New Castle elected officials presented a letter to Garfield County commissioners (BOCC) Monday to slow trains through New Castle. In a Feb. 7 BOCC work session, Town Councilor Caitlin Carey and others expressed concerns about the number of oil trains that could eventually come through New Castle if the proposed Uinta Basin Railway in Utah was completed, plus the overall speed at which all trains move through town. Carey suggested approaching the railroads about the issue and asked the BOCC for its support. Commissioners stated that if the Town wrote a letter, they would sign it.
On Monday, Commissioner Tom Jankovsky suggested two changes to the letter, after which the Board unanimously agreed to sign. New Castle officials said they are updating emergency response plans and will hold community events to raise awareness.
Carey told The Sopris Sun about her plans to go to Denver on April 21 to meet with state legislators Sen. Perry Will, Rep. Elizabeth Velasco and Sen. Jeff Bridges. She said she is also working with state Rep. Meg Froelich, chair of the Transportation, Housing, and Local Government Committee, and representatives from the offices of Sen. Michael Bennet, Sen. John Hickenlooper and Rep. Joe Neguse. Carey has also reached out to Rep. Lauren Boebert’s office.
On Monday afternoon, the BOCC voted unanimously to designate a three-mile radius around Sweetwater Lake as an area of state interest to protect wildlife and historical and archeological resources from increased development. The BOCC opposes the controversial Sweetwater Lake State Park, which opened in Oct. 2022. The Sopris Sun reported last summer that the Board questioned the process by which the area became Colorado’s 43rd park. (Land and Water Woes, Aug. 17, 2022).
On Monday, Barbara Green, attorney with Denver-based firm Sullivan Green Seavy LLC, and county development director Sheryl Bower explained the Board’s 1041 powers, the designation process, and why the area is of state interest. Important wildlife habitat includes elk, black bear mule deer, moose, osprey, peregrine falcon and wild turkey. The area is also home to bald eagles and the Colorado River cutthroat trout, both of which are Colorado Species of Special Concern. The bald eagle is protected under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and the Migratory Bird Act.
Bowers pointed to potential habitat near Sweetwater Lake for lynx, a federally threatened and state endangered species. Other maps provided by Bowers showed wetlands and archeological/historical sites in the area. She also cited a Colorado Natural Heritage Program 2016 survey of critical biological resources, stating that a more recent survey has yet to be released.
The concern lies with the expected increase in human use and development due to the state park designation. “There has been some discussion of potentially doubling the size of the footprint of the park that will place an even greater burden on the resources,” said Bowers. “[It] will change the character of the area including negatively impacting wildlife and its habitat.”
Green said that 50-year old House Bill 1041 allows counties and municipal governments to choose from a state list of areas and activities of state interest. “These are things that the state itself believes that counties and municipal governments should have an interest in regulating,” she explained. Certain criteria must be met for local regulation, including the intensity of development pressures, reasons why it is an area of state interest, and compliance with the county’s Comprehensive Plan. At Monday’s meeting, these criteria were determined and the BOCC approved the designation. The next step is a public hearing to develop county regulations for the area, scheduled for April 10.
In other news, the BOCC approved the consent agenda and old meeting minutes from late 2022 and early 2023, waived Fairground fees for the upcoming Memorial Day Riders event, and agreed to a non-monetary donation to the local 4H Shamrock Shindig in May. County Manager Fred Jarman mentioned a proposed Bureau of Land Management public land rule change.
Jankovsky remarked about his recent conversation with the Glenwood Springs Post Independent’s editor about Democratic Party chair Debbie Bruell’s March 16 workforce housing column. Jankovsky said that the column was “untruthful,” adding that “It wasn’t even worthy of the National Enquirer, in my opinion.” He said the editor suggested he write a rebuttal but Jankovsky declined. “It just keeps the discussion rolling and that’s not how I do things,” he said.
Thus began an impromptu, four-minute gripe session on current world events, beginning with the recent Putin-Xi Moscow Summit. Jankovsky voiced disdain for U.S. citizens who are “more concerned about President Trump being charged with a misdemeanor or whatever in New York” than they are about the meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Commissioner Mike Samson chimed in with, “tough times are coming in these United States, economically and morally.” He skipped further comments on the moral fabric of the nation, focusing instead on what he considers the “terrible, terrible” economic decisions made on a federal level. “If the other major players of this world do what I think they’re going to do and the United States dollar will not be the value that it is now, we will see problems compounded from the very neighborhoods to the highest in the way of personal devastation.” He concluded.” I don’t know that our country can stand up with what’s going on.”
John Martin closed the discussion with a comment about freedom. “It’s patriotism,” he opined. “You need to make sure patriotism stays alive.”