| VailDaily.com

Colorado learned the danger of glamorizing shooters. Does lionizing student heroes also carry risks?

The youngest students learn to help their teacher barricade a door. Middle-schoolers work on how to join forces to pin a gunman to the ground during a struggle, to spread their body weight, like wrestlers, across an arm or a leg.

And in high school, training in how to fight off an active shooter includes a lesson in firearms — how to recognize an opportunity to get away or fight back when a shooter is reloading his weapon.

The student trainings, including one planned near Denver this summer, mark a new era in school safety, a shift beyond the “shelter-in-place” and even the “hide, run, fight” drills that are common at schools across the country. The message — reinforced in the past month by the national praise for two students killed while taking down school shooters — is that sometimes kids have to take matters into their own hands.

But while young victims are publicly celebrated, child psychologists are raising alarms. They caution against glamorizing young people’s deaths like cartoon superheroes and worry about the risks involved in training students to confront a shooter.

Still, the trainings are taking hold.

Read more via The Colorado Sun.

The Colorado Sun is a reader-supported news organization dedicated to covering the people, places and policies that matter in Colorado. Read more, sign up for free newsletters and subscribe at coloradosun.com.

I-70 backs up due to road work on Vail Pass

VAIL — Expect delays if you are headed over Vail Pass this week and next week as road crews patch potholes on Interstate 70.

Colorado Department of Transportation workers today were patching I-70 eastbound at mile marker 182 — two miles east of the East Vail exit — backing up eastbound traffic all the way to the main Vail exit.

The rest of the patching schedule includes:

• Thursday: Eastbound at mile marker 189 (one mile west of Vail Pass summit).

• Monday: Westbound at mile marker 188 (two miles west of Vail Pass summit).

• Tuesday: Westbound at mile marker 187 (three miles west of Vail Pass summit).

• Wednesday: Westbound at mile marker 184 (four miles east of East Vail exist).

A full paving project is scheduled for 2020 for the right lane of eastbound Interstate 70 on the west side of Vail Pass (mile marker 180-190).

All lanes of the west side of Vail Pass, eastbound and westbound, are scheduled to be repaved in 2022, said Bob Wilson of CDOT.

Vail council mulls funding sources for pricey civic area upgrades

VAIL — Refreshing the area between Vail Village and Lionshead is going to take a lot of thought — and a lot of money.

Planning for that roughly 10-acre area — which includes Vail’s town hall, Dobson Ice Arena, the Vail Public Library and the Lionshead Parking Structure — is a long process, but took a few steps Tuesday.

There’s still a lot to figure out, including how to pay for those improvements.

Simply replacing Dobson — an idea most council members support — could cost $48 million or more.

Big and bigger numbers

Numbers get even bigger, depending on what’s being discussed.

Moving the town hall and police department to the existing charter bus parking lot on the southeast corner of the parking structure property, along with parking, a plaza and a second ice sheet carries an estimated cost of more than $100 million.

The planning team — which includes local planner Tom Braun, Lou Bieker of 4240 architects and Tim Morzel of EPS, a strategy firm — has evaluated various funding sources, from existing funds to new taxes and bond issues. But any of the plans will be expensive.

Regarding one of the expensive items, members seemed to reject an idea that would relocate South Frontage Road between the main Vail Interstate 70 interchange and the parking structure.

The idea behind moving the road to the north would be better access between the current town hall campus and the rest of town.

Council members balked at the estimated cost — $12 million or more — and wondered what the ultimate benefit might be.

Given the cost, “I just don’t see the upside,” council member Kevin Foley said.

Council members seem more willing to talk about the complete replacement of Dobson, although what a new facility might look like is still up for discussion.

Council members also seem to favor a plan that would include some sort of meeting facilty that could accommodate bigger groups than the town’s hotels now host.

Don’t go it alone

Resident and former council member Margaret Rogers urged the town to pursue some sort of public-private partnership for that space.

Rogers said the idea of the town building and operating such a facility — and absorbing annual losses to cover operating expenses — “is a nightmare we do not want to go anywhere near.”

Longtime residents involved in town government are still leery of a failed conference center idea in the early 2000s. Town voters passed a lodging tax to fund a center, but costs quickly rose beyond the tax’s ability to pay for the town-operated center.

If the town doesn’t tackle a conference center on its own, another option might be a partnership with a hotel.

Former Mayor Andy Daly questioned how realistic that idea might be. Daly told council members he’s aware of only a couple of recently built resort town hotels, neither of which has significant conference space.

“The reality is, if you’re looking for that kind of space, you will have to subsidize it,” Daly said.

That would mean finding still more money to pay for ideas in the various plans. Finding that money could be tricky.

One option included a 30-year infusion of $5 million per year from the town’s capital improvement budget. The plan would also tap a good bit of money from the town’s reserve funds.

Bob Armour, another former town mayor, didn’t like that idea — nor did sitting council members.

“I don’t want to spend down the fund balance — I like a big, fat (town) bank account,” Armour said. And, he added, he has doubts that town voters would support any kind of tax increase to generate more funds for projects.

Current Mayor Dave Chapin agreed with Armour’s assessment of using town reserves.

“In my eyes, our reserves are for catastrophic events,” Chapin said. “I just see these numbers and say, “whoa.”

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

Letter: Let’s not pave paradise

Is Eagle County paving paradise with the following development projects?

Berlaimont: a four-mile two-lane paved access road requested by a developer through our White River National Forest across a highly-used recreational area containing critical winter range for elk and deer threatening populations that have already declined 50% in the past 10 years to serve 19 high-end homes.

East Vail: Vail Resorts is proposing affordable housing units in critical winter range for the areas only bighorn sheep herd, Colorado’s state animal, who will likely not survive without that habitat.

Eagle: Town of Eagle approved the first phase, 146 housing units, in the Haymeadows subdivision where this picture was taken. The proposal calls for a total of 837 dwelling units. No more elk or deer will be grazing here, they will be pushed back into ever-shrinking habitat.

As a community, it’s imperative we are strategic about our growth because our way of life depends on it! Consider why we live here — the beauty of nature that surrounds us, recreation outside our door, abundant wildlife, minimal traffic, a small-town appeal where we care for our neighbors. Are we willing to sacrifice those values in the name of growth?

Contact your elected officials, they need the benefit of your voice. Ask  U.S. Forest Service supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams to say no to Berlaimont! Request the town of Vail and Vail Resorts to build affordable housing in another location and permanently conserve the critical winter range for the bighorn herd. Let the town of Eagle know you do not support rampant growth, a total of 837 new “dwelling units?” Really?

Jacci McKenna


Minturn partners with developer for Dowd Junction land

MINTURN — Minturn is around the corner from Vail, yet saw just one-fortieth the amount of sales tax as the famed ski town in 2018.

Avon collected more than 13 times as much sales tax as Minturn last year.

Minturn is renowned for its historic downtown, artsy shops and unique restaurants, but lacks the sales tax driver of Vail’s massive slopeside tourism economy or even Avon’s big box stores. In recent years, Minturn has struggled to find enough revenue to maintain town infrastructure and keep public works equipment up to date.

But an opportunity to develop land at the edge of town, within eyesight of Interstate 70, has town officials excited about the potential for a long-lasting revenue infusion.

The Forest Service wants to move its Minturn ranger station to an office building in Eagle, leaving 13 acres of prime real estate sitting at the intersection of Interstate 70 and U.S. Highway 6 and 24.

Minturn recently took a step toward shepherding forward a development at the site, partnering with a developer, Aspect Development Co. — which also owns the office building in Eagle that the Forest Service wants.

“We think it could really be a win for the community if everything works out right,” said Minturn Mayor John Widerman.

In documents submitted to the town to prove its qualifications as a partner, Aspect envisions 40,000-60,000 square feet of commercial retail space, more than 300 apartments, a bus station and a park and ride facility — while maintaining and improving access to Meadow Mountain’s trails and terrain.

“It is a start — ideas of what could be there,” said Michelle Metteer, Minturn’s town manager.

An actual project proposal has not yet been submitted. Once a proposal is submitted, it will be subject to review by the town and the Forest Service in various public processes.

An office building in Eagle

The Forest Service-owned parcel at Dowd Junction now includes the Holy Cross Ranger Station, a parking lot, a bus stop and a home.

The Holy Cross and Eagle district were combined administratively in 2005, but the offices have not been combined physically. The district is now seeking to combine its offices in Eagle in the Carpenters’ Union Building at 1353 Chambers Ave.

In April 2018, the Forest Service and Minturn signed an “agreement of intent” to work toward a deal.

“At the end of the day we want to end up in the Carpenters’ Union Building and have the Minturn site conveyed or sold or exchanged to the town of Minturn in exchange for the Carpenters’ Union Building, “ said Aaron Mayville, the district ranger for the White River National Forest’s Eagle/Holy Cross ranger district. Mayville noted that the Forest Service is working with the town of Minturn — not the developer.

In March of this year, Minturn issued a request for qualifications from developers with experience in “mountain-themed, high-sales-tax-generating business.” Retaining access to Meadow Mountain — including trailhead parking — and keeping the bus and park and ride facilities were a priority, Minturn said in that document.

Another requirement: The ability to acquire and convey 1353 Chambers Avenue.

A subsidiary of Aspect, 1353 Chambers LLC, owns the Carpenters’ Union Building, having bought it in February 2018 for $4.2 million, according to county records. Aspect, the only respondent to the request for qualifications, was chosen as Minturn’s partner in a 7-0 vote by the Minturn Council on May 1.

Funding struggles

Minturn has lobbied the Forest Service for a “direct sale” — in which the Forest Service would work directly with Minturn on a project that would benefit the community — rather than an open bid process, in which the land would go to the highest bidder but there would be less control over future uses.

The Forest Service has since agreed to work with Minturn in a direct sale, rather than an open bid process. Mayville said the Forest Service stipulated that future plan must include access to Meadow Mountain, access to the Eagle River, as well as the ECO Transit facility.

Another key aspect for Minturn will be the long-sought sales tax generation.

In 2018, Minturn sales tax receipts totaled $620,368. In comparison, Vail took in $27.92 million in sales tax in 2018; Avon brought in $8.4 million.

“Without commercial development at Dowd Junction, the town government may need to dissolve and unincorporate,” Minturn’s then-town manager Willy Powell, who was also a longtime former Eagle town manager, said in a presentation in December 2017 that lobbied for the direct sale.

In the presentation, Minturn noted that it lacks commercial sales tax dollars to maintain basic town infrastructure, and that its public works department also struggles to maintain old equipment.

On average, sales tax for municipalities comprises 70% of general purpose revenue, said Kevin Bommer, executive director of the Colorado Municipal League, a nonprofit that assists officials in managing their governments and serving their communities.

“It makes perfect sense that this is the discussion they’re having,” Bommer said of Minturn. “They are not alone. This is something that municipalities, counties and the state of Colorado are facing — the rising cost of infrastructure.”

In 2018, Minturn voters passed a construction use tax, with proceeds going to the town’s capital projects fund.

Thanks in part to several grants, as well as coordination with the Colorado Department of Transportation, Minturn has been able to proceed with a major streetscape project on Main Street, which will add sidewalks and on-street parking this year.

Grocery store?

In its submittal to prove its qualifications, Aspect says about 25,000 square feet of the commercial space would be devoted to a “fresh format” grocery store/supermarket

“Having a large yet differentiated grocer will draw more visitors to the area and would be a great source of sales tax generation for the town,” the plan says.

The apartments were envisioned as both as short-term rentals and long-term housing “within financial reach of the local population.”

About 1.7 acres of the parcel are between Highway 24 and the Eagle River, and are planned to remain open space

Aspect said it develops properties in the Vail Valley, Denver and the Chicago area. It recently developed 30 apartments and 25,000 square feet of commercial space in Eagle, and it also developed 20,000 square feet of commercial space in Gypsum, according to its submittal.

A representative for Aspect, Matthew Barry, did not return messages seeking comment for this article.

An initial appraisal by the town of Minturn valued the Dowd Junction parcel at $8.167 million. A later appraisal put the value at $5.425 million, Metteer said.

Aspect proposed a purchase price of $5.425 million for the property, according to its submittal.

The Forest Service is now waiting for a formal project proposal from Minturn, Mayville said. If that proposal is accepted, the Forest Service would initiate a National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA, process, which would examine the environmental and social effects of the Forest Service selling or exchanging the administrative parcel.

If the proposal is accepted in the NEPA process, Minturn would start its development review process — likely a “planned unit development” — for the Dowd Junction site, Metteer said.

Muddy conditions persist on some Vail trails with wildlife closures set to lift

VAIL — U.S. Forest Service wildlife restrictions will lift Thursday for many trails on the east end of Eagle County, but user discretion is advised.

With the end of the April 15 to June 20 wildlife mitigation period, gates on Vail and Eagle-Vail trails like Paulie’s Plunge, the North Trail, Son of Middle Creek and Buffehr Creek will be unlocked, but that doesn’t mean the trails will be ready for hiking and biking.

The term used by the Forest Service is “responsible recreating,” and this year, an extra level of responsible decision making will be required from everyone seeking recreation on the trails.

In plain terms, if a trail is wet, it’s not open yet.

“Muddy trails are always closed trails,” said Ernest Saeger with the Vail Valley Mountain Trail Alliance, repeating a slogan the group has adopted.

Looks may be deceiving

Aaron Mayville with the Forest Service said rangers will open gates on Thursday, but at that time, they’ll also check conditions on those trails. Mayville said he expects trails on the North Trail will be mostly ready, but Red Sandstone Road leading up to the Red and White Road, which traverses the north end of Eagle County in the White River National Forest, could stay closed for a while.

“The lower portion of Red Sandstone may open soon,” Mayville said. “But it’s still muddy at the top.”

A common misconception, says Mayville, is if the bottom of the trail looks good, the whole trail is recreation-ready.

“If you see a closed road which is usually open this time of year, that closure is there for a reason,” Mayville said. “The top of the trails are still wet, and using them can cause a lot of damage.”

While the summer travel season in the White River National Forest usually begins on May 21, heavy snowpack and debris from avalanches persist in many areas this year, wrote Lynn Lockwood with the Forest Service.

“Travel in muddy conditions creates deep ruts that damage roads and trails,” wrote Lockwood. “Some gates are still buried in snow, and roads are extremely wet and muddy. Crews have been assessing snowline and many roads that are typically clear by May 21 remain inaccessible due to snowpack, debris and muddy conditions.”

Trail users are advised to contact the local Ranger Station for current conditions before embarking on a trip.

Log sliding

On Wednesday, Saeger said it’s still hard to say what trail users may encounter with Thursday’s openings. The trails alliance and the Forest Service must also respect the closures, so they do not yet know how conditions are looking.

“I expect anyone going out and trying to ride Buffehr Creek or Son of Middle Creek will encounter some downed trees and other hazards,” Saeger said. “The Forest Service sawyers will get out there to clear downed trees as soon as possible, but they don’t start doing that until after the wildlife closures are over, so trail users who are getting out there before they’ve had a chance to clear trails will probably have a few downed trees in their path.”

With dwindling elk populations in mind, Vail trail runner David Rattum said he’ll never forget seeing a small herd of elk on the North Trail in Vail.

“My dog started running at it instinctively, thinking it was a deer, and then just stopped and sat down in awe, realizing that’s a lot bigger than a deer,” Rattum said.

Rattum took a different view of wildlife closures following the incident, and is excited to see what the North Trail in Vail looks like with Thursday’s opening.

Wildlife closures will remain in effect on the back side of Vail Mountain until July 1, and the popular Two Elk trail will remain closed until July or longer due to the heavy snowpack still covering the top of the mountain. Currently no hiking and biking is available from the top of the Vail Mountain, and the lower portion of Berry Picker is the only trail currently available for hiking from the bottom of Vail Mountain. Berry Picker won’t take you to the top, though, as the upper portion of that trail is still covered in snow.

In Beaver Creek, Village Loop, Aspen Glade, Allie’s Way, Overlook to Dally, the Beaver Lake Trail to Beano’s Road, Aspen Glade, Village Loop and Five Senses are open. On other trails in Beaver Creek, like the popular Village to Village between Beaver Creek and Bachelor Gulch, wildlife restrictions will lift on July 1.

Letter: Yampa Valley Electric Association board needs transparency

Most of Eagle County is served by Holy Cross Energy but the northernmost part of the County is Yampa Valley Electric Association (YVEA) territory. On June 25, the annual YVEA meeting will take place in Steamboat Springs. Anyone who receives a bill from YVEA is eligible to attend the meeting and vote.

You’ll vote on YVEA Directors who make decisions that affect the affordability, sustainability and future of our electrical grid. Their decisions affect economic development, the environment, resilience to wildfire risk and compliance with state-mandated renewable energy goals.  

You’ll also vote on sweeping changes to YVEA’s bylaws. As a member, you should have received a copy of proposed changed to the bylaws. I have not received a copy. But from the YVEA website I’ve gleaned a few things:  

  • Directors can now remove directors with a 2/3 majority. Previously this was done by a vote of the membership.
  • Former YVEA employees and folks with union associations (even loose ones) now must wait five years from the time of association to serve on the board, up from three.
  • To run for the board, a person must have had two years of continuous service in the YVEA territory. This is new.
  • Most interesting is the provision that allows “close relatives” to serve on the board together under stipulations related to their gross income— impossible to measure without examining tax returns. And they miss the mark on business/family relationships.

YVEA is a member-owned cooperative, not a family-owned business or a for-profit corporation. These changes take power from YVEA members.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am running for the YVEA Board. I believe in transparency, accountability and good governance and I’d like to bring that to the board. It is too late to mail in your ballot but if you haven’t voted, you can vote on June 25.

Sonja Macys

Steamboat Springs

Trust our Land: Nurture with nature

Access to nature is foundational to Eagle County’s prominence as a world-class destination. For visitors and locals alike, spending time in our mountains, valleys, and rivers is healing.

Indeed, time spent in nature is one of our oldest cures and a key reason why the Eagle Valley Land Trust is dedicated to protecting this important resource and fostering pathways for adults and children to experience it.

Time in nature has been shown to benefit all people, and the push to understand these diverse benefits has been diligently pursued. A new study published this month in the journal, Nature, found that people who spent at least 120 minutes in nature each week enjoyed better health and a greater sense of well-being than those who didn’t.

It doesn’t matter if this time in nature is enjoyed in small chunks of time or in a single two-hour session — either way, it is a low cost, low-risk step toward better physical and mental health.

The benefits to children that spending time in nature provides has been documented by scientists around the world for decades. Children who routinely spend time in nature show higher cognitive function, concentration, self-control, lower rates of depression, increased empathy and concern for wildlife, and awareness of humans’ reliance on nature.

Many of these benefits are a result of the physical activity and less structured creative play that lead to the development of strength, skill, and confidence in outdoor environments. Natural areas also provide children with locations for quiet retreat, which is important for psychological well-being.

Not all physical environments are created equal. While manicured landscapes, fields, and playgrounds are important, they do not fulfill children’s need to explore and engage with nature, sometimes referred to as “adventure play.” Land protected in a natural state, with its wildlife, trees, bushes, and rocks intact (like the Eagle River Preserve or Abrams Creek Open Space) provide kids with an engaging experience that can’t be automated, mimicked, or simulated.

You don’t need to understand the underlying science to reap the health benefits of nature. It is innately intertwined in our sense of fun and relaxation.

But people are busy. Kids are busy. Time in nature can fall by the wayside when we are forced to juggle priorities. That’s why EVLT is focused on protecting natural land where it is easily accessible to everyone in our community.

Future Conservationists is EVLT’s bridge between children and protected land. The programs, which run multiple times a week across the county’s conserved land, get kids outside to explore, learn, and play in nature.

Thanks to innovative partnerships with Walking Mountains Science Center, The Cycle Effect, Bright Future Foundation’s Buddy Mentors, the Eagle Valley Outdoor Movement, and now the Homestead Clubhouse Kids Programs, more kids will be able to immerse themselves in nature on local protected land this summer.

Do your kids participate in programs with our great partners? We’ll see them out in nature. To learn more about signing your kids up for Future Conservationists this summer, contact EVLT at community@evlt.org.

Bergen Tjossem is the communications and development manager at the Eagle Valley Land Trust. He can be reached at bergen@evlt.org. EVLT is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization. For more about the Eagle Valley Land Trust and how it is conserving land and benefiting the community, visit http://www.evlt.org.

Van Beek: How to be fire-free and safe this summer

“It’s raining fire” is not something anyone wants to hear ever again. We are still recovering from last summer’s blazes, particularly the Lake Christine fire. 

We’ve had an amazing winter season and the snowmelt should keep things from becoming overly dry. There is a concern that the abundance of moisture will cause dangerously high water conditions on our rivers, potentially causing flooding, and the burn-damaged areas may suffer from mudslides. All appear to be the opposite of wildfire conditions, yet, we must be cognizant of dry underbrush and beetle-infested trees that are fire starters, regardless of damp soil conditions. 

With summer approaching, I wanted to touch on some fire safety information, from fire restrictions to fireproofing your home. With our outdoor lifestyle, camping is a regular event. Be smart — douse campfires with water, stir and douse again. The fire area should be cold to the touch before leaving.

Know your fire restrictions

There are three stages, with some local variations. 

Stage 1: Prohibiting campfires, wood-burning stoves, charcoal grills, and other open flames, including smoking, except in enclosed buildings and vehicles, and any type of explosive material, including fireworks or other pyrotechnic devices. Exceptions include permanent fire pits with grates, in developed recreational areas, and lanterns using gas or jellied petroleum or pressurized liquid fuel. 

There are also restrictions in using equipment that creates a spark.  Welding and other open torch tools may be exempt with permits that include restricted use like having a chemical pressurized fire extinguisher nearby, at least one 35-inch shovel, and a 10-foot clearing away from combustible material, including grasses and dry brush.  

Stage 2: All of the restrictions of Stage 1 plus … no fires, even in developed campgrounds and picnic areas, any internal combustion engine (e.g. chainsaw, generator, ATV) without a spark arresting device, and any fuses or blasting caps, rockets, exploding targets, tracer rounds, and other spark generating or incendiary objects, agricultural burns (except by permit).  Also prohibited is the use of off-road motor vehicles, except in areas devoid of vegetation within 10 feet of the roadway and in developed campgrounds and trailheads. 

Exemptions to Stages 1 and 2: Persons engaged in activities within designated areas, where such activity is specifically authorized by written posted notice.

Stage 3: Closure. To virtually eliminate the potential for human-caused fire hazards by restricting the designated area to only authorized personnel. 

Violation penalties can include substantial fines and potential imprisonment, varying by agency. We have certainly experienced the devastation of Stage 2 violations.

Getting your home safe

Fireproofing your home may slow down the progress of a fire, allowing time for firefighters to arrive.  Of course, there are now new materials in homebuilding that inhibit fires but most of us live in existing structures.  There are still some things that can be done. 

Create a fireproof barrier around your home, if possible, 100 feet. The use of gravel and concrete with driveways and patios helps to create a break.  Flame-resistant plants can also slow down approaching flames; ones that are low resin with high moisture content are best. 

Pay particular attention to areas that are uphill towards your home.  Regularly clear out the undergrowth and check for flammable items in storage sheds and garages. 

If you have a gated entrance and there is a Stage 2 warning in effect, you may want to consider leaving the gate unlocked to allow easier access for emergency vehicles. Roof and siding are best if made of tile, metal, concrete, stone, brick, or stucco. If you have a wood roof, be sure to paint the shingles with a fire-resistant treatment. 

Having double-paned windows with metal, rather than wood frames, also helps slow down fire threats. When building an outdoor deck, instead of wood, consider concrete, brick, or stone, for fire resistance. Clean out debris from gutters which can ignite from nearby sparks. Be aware of tree limbs around power lines. 

To help prevent your home from being a source of fire, pay attention to the details. 

  • Keep candles away from curtains or easily flammable objects; a slight breeze can ignite a fire. 
  • Be careful draping anything over light bulbs; their heat can ignite. 
  • Never run space heaters unattended. 
  • Dryer lint is a leading cause of home fires; clean it out every month. 
  • Do not overload plugs — check the voltage of extension cords and never run them under rugs. 
  • Check appliances and their cords; if it emits an odor, it could be defective and can become a fire hazard. 
  • Install fire alarms and check batteries regularly. 
  • Keep a fire extinguisher nearby. 
  • A fire ladder upstairs can be a lifesaver. 

Summer is one of the most enjoyable times of year in Eagle County. Let’s make this one fire-free and safe.

For more information contact:

  • Eagle County Sheriff’s Office: 970-328-8500
  • Eagle County’s Wildfire Mitigation Specialist: 970-328-8742
  • Eagle River Fire Protection District: 970-748-9665
  • Greater Eagle Fire Protection District: 970-328-7244
  • Gypsum Fire Protection District: 970-524-7101
  • Vail Fire and Emergency Services: 970-479-2250
  • BLM Office, Glenwood Springs: 970-947-2800
  • USFS Office, Eagle: 970-328-6388
  • USFS Office, Minturn: 970-827-5715
  • Basalt and Rural Fire Protection District: 970-704-0675

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

Youth Spotlight: Saphira Klearman is fighting to save the lives of her peers

I recently met a 15-year-old woman whose conscious mind cares so much about others that it hurts. All she wants to do is help our community, especially our youth who are experiencing suicide ideation.

Her bravery in confronting these painful issues is inspiring. Meet Battle Mountain High School junior, Saphira Klearman, a caring young person who is determined to save lives.

“You are a wonderful human being who deserves to live,” says Klearman in “If You’re Thinking About Killing Yourself,” a Panic Button resource on YouTube. The short video is one of several, and is a tactic of Project We Care Colorado.

Klearman is the founder of PWCC, a teen-driven, teen-led, state-wide organization focused on decreasing mental health stigma, providing education and advocating for youth. PWCC’s main goal is to make resources available to everyone.

“Stay alive, please,” Klearman implores while looking directly into the camera. Throughout the short video she provides myriad reasons for why staying alive is vital. She also offers suggestions for immediate positive behavioral choices.

If you have two minutes and 21 seconds, it is worth a watch, especially considering that Eagle County is part of a suicide belt that is experiencing record numbers of deaths by suicide. According to the 2017 Healthy Kids Colorado Survey (administered by the Eagle River Youth Coalition), 24% of local middle school students have seriously considered suicide.

In addition to founding a youth-centered mental health organization, Klearman is also making her mark in Colorado’s state legislature. The day I met with her for this interview happened to be the same day she introduced Gov. Polis at a Battle Mountain High School Assembly celebrating Vail Health’s announcement to form Eagle Valley Behavioral Health. She was shy and humble when I asked her to describe that moment. Klearman knows Polis through her advocating for Colorado’s HB19-1120.

A few weeks later, I bumped into Klearman at the Eagle County School District’s Wellness Committee meeting. She had been invited to the gathering to provide a youth voice. She was super upbeat and excited to inform me that HB19-1120 was signed by Polis.

The new law “allows a minor 12 years of age or older to seek and obtain psychotherapy services with or without the consent of a minor’s parent or guardian if the mental health professional determines the minor is knowingly and voluntarily seeking the psychotherapy services and the psychotherapy services are clinically necessary.”  

Klearman’s next goal is to make sure Rep. Dylan Roberts passes legislation aimed at integrating mental health into K-12 school curriculums. Watch out, she is just getting started.

Hearts on the line

Recalling how far she has come from a dark place not too long ago often crosses her mind. Middle school was rough and rocky when Klearman’s happiness was drastically altered.

“I learned the world is full of injustice and anti-Semitism,” she said. “I spoke out and received backlash. I found Eagle River Youth Coalition’s Youth Leadership Council, which helped me be a part of the change. And it was just the beginning.”

When I asked her who she looks up to, she responded by describing individuals who have a certain mindset.

“The people who are passionate, open, driven and kind — those are the people who inspire me — people who put their hearts on the line,” she said. “No one should have to feel alone. No one should have to feel sad. It bothers me that in the past three years I do not have a friend who has not struggled with their mental health. It’s not right.”

Klearman works daily to right this wrong, whether presenting at TedXYouth, introducing the governor, or speaking to a room full of decision makers at Eagle County’s Total Health Alliance. Her sense of urgency is contagious and emotional. Join Team Saphira, who I think is a wonderful human being, and help our community stay alive.

Carol Johnson is the Community Education Manager for the Eagle River Youth Coalition and the facilitator for Eat Chat Parent.