Public Input Sought on Plan for Trails in Ecology Park

This view of the B.F. Rockefellow Ecology Park on the site of the county's old landfill is looking southwest. BLM public lands adjoin the Ecology Park to the west where the pinon-juniper trees are pictured.

The Bureau of Land Management Royal Gorge Field Office, Fremont County, and the Cañon City Recreation and Park District are hosting a public meeting to seek input on a proposal to develop non-motorized trails in the Ecology Park area that connects New York Avenue in Cañon City to the Section 13 trail system off of Temple Canyon Road as well as longer distance trail opportunities. The meeting will be held at 6:00 P.M. on Wednesday, January 28th at the Recreation District offices at 575 Ash Street, in Cañon City.

The public lands in the Ecology Park area along Temple Canyon Road serve as an important recreation area for local residents who use a combination of designated trails, social trails and old roads for hiking, biking and riding horses.   Fremont County developed the park on the site of the old county landfill.   These lands provide a great ‘backyard’ recreation opportunity that informally connects with neighborhoods, other trail systems, and destinations. The recreation district, Fremont County, local user groups, and the BLM have begun planning efforts to formalize the trails in this area and enhance the trail based opportunities to better serve the community.

The proposed action includes establishing a formal non-motorized trail network in the area between New York Avenue in Cañon City and Ecology Park along with a small trailhead. It is also proposed to construct a trail that connects Ecology Park with the Section 13 trail system along with additional longer distance loop opportunities. There are a number of safety concerns in the area that the partners also seek to address.

Specific details about the project, including description of the proposed new trails and a map, are available on the Royal Gorge Field Office webpage at: http://blm.gov/84ld.

A public input period gives the public a chance to tell the BLM and the Recreation District what issues and concerns they think should be addressed and alternatives to consider. This input period will run from January 28th to February 28th, 2015. Comments concerning the proposed action, alternatives and identification of environmental issues are most helpful. For additional information or to submit a comment, please contact Kalem Lenard at 719-269-8538 or email comments to rgfo_comments@blm.gov.

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Recession Recovery Underway in Fremont County

Fremont County's Economic Tracker is available on-line at ww.NACo.org, or click on this graphic to view on full screen.

From national economic indicators, one might conclude the economy has recovered quite well. Total U.S. employment has surpassed pre-recession levels, and the economy grew at a rapid pace in the latter part of last year. Local-level economic data, though, tells a much different story.

In a report published by the National Association of Counties (NACo) Fremont County along with nearly three-quarters of all counties across the nation remain below pre-recession employment levels.   The report also said economic output has not recovered in 45 percent of all counties.   Only 65 counties (out of more than 3,000 nationally) have seen all four economic measures fully recover from pre-recession peaks.

The NACO report analyzed four key indicators in each county; job totals, unemployment rates, economic output (GDP), and median home prices.   The report shows Fremont County has recovered in two of the key indicators from pre-recession levels.   Those two included economic output and median home prices.

The report said Fremont County GDP growth rate was 0.3% projected at the end of 2014 compared to the pre-recession peak in 2010.

The report showed that median home prices improved in Fremont County by 6.1% over the past five years.   It estimated median home prices in Fremont County at the end of 2014 at $126,000 compared to $91,000 in 2009.   In reality median home prices in Fremont County followed a national trend and actually showed values falling in the three year period from 2006 to 2009.   The median home price in Fremont County in 2006 was $110,000.

Fremont County’s population reached a pre-recession peak of 47,815 in 2009.   That dropped to an estimated population of 46,451 in 2013.

The report notes that it’s the larger county economies (counties with more than 500,000 residents) that are generating a disproportionate share of new jobs. Many of these jobs, however, are found in low-wage sectors.  “The national numbers mask the reality on the ground,” said Emilia Istrate, NACo’s research director. “It explains why Americans do not feel the good economic measures.”

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Work Advances on Garden Park Renovation

Finish work is underway in the lobby of the renovated Garden Park County Building directly west of the County Administration Building in Canon City. Pictured is the secure service window which will house the Public Health Department's Vital Statistics Office.

Renovation of Fremont County’s Garden Park facility at 201 North 6th Street in Cañon City is proceeding with the Fremont Public Health Department preparing to move into their new quarters in early February.   The Board of Commissioners along with previous boards had been searching for new space for Fremont Public Health for more than seven years.   The Board of Commissioners purchased the former Garden Park High School building from the Cañon City RE-1 School District almost one year ago for $800,000.

H.W. Houston Construction of Pueblo has been working since October on the $465,000 renovation project.   Public Health currently shares cramped space in the Department of Social Services Building along Justice Center Road.    The contract bid will include renovation of the existing Public Health space which the Department of Social Services will utilize to deal with overcrowding in their building.

The northwest corner of the Garden Park facility will house new offices for the Fremont County Sheriff's Department Investigations Team.

In addition to Public Health, the County Office of Emergency Management, the Environmental Health Officer, and the County Weed Control Office will also relocate to the Garden Park facility.   At the request of Sheriff Jim Beicker in December the Commissioners approved the renovation of additional space in the southwest corner of the Garden Park building for Sheriff’s Department investigators.   That work will continue into late February while Public Health and the other agencies make their move into Garden Park.

In addition to office space, Fremont County Noxious Weed employees will have shower facilities and an eye wash station to use when they finish their daily weed spraying duties.

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National Award to Langston Concrete for Royal Gorge Work

This aerial photo shows Langston Concrete crews at work last August pouring concrete on another reconstruction project at the Royal Gorge Bridge and Park. (courtesy photo)

An entry by Langston Concrete of Fremont County into the World of Concrete’s “Crews That Rock” awards contest has won first place in the 2014 awards competition for commercial concrete work.   Langston’s work on reconstruction of the Royal Gorge Bridge and Park was the top winner for the commercial “Crews That Rock” category.   The award will be presented February 5th at the World of Concrete annual conference in Las Vegas.

Faced with a tight construction window to rebuild the Royal Gorge Park following the devastating wildfire in June, 2013, Langston Concrete owner Mike Langston said work began a year ago with sub-zero temperatures and harsh winds.   Crews started on the edge of the more than 1,000-foot vertical gorge by drilling and grouting rock bolts in the canyon rim to anchor the footers for the foundation of what was to become the new visitor center.  A new sewer treatment facility was also completed below the new visitor’s center.

Langston said his crews poured more than 3,020 yards of concrete through mid-November of last year and logged 32,813 man hours of work on the uneven granite rock high atop the cliffs looking down into the Gorge.

Langston in his contest entry that even if Langston Concrete didn’t win, he feels his crew has done “an incredible job this year and just on this project alone.”

The Fremont County Board of Commissioners and County Building Official Mike Cox extend congratulations to Langston Concrete for their quality construction work at the Royal Gorge which has allowed the park to reopen to the benefit of Fremont County residents and visitors.

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Commissioners Reorganize/Honor Outgoing Coroner

The Fremont County Board of Commissioners dealt with a busy slate of business Tuesday as they conducted their annual reorganizational meeting at their first official meeting of the new year.   Following the 9 a.m. swearing-in of elected officials the Board of Commissioners took the opportunity at their meeting which followed to honor outgoing Fremont County Coroner Carlette Brocious.   The Board approved a resolution which noted that medical professionals, law enforcement officials, attorneys, and judicial officials have praised the work by Brocious and that she exhibited an exemplary measure of compassion to the families and victims she worked with.

Brocious thanked the commissioners for the opportunity to serve the community.   She said “I loved every moment of it.    It doesn’t seem like the job that somebody wants to do, but when it’s a passion, it makes a difference and you gave me that opportunity — and I will be forever grateful.”    Brocious was appointed by the Commissioners two years ago to fill the unexpired term of Dr. Dorothy Twellman and she had served as a deputy coroner for seven years prior to her appointment.

The Board of Commissioners present a resolution to outgoing Fremont County Coroner Carlette Brocious honoring her for nine years of service in the Coroner's Office. (photo courtesy Carie Canterbury-Daily Record)

The Commissioners reorganized officers voting to name District 3 Commissioner Ed Norden as Board Chairman for 2015 with District 2 Commissioner Debbie Bell to serve as Vice Chairman.   Commissioners Norden and Bell presented a special gavel to District 1 Commissioner Tim Payne to thank him for his leadership as Chairman during the past year.

Two public hearings that had been scheduled for Tuesday’s meeting were cancelled.   Chris Haight, the new owner of the Apple Shed along Highway 115 in Penrose withdrew his application for an optional premises marijuana cultivation license.   It was determined that such an application was premature because Haight’s desire to operate a medical marijuana infused products manufacturing facility at the Apple Shed would first require a special review use permit from the county before any cultivation license could even be considered.    Haight’s application for a special review use permit at the Apple Shed will go before the Fremont County Planning Commission at their February 3rd meeting.

The other public hearing scheduled Tuesday on a special review use permit for Royal Gorge Paintball to operate on the same property at the sightseeing helicopter operation on 8-mile hill west of Cañon City was tabled until the January 27th Commissioners’ meeting to meet publication requirements.

The Board of Commissioners conducted a public hearing on a zone change request for Bill & Claire Kerr and Tim & Peggy Ritter for their property in Lincoln Park along the north side of Elm Avenue where the street dead ends just east of the Willow Street intersection.   The Commissioners approved the rezoning of the property from Ag Rural Zone to Ag Suburban Zone which would allow them to subdivide the property into two lots and build a home on each lot.

In other business Tuesday the Board of Commissioners:

  • Approved a liquor license modification for TZ Liquor which will open in the former AK and Zacs at 105 Forge Road south of Cañon City.   Dina Tezak said the plan now is to reopen the convenience store on site with the liquor store operating separately on one side of the building;
  • Reappointed Brenda Jackson as County Attorney for 2015;
  • Approved resolutions designating official county bank depositories, newspapers, and public notice posting locations;
  • Approved agreements with Forest Stewardship Concepts to consult on developing Community Wildfire Protection Plans (CWPP) for the Dakota Hideout subdivision northeast of Cañon City and for the Red Rocks area in the Upper Beaver Creek area northwest of Penrose.   Last summer’s Eight Mile Wildfire in Phantom Canyon came within a half mile of the Red Rocks subdivision and prompted the neighbors to pursue development of the CWPP;
  • Scheduled a public hearing for February 10th at 10 a.m. on a Commercial Development Plan for a multi-use business development along Highway 50 in the Texas Creek area.   The Outpost is property owned by Phillip and Teresa Poindexter just east of the junction with McCoy Gulch Road.

    Commissioners Debbie Bell and Ed Norden present District 1 Commissioner Tim Payne (center) with a gavel noting his leadership as Board Chairman for 2014 (photo courtesy Carie Cantubery-Daily Record)

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Oaths of Office Administered to County Officials

Six officials elected by Fremont County voters took their oaths of office Tuesday morning, January 13th at the County Administration Building. Pictured from left; County Coroner Randy Keller, Sheriff Jim Beicker, Assessor Stacey Seifert, Clerk Katie Barr, Surveyor Matt Koch, and Commissioner Debbie Bell

The long campaign trail that lasted for nearly a year came to a conclusion Tuesday for six elected officials who took their oaths of office in a 9:00 a.m. ceremony at the Fremont County Administration Building.  District Judge David Thorson administered the oath to newly elected County Coroner Randy Keller.   County Surveyor Matt Koch was also sworn into office although he avoided the campaign and election process after the Board of Commissioners recently reappointed Koch as Surveyor to fill the vacancy.

Jim Beicker takes his oath of office from Judge David Thorson as Beicker begins his fourth term as Sheriff.

The other four officials who were sworn in were already serving in office.   Jim Beicker was sworn into his fourth four-year term as Fremont County Sheriff.   Assessor Stacey Seifert begins her third term as Assessor, while District 2 Commissioner Debbie Bell and County Clerk Katie Barr both begin their second four-year terms.

Kathy Elliott, who was newly elected as Fremont County Treasurer, took her oath of office in a ceremony on Monday, January 5th, which was required because of her fiduciary responsibilities as County Treasurer.

County Clerk Barr also issued the oaths of office to the thirteen women who serve as deputy clerks in her office.

Randy Keller is one of the two new county officials taking office. County Treasurer Kathy Elliott was required to take her oath on the first business day of the new year.

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BLM Seeks Public Comment on Beetle Control Plan

The Bureau of Land Management’s Royal Gorge Field Office is seeking public input on a proposed project to implement elements of the Colorado Bark Beetle Strategic Plan. The purpose of the project is to reduce the threat to public safety and infrastructure posed by beetle-killed trees in travel corridors and other high-risk areas; provide for resilient forests; and reduce fire and erosion risk.

The proposed project covers approximately 2,900 acres of BLM-managed public lands in northern Fremont County near Stoney Face, Waugh and Jack Hall mountains.    Activities under consideration include commercial timber harvest, non-commercial timber management and prescribed fire.     Additional information on the project, including a map of the project area, can be found on the BLM’s website at: http://blm.gov/h4ld.     For additional information about the project, please contact Ken Reed at 719-269-8576 or kreed@blm.gov.

A scoping period gives the public a chance to tell the BLM what issues and concerns they think should be addressed in the Environmental Assessment and alternatives before the BLM begins drafting the document.    You can mail your comments to: BLM Royal Gorge Field Office, Attn: Ken Reed, 3028 East Main Street, Canon City, CO 81212; or email to: rgfo_comments@blm.gov.    Your comments will be most helpful if received by Jan. 30, 2015.

Before including your address, phone number, e-mail address, or other personal identifying information in your comment, you should be aware that your entire comment—including your personal identifying information—may be made publicly available at any time.    While you can ask in your comment to withhold your personal identifying information from public review, the BLM cannot guarantee that they will be able to do so.

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Commissioners Approve 3 of 4 Medical Marijuana Licenses

The Organice Seed LLC co-owner Ryan Griego answers questions from the Board of Commissioners Monday regarding his application for a county medical marijuana cultivation license for an outdoor growing operation at 1785 Kit Carson Trail in the Copper Gulch area. Griego's application was the only one of four denied by the Board. (photo courtesy of CC Daily Record)

In the first of several anticipated reviews of medical marijuana operations in Fremont County the Board of Commissioners approved county licensing of three existing state-licensed facilities but denied a fourth application which had drawn considerable opposition from neighbors in western Fremont County.   The Commissioners met in special session Monday, January 5th, to review the four applications.

Approval was granted for Dana Soux’s operation of Fremont Cannabis, an existing medical marijuana center-pharmacy in Lincoln Park at 1505 Elm Street.   Soux said the center is a small family run business with the cultivation facility located in Buena Vista.

Approval was also granted for an existing state licensed cultivation facility at 934 ‘C’ Street in Penrose.   Natalie Romolt said she and her partner operate two other licensed facilities in Colorado Springs and Pueblo doing business as Today’s Health Care.   Romolt said they have operated in Penrose the past 18 months and that three greenhouses will be operating on site.   After being told that employees could not legally perform trimming work inside large metal storage containers, Romolt said the trimming will be confined within one of the greenhouses.

Approval was also granted for Ryan Foster of High Mountain Medz who has set up a greenhouse medical marijuana cultivation facility in a remote mountain area along County Road 103 southwest of Florence.   Foster said there is now one greenhouse but will eventually have three greenhouses in operation.  Foster said he will be seeking a building permit to construct a dwelling on site where he plans to live and personally oversee the operation.   Foster said the site is isolated and surrounded by a 3,000 acre cattle ranch.

The fourth application by Ryan Griego of The Organic Seed LLC for a cultivation license for an outdoor medical marijuana grow operation was denied by the Board of Commissioners following an hour long session of questions for the applicant.   The Commissioners sought detailed explanation from Griego regarding when he took ownership of the property, why a building permit was never obtained for a building constructed on site, alleged illegal use of well water for the marijuana plants, fencing and other security issues, and other complaints from neighbors.

District 3 Commissioner Ed Norden told Griego the incident that particularly concerned him was in October when a next door neighbor said a security dog came onto his property and attacked his dog.   The neighbor said he was then cursed at to get off of Griego’s property when he confronted security people about the dog attack.   Griego said the problems were not caused by him but by the security company.    Commissioner Norden told Griego that because he is the licensee, he is the one ultimately responsible for what takes place.

In the final analysis none of the Commissioners expressed an interest in tabling the matter to allow Griego time to address the Commissioners concerns for the 2015 growing season.   A motion to deny a county license for The Organic Seed was approved on a unanimous vote.

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Commissioners OK Agreement for Pathfinder Park Building Design


The original master plan for county property at Pathfinder Regional Park will be modified in design work to be done by T.A. Duke and Associates. The layout of buildings is expected to change somewhat and the final design will specify size and uses of each building.

While funding has always been the roadblock for development of new fairgrounds buildings at Pathfinder Regional Park west of Florence, the Fremont County Board of Commissioners is taking a significant step forward to design the size, amenities, and layout of future construction of those fairground buildings.   At the Commissioners’ December 23rd meeting a contractual agreement was approved with T.A. Duke and Associates of Colorado Springs to initiate that design work.

The project work outlined in the agreement calls for T.A. Duke to design five separate buildings on the county’s property west of the present arena.   The first building would be a community center exploring two alternatives.   One would focus on a building designed with 29,000 square feet while the second alternative would propose a facility with 18,000 square feet.   Both designs would incorporate an exhibit hall, a kitchen, three community rooms, a stage, offices, restrooms, and storage.

The second building would be a 13,125 square foot cattle barn to house 120 cattle tie-up stations, a work area, wash rack, and a drive through aisle.

The third building would be a 10,500 square foot sheep, goat, and swine barn to house 82 sheep and goat pens and 84 swine pens plus bleachers, storage, and a drive through aisle.

A fourth building would be a small animal barn with 9,375 square feet to house rabbits and poultry plus offices and a storage area.

The fifth building would be a large roofed livestock arena covering 12,600 square feet.   Along with an arena area would be bleachers, holding pens, restrooms, a concessions area, and an announcers stand.  Plans for the livestock arena will take into consideration the possible relocation of the existing livestock barn at the Cañon City Rodeo grounds.

T.A. Duke will include cost estimates for the construction of each building with the work to be completed within a four month period once a notice to proceed is issued.   The notice to proceed will be given once final authorization is received from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs which is funding 50 percent of the $86,497 project.   The county’s $43,000 share of the cost will come from the Conservation Trust Fund (lottery proceeds).

District 3 Commissioner Ed Norden said the original Pathfinder Park Steering Committee was disbanded a couple of years ago because there was no more planning for them to do until the county took the necessary steps to start design work beyond the original master plan.

The Board of Commissioners also approved a grant application to seek $9,600 from the Colorado Noxious Weed Fund.   The money would be used to target noxious weeds growing in county road rights-of-way throughout the county.   The grant fund would be matched by $3,000 from the Road & Bridge fund plus labor and equipment to spray the weeds through the Fremont County Weed Department.

In other action at their December 23rd regular meeting the Board of Commissioners:

  • Appointed six persons to the Fremont County Fair Board;   Marie Adams and Kathy Kunselman were reappointed to three year terms while new three year term appointees include Mark Masar, Virginia Green, Shari Johnson, and JoAnne Ary;
  • Approved the annual mileage report for roads maintained by the county which qualify for gasoline tax revenue sharing under the Colorado Highway Users Tax Fund;
  • Scheduled a public hearing for February 10th at 10 a.m. on a commercial development plan for The Outpost at Texas Creek.   Phillip and Teresa Poindexter want to develop their property on the south side of US Highway 50 for proposed uses by multiple potential vendors.   That could include retail shops, a restaurant, bar and lounge, and mini-storage facilities;
  • Approved a resolution appropriating additional sums of money for the 2014 county budget to reflect additional revenues and use of cash reserves in various county funds.
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Commissioners Unveil New County Logo

The Fremont County Board of Commissioners unveiled a new county logo on December 9th depicting the county’s heritage and tying the logo to the county’s namesake, John C. Fremont.   The Commissioners said the new logo is the result of many attempts at designing the concept over the past two years.

District 3 Commissioner Ed Norden said after Fremont County celebrated its’ 150th birthday in 2011 the Commissioners decided it was time to pursue creation of a new logo that reflected the local heritage.   With the dedication of the John C. Fremont metal sculpture at the entry of Pathfinder Regional Park over a year ago, Norden said the Commissioners sought an artistic design that depicted Fremont surveying the beautiful landscape of the county.

Norden said he recalled when the previous logo was adopted in 1983.   He said while the previous logo depicted several features of Fremont County’s economic base it left out the most important feature that has been the lifeblood of Fremont County—the Arkansas River.

The logo features an image of John C. Fremont surveying the beauty of Fremont County including the Arkansas River, the Royal Gorge, and the Sangre De Cristo Mountains.   Cañon City artist Sharon Conner was commissioned to create the artwork at the center of the logo.   She incorporated the image of the Twin Sisters Peaks near Howard into the new logo.    The final piece of graphic art was completed by Cañon City graphic artist Kristy Gotham.

District 2 Commissioner Debbie Bell said what pleases her about the new logo is that it features an original piece of art instead of relying solely on graphic design.

The Commissioners said the new logo will be introduced gradually over the coming months so that as letterhead and other materials are used the new logo will start to be incorporated.

Canon City artist Sharon Conner (left) stands next to the original piece of art she created for the Fremont County seal and logo. Standing to the right of the artwork is Canon City graphic artist Kristy Gotham who designed the final logo. Commissioners Ed Norden, Tim Payne, and Debbie Bell are pictured next to the new logo.

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