Garden Park Fossil Area Secures Landmark Dedication

This Garden Park National Natural Landmark plaque has been placed at the Cleveland Quarry along Garden Park Road north of Canon City denoting the storied history of dinosaur fossils uncovered in the area.

The Garden Park area north of Cañon City has taken on renewed national significance.   As part of the Fremont County Heritage Commission’s recent Fall Heritage Festival a dedication ceremony took place on October 9th expanding the designated area of the Garden Park National Natural Landmark (NNL).

A steady rain hampered events for the day but a group of Harrison Elementary School students braved the elements to tour the Marsh Quarry and then joined dignitaries for a dedication ceremony at the Cleveland Quarry alongside Garden Park Road.

In April 2013, the National Park Service and BLM expanded the Garden Park NNL from a 40-acre designation to 3,208 acres.  The NNL area now includes all the major Garden Park quarries, two of which are easily visited from Garden Park Road.   The designation helps to preserve the history of the Garden Park Fossil Area, where 14 different Jurassic dinosaur species have been found.

Cañon City became a hotspot for paleontology beginning in the 1870s when prominent U.S. paleontologists Othniel C. Marsh and Edward D. Cope uncovered the first fossilized bones of many dinosaur species in that area.    Since their famous “Bone Wars,” during which the scientists raced to discover and name new dinosaur species, many paleontology digs in Garden Park have provided the scientific world with irreplaceable information about the anatomy of Jurassic-aged dinosaurs and the types of environments they lived and died.

BLM Geologist Melissa Smeins is joined by the Fremont County Commissioners at the October 9th National Landmark dedication of the Garden Park Fossil Area following the rainy morning ceremony.

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Commissioners Briefed on Fort Carson Helicopter Training

A Fort Carson helicopter crew demonstrated landings and low level maneuvers for the media on October 1st in one of the proposed landing zones in the Garden Park area north of Canon City. The BLM is conducting a National Environmental Analysis to determine if Fort Carson can get permission to use 45 different landing zones on BLM public lands in Fremont and Teller Counties for training purposes over the next 10 years.

Fort Carson and Bureau of Land Management officials briefed the Fremont County Commissioners Tuesday on the US Army’s desire to reach a long term agreement with the BLM for helicopter training on public lands in Fremont and Teller Counties.   The BLM and Fort Carson hosted a public meeting on October 7th to share details about the High Altitude Mountain Environment Training (HAMET) program which is designed to provide pilots experience flying and landing helicopters in high elevation, mountainous terrain.   Army Chief Warrant Officer Dennis Niles told the Commissioners that the terrain found in Fremont and Teller Counties is similar to conditions that helicopter pilots face in Afghanistan.

BLM Royal Gorge Field Office Manager Keith Berger said Fort Carson has been using BLM public lands in the area on an in-frequent casual basis since 2010 but now the Army wants a more formal permanent use.    Berger said the BLM is now conducting an environmental assessment that would pave the way for a 10 year right of way agreement.  The BLM is analyzing Fort Carson’s Plan of Development through an open public process.   Berger said the BLM wants to make sure county officials are involved in the planning process.

Niles and Berger shared maps with the Board of Commissioners showing 45 proposed landing sites on BLM lands in the two counties.   In Fremont County the landing zones are primarily in the Garden Park area north of Cañon City and in the area northwest of Parkdale near Highway 9.   Commissioner Ed Norden asked about the risk of pilots mistakenly landing on private property.   Niles said with the GPS guidance systems on today’s Army helicopters it’s almost impossible to make an error in landing zones.  He added that the helicopter training involves both day and night operations.

Berger said so far any concerns expressed to the BLM from neighbors in those areas deal with the impacts associated with noise.  He said the BLM’s environmental review would address a variety of issues including potential impacts to wildlife, cattle grazing, hunting, fishing, hiking, climbing, and other recreational issues.

Among initial concerns voiced by the Board of Commissioners is that the BLM perhaps consider a public comment period longer than 30 days, to be vigilant in advising the public through news releases, and to keep the Board of Commissioners apprised of the status of the BLM’s review.

Berger said the BLM is currently in a public scoping period until November 1st which would be followed by a 30 day public comment period.   Berger said he anticipates a final decision on Fort Carson’s request by the spring of 2015.

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Fire District Tax Question Missing on some Ballots

Fremont County Clerk and Recorder Katie Barr says a printing error in ballots resulted in the Cañon City Fire District’s 5-A property tax question not appearing on the ballots in a single Cañon City precinct.   Barr said the 5-A tax question did not appear on the ballot that was mailed out to residents in Precinct 16 which covers a large area of the East Cañon neighborhood.   Those not receiving ballots with the 5-A Fire District tax question live in an area east of 15th Street to Cottonwood and from Central Avenue south to Fremont Drive.

Barr said the error was unintentional that resulted when the ballots were printed by the vendor.   In order to rectify the situation and make sure those voters can cast their vote on 5-A, all of the voters in Precinct 16 will be receiving another supplemental ballot in the mail that includes only the 5-A question.   The supplemental ballot must be returned to the County Clerk’s Office no later than 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday, November 4th.

Barr said it’s important that Precinct 16 voters do not return the supplemental ballot with the original ballot sent by mail.   The supplemental ballot must be enclosed in the separate envelope provided with that ballot.    Voters can mail it back to the Clerk’s Office or deposit the ballot at any of the drop off locations.

If you have any questions or concerns please contact the Fremont County Clerk’s Office at 719-276-7340.

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Commissioners Approve Resolution Opposing Amendment 68

The Fremont County Board of Commissioners joined a growing chorus of voices across Colorado declaring their opposition to Amendment 68 which appears on the November 4th general election ballot.   The Commissioners voted at their October 14th regular meeting to approve a resolution opposing Amendment 68 to the Colorado Constitution.    The amendment would allow casino gambling to be established at racetracks in Arapahoe, Mesa, and Pueblo Counties.

District 3 Commissioner Ed Norden said at a recent meeting in Denver of Colorado Counties Inc. (CCI) member commissioners voted to also endorse a CCI resolution opposing the amendment.   Norden said the 1990 amendment allowing casino gambling in Black Hawk, Central City, and Cripple Creek still required a vote by local residents in each of those towns.   Norden said both the Fremont County and CCI resolutions call out the fact that Amendment 68 does not allow for a local vote in the three racetrack counties.

The resolution goes on to point out that Amendment 68 would likely have an immediate and long term negative economic impact on Fremont County’s neighbors in Teller County along with potential negative impacts to Fremont County due to the loss of Teller County casino traffic.   The Board of Commissioners unanimously approved the resolution and urged Fremont County voters to consider the negative impacts Amendment 68 when casting their vote.

Cañon City Water Superintendent Bob Hartzman gave a detailed report to the Board of Commissioners on the conservation and re-vegetation efforts that have taken place over the past year in the city’s Royal Gorge Park.   The June, 2013, wildfire devastated some 3,800 acres in and around the park which also serve as a watershed for Cañon City’s water treatment plant.  Hartzman said 172 drainage check structures were built in 10 sub-drainages to control ash and debris leading into the Arkansas River.  Hartzman reported that over 28,000 pounds of native grass and wildflower seed was deposited across 886 acres by helitcopter at a cost of $132,000.   He said 1,369 acres of burnt and charred pinon-juniper trees were hydro-axed and reduced to wood chips prior to the seeding.

Hartzman said the biggest volunteer effort focused on the planting of 5,096 seedling trees.  He said 362 volunteers worked over the course of seven different seedling planting events to plant and water the seedlings across 140 acres.   He said the seedling tree project cost $653,000 which included a $485,000 Colorado Water Conservation Board grant, $203,000 from the USDA Emergency Fund, $109,000 from the Colorado Office of Emergency Management, and $11,000 in local funds.

In other business at the October 14th meeting the Board of Commissioners:

  • Scheduled a special meeting for 1:30 p.m. November 3rd to consider a bid award for renovation of the 4th floor of the county’s Judicial Building for the new regional dispatch center;
  • Approved a hotel and restaurant liquor license for Broadway Bar & Grill in Penrose;
  • Approved a special events liquor permit for the Fremont Community Foundation’s “Aftermath” Halloween event on October 24th at the Cañon City Recreation District;
  • Approved a hotel and restaurant liquor license transfer from Royal Gorge Company to Service System Associates (SSA).   SSA will handle all of the food and beverage vending at the newly rebuilt Royal Gorge Bridge and Park;
  • Re-appointed Florence City Councilman Larry Baker to the Fremont County Planning Commission;
  • Re-scheduled the board’s regular November 11th meeting to Monday, November 10th at 9:30 a.m. because of the Veterans Day observance.
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2014 Fremont Airshow a Big Hit

The Rocky Mountain Renegades fly in formation as they opened the September 27th airshow at the Fremont County Airport.

A crowd estimated at just under 2,000 people enjoyed the Fremont County Airport’s third annual Fly-in and Airshow on Saturday, September 27th.    The Fremont County Cattlewomen fed a throng of folks for breakfast before the air show kicked off at 10 a.m. with a performance by the Rocky Mountain Renegades.   The airshow also included performances by Don Nelson air shows, Hans Meisler, and a special fly-by demonstration of a P-51 bomber.

Colorado Regional Fire Management Officer Joe Lobiondo is pictured next to the PC-12 Pilatus that came to Fremont County to take part in the air show. The Pilatus serves as the lead plane directing single engine air tankers in making fire retardant drops in fighting wildfires. The firefighting planes that are stationed at the airport through the summer returned for the September 27th air show.

The air show also gave Fremont County residents the chance to get a close-up look at the firefighting apparatus stationed at the Fremont County Airport that has been used for initial aerial attack on wildfires in southern Colorado.   Colorado Regional Fire Management Officer Joe LoBiondo was on hand and helped arrange for display of the multi mission Pilatus PC-12 aircraft along with a T-888 single engine air tanker.

The Fremont StarFire Squadron of the Civil Air Patrol took part in the day’s event as cadets in the program volunteered their time to direct traffic and park cars.   They also entertained and educated kids with activities in the new CAP modular office building erected recently at the airport.

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Planning Commission to Consider Airport Overlay Zone

The Fremont County Planning Commission will consider creating a new zone district in the county’s zoning resolution for the purpose of protecting airspace around the Fremont County Airport.   An amendment to add an Airport Overlay Zone District in Fremont County will be considered by the Planning Commission at their October 7th monthly meeting.    Many counties and municipalities already have such overlay zone districts to protect airports from development that may negatively impact airport operations.   The intent of the Airport Overlay Zone is to encourage compatible land uses with the airport, densities, and reducing hazards that may endanger lives and property of the public and aviation users.

The need for an Airport Overlay Zone District has been discussed by county officials for many years but the recently updated Master Plan for the Fremont County Airport completed by Armstrong Aviation Consultants of Grand Junction specifically proposes that the county take the necessary steps to put an Airport Overlay Zone in place around the airport.

The Planning Commission’s agenda also includes consideration of a zone change request from Manufactured Home Park Zone District to Agricultural Suburban Zone District for Fred and Jane Gifford for their property along MacKenzie Avenue in the Four Mile area.   The Giffords want to be able to sell hay and pasture livestock on their five acres but that use is not currently allowed.

The Planning Commission meets at 4:00 p.m. Tuesday, October 7th, in the Commissioners’ meeting room of the Fremont County Administration Building.

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Commissioners Celebrate Gold Belt Byway Anniversary

Fremont and Teller County Commissioners took part in the 25th Anniversary Celebration of the Gold Belt Scenic Byway in September. The tour across the two counties included a visit to the Cripple Creek Heritage Center. Pictured left to right: Teller County Commissioner Mark Dettenrieder, Fremont County Commissioner Tim Payne, Teller County Commissioner Norm Steen, Gold Belt Byway Director Charlotte Bumgarner, & Fremont County Commissioner Ed Norden

Federal, state, and local government officials in Fremont and Teller Counties took time out from their schedules to join representatives of the Gold Belt Scenic Byway in celebrating the byway’s 25th anniversary in September.

The City of Florence helped kicked off the tour with breakfast September 22nd at the Florence Senior Center.    The tour then traveled up Phantom Canyon with a stop at the historical steel bridge where Royal Gorge Area Field Manager for the Bureau of Land Management Keith Berger talked about the history of the Gold Belt Scenic Byway designation .   The tour group was greeted in Victor by the Mayor and other town officials before traveling to the Cripple Creek Heritage Center for a luncheon with Cripple Creek and Teller County officials.

BLM Royal Gorge Area Field Manager Keith Berger explains the history of the Gold Belt Scenic Byway designation when the tour group stopped at the historical steel bridge in Phantom Canyon. The steel bridge is the only original bridge still standing from when the Florence and Cripple Creek Narrow Gauge Railroad operated in the canyon hauling gold ore from the Cripple Creek mining district.

A highlight of the tour was a special visit to the Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument where officials were allowed a rare glimpse of the laboratory work being conducted in the ongoing research of fossilized specimens.

The tour concluded with a reception hosted by the City of Cañon City at the Fremont Center for the Arts where awards were presented to area photographers who entered the Gold Belt Byway photo contest.

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CDOT Hears Complaints over Penrose Highway 50 Median Closure

After fielding complaints over the decision by the Colorado Department of Transportation to close a crossover in a Highway 50 median west of Penrose, the Fremont County Board of Commissioners asked Region 2 CDOT officials to explain their decision to the board and citizens at Tuesday’s regular meeting.   CDOT Traffic Engineer Sasan Delshad of Pueblo explained that the action being taken is based on documented accidents that have occurred over recent years at the crossover in front of the newly opened Pikes Peak Motor Company.   The crossover has also served as access to a rural subdivision on the south side of the highway.

Florence Fire Chief Gene McKinnon and Penrose Fire Chief Calvin Sundermann were among those expressing frustration over closure of the crossover.   Sundermann said having to travel down the highway to another crossover access could add several minutes to a critical emergency call.   Sundermann also said he has never seen an injury accident at that particular crossover.   Sundermann complained that his phone calls to a CDOT official in Pueblo have never been returned.   Delshad apologized for the non-response adding that he was aware that on advice of the Attorney General’s office, CDOT staff was told not to respond to certain complainants.

Richard Murr, co-owner of Pikes Peak Motors, said the seven accidents in six years cited by Delshad is not extreme and do not warrant closing the crossover.   Murr and several others in the audience questioned if closing the crossover in front of his business will simply force traffic to use the crossovers in front of “The Well” or on the hill a half-mile to the west.

Mary Roberts has lived in Penrose 40 years and has seen many changes. She compared Highway 50 to Highway 115 and discussed the many crossings on 115. She said the visibility at this particular crossing is actually much better than that in other areas. She said the closure is “punishment, extortion, or the abuse of power” by CDOT.

Several speakers discussed their worry that the nearby crossings were in fact more dangerous than the one that has been closed.   Delshad pointed out that CDOT is not advocating the use of those, but citizens in attendance seemed to agree that they would be used regardless. Most people will not be willing to drive an extra few miles and few minutes to use Highway 115 or the airport or Highway 67.

District 3 Commissioner Ed Norden emphasized that while the Board of Commissioners was allowing CDOT an opportunity to appear and explain their decision at the board meeting, the decision on the crossover rests solely with CDOT.   The Commissioner did point to even heavier crossover traffic making left turns at ‘K’ Street and ‘N’ Streets and urged CDOT to make sure they were consistent in analyzing traffic safety data in making such decisions.

The Board of Commissioners Tuesday also made annual appointments to the Fremont County Airport Advisory Committee.   Jim Woolworth and Greg Tabuteau were each reappointed to their second three-year term on the committee while the Commissioners newly appointed Jack Slagle of rural Florence.   Commissioner Norden said that while Slagle has been a resident of Fremont County for a short period of time, his credentials with 26 years as an Air Force pilot and working as a consultant for airport business and aviation companies will bring another level of expertise to the committee.   Norden said there were an unprecedented eight people who applied to serve on the Airport Advisory Committee.

The Commissioners approved a resolution to execute a grant agreement between the county and the Colorado Department of Public Health so that the Fremont County EMS Council might accept a $15,000 grant that will provide for payment of a county-wide EMS Medical Director.   That director will be Dr. Paul Numsen who already serves as medical director for a number of ambulance operations in Fremont County.   County Attorney Brenda Jackson explained that the intent of appointing a countywide medical director is not to require every ambulance operation to use Dr. Numsen, but that his services are available if they choose to seek his counsel.

In other business at Tuesday’s meeting the Board of Commissioners:

  • Appointed Angela Jones to fill a vacant seat on the John C. Fremont Library Board of Trustees;
  • Approved a transfer of a Special Review Use permit from AT & T to Diamond Tower-Texas Creek for a cellular tower that was erected recently near the Texas Creek junction;
  • Approved a bid award to ThyssenKrupp Elevator Americas in the amount of $61,301 for safety improvements to the two elevators in the Fremont County Administration Building.
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Commissioners Appoint Penrose Park and Recreation Board

A number of interested Penrose citizens showed up at the organizational meeting Tuesday night of the newly appointed Board of Directors for the Penrose Park and Recreation District. (photo courtesy of News 5)

The newly seated Penrose Park and Recreation District Board of Directors conducted a reorganizational meeting in Penrose Tuesday evening one week after the Fremont County Board of Commissioners appointed five new board members.

To avoid the possible dissolution of the Penrose Park and Recreation District, the Board of Commissioners appointed a new interim board of directors at a special meeting September 16th.   After citizen complaints over the management of the Penrose Park District by the previous board, the Colorado Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) announced that they had discovered that the district had not properly conducted an election since 2008.   With each of the five board members serving four year terms, DOLA said that meant the Penrose Park District no longer had a legally constituted Board of Directors.

DOLA officials said there were two options available.   DOLA could order dissolution of the recreation district or the Fremont County Board of Commissioners could appoint an interim board to serve for six months until an election could be held to seat a new permanent board.    With nine letters of interest, the Board of Commissioners appointed Roberta Newton, Susan Luck, Calvin Sundermann, Tami Mundy, and Patrick Slawson.   They will serve until a permanent board is elected or no longer than March 15, 2015.

At the reorganizational meeting Tuesday night Luck was elected as the new board Chair.   Slawson was chosen to serve as Vice President; Mundy will serve as Treasurer, and Newton will serve as Secretary.   Sundermann will serve in a role as Program Director.   Sundermann said he wants to help get the district and the Penrose Park back in shape over the next six months but probably would not seek election to the permanent board.

In the resolution appointing the new board, the Board of Commissioners set out certain obligations that the new Penrose Park District Board must work towards.   Those obligations include securing a surety bond for each board member, meet regularly at a time and place in compliance with Colorado’s Open Meetings Law, call a special election within six months, prepare a 2015 budget, and certify a mill levy to the Board of Commissioners for 2015 property tax collections as required by state law.

Among issues discussed by the new board Tuesday night was the need to identify all of the assets of the Penrose Park District and pursue a comprehensive audit of the district’s finances.

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Electronics Recycling Event this Saturday

Upper Arkansas Recycling, the regional recycling program that serves Fremont County, is hosting an Electronics Recycling Event in Cañon City this Saturday, September 20th.  During the event, Fremont County residents will be able to recycle latex paint, and a wide variety of electronics-from televisions and stereos to computers and microwaves.

The event will feature a paint swap and only good, useable latex paint will be accepted.   Interested parties can pick up paint at no charge; however, there will be a fee of $1 per gallon charged for dropping paint off.  This will cover the cost of recycling the leftover paint at the event.

Fremont County residents can also recycle a wide variety of electronics for a fee.    Prices vary, but on average it will cost about $12 to recycle a computer. Televisions will be recycled at this event; the cost is $1.25 per inch-(measured diagonally). All hard drives recycled will be shredded to ensure the privacy of residents who participate and we have taken the necessary steps to insure that the electronics will be recycled in a responsible manner.

The event will be held in the parking lot of the Cañon National Bank, on the corner of 9th Street and Royal Gorge Blvd., in Cañon City and will run from 10:00 a.m. through 2:00 p.m. on Saturday.   For more information, please contact Beth with Upper Arkansas Recycling, 719-275-1675.

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