’t believe that I have seen two articles in one copy that figured so importantly in the community and entered so deeply into my life as the second and third pages of the paper on July 6.

The two articles were “Where Were You When,” about the Lake Christine Fire last year, and “Trailer Park Resident: ‘Water is Undrinkable.’” Let me just answer the question in the first headline. On July 4, 2018, I left Edwards for Basalt to open a Red Cross shelter at the Basalt High School. In reference to the second article, I helped a group of local volunteers knock on every single one of the 381 trailer doors over a three-month period, again as a member of the Red Cross. Both were exceptional experiences in the recent past.

At some time in the near future, I would like to write about both events in more detail as the Daily finishes its coverage of the Eagle River Village situation and I have more time. I would just like to offer a brief outline here. There are a lot of people who figure prominently in both stories — Tsu Wolin Brown, of the Vail Valley Salvation Army, and Chris Lindley, of Eagle County, to mention a couple. With regards to the fire, I helped establish shelter in Basalt in the afternoon, and then at midnight, in response to Eagle County Emergency Management, one other volunteer and I left the high school and drove north past towering walls of flames along Colorado Highway 82 to Carbondale to establish another shelter for the people who were displaced when all of El Jebel was evacuated in the middle of the night as an inferno swept over the ridge south of town up to the back decks of homes throughout the community.

I have never witnessed such a determined stand as the mountain firefighters staged that night to save the vast majority of the homes by setting backfires to within literal inches of the houses. I then spent the next eight days at the Red Cross shelters in Carbondale and Basalt. There are many stories to be told of generous communities and tireless efforts.

As to the surveys of the residents of Eagle River Village, it required another sustained effort by a group of people, almost all on their own time, to complete the picture of the living conditions and health and safety of homeowners and renters in the park. The original purpose of the project was to install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors throughout. The survey was an added “bonus” made possible by the cooperation of the park residents. None of the questions on the survey addressed the water issue directly, but all of the almost 300 negative responses were a product of the comments section.

There was a lot of additional information gleaned from the results. I would like to distinguish Karely Duran and Wendy Rodriquez as volunteers who, without their assistance and organization and leadership, this project would never have come to fruition. Originally it was the decision of the group, in presentations to the county, to not engage the media and try to effect change by working behind the scenes. It is obvious by the publication of this article on July 6 that that effort has failed and now a more straight-forward approach is required.

I am looking forward to reading the promised follow-up about the inability to negotiate a connection to the water from the local water authority. I did read the statement from Ascentia regarding the value of the rental opportunity in the park. I will reserve comment for later.

I think there is a lot yet to be told as regards both these journalist efforts. To discover them together on facing pages of the Daily was a surprise and also a vindication of my family’s history of print journalism and its need and power in the community.  

Bruce Gillie

American Red Cross, Eagle County Lead