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Mountain News: More homeless people than five years ago



DURANGO, Colo. — A study conducted in late January confirms what locals had been suspecting: there are more homeless people in Durango of late.

The study conducted by Housing Solutions for the Southwest on Jan. 24 found 91 homeless people in La Plata County, including 35 who were without shelter. The latter has tripled from five years before. Some 45 per cent were homeless as a result of domestic abuse.

Why the upswing in the homeless numbers in Durango? The Telegraph reported no hypothesis. It did, however, note this chilling statistic: of the 91 homeless people there, 19 were children.

The same study was done for other mountain communities, including Eagle and Pitkin, where Vail and Aspen are located respectively. The study found 27 homeless people in Aspen, including seven classified as chronically homeless.

Colorado's highest proportion of homeless people was in poorer, Hispanic areas of southern Colorado. Metropolitan Denver was not included in the study.

Accusations that children are put to work in Jasper

JASPER, Alta. — With 400 job vacancies in Jasper now during the height of summer tourism season, there are allegations that children as young as 10 are working, the Jasper Fitzhugh reported.

The Fitzhugh said Alberta law allows children who are 10 or 11 to work only with the consent of a parent or guardian and approval by Employment Standards, a provincial agency.

Labour codes for those ages 12 through 14 also impose restrictions, according to Ginette Marcoux, executive director of the Jasper Employment and Education Centre.

"They must not work past nine o'clock at night, they must be in constant supervision by an adult, they cannot work around grills, fryers, slicers or knives and they cannot handle alcohol," said Marcoux.

Black bear bites tire in wildlife jam

BANFF, Alta. — A black bear did a very strange thing in Banff National Park. Bears had been grazing along the green grasses along the Bow Valley Parkway, a highway in the park, and several people had stopped and got out of their cars and trucks to view the bears.

One of the bears bit and punctured a tire of one of the vehicles. Then, surprised by the sound of air hissing from the deflating tire, the bear ran off.

A local wildlife expert told the Rocky Mountain Outlook that instead of stopping when they see bears, people should continue on, if slowly. "I strongly encourage people not to get out of their vehicles and to consider how hard this is for a bear when they're having to go to the side of a road to feed," said Kim Titchener.

Another climbing first

DENVER, Colo. — Another first has been achieved on Mt. Everest, and it will warm your heart. Chris Bombardier became the first person with hemophilia to summit Everest.

Hemophilia, the Denver Post explained, causes steady bleeding into joints, muscles, and tissues. Without the proper treatment, individuals may not live to adulthood. Bombardier has a severe case of hemophilia B.

His first love was baseball, but after college he took up mountain climbing. Everest is the sixth and penultimate summit of the highest mountain on each of the seven continents. The only one now remaining for Bombardier is Vinson, in Antarctica.

Bombardier was at the Hillary Step, just shy of the summit but a difficult climb by itself. He was ready to give up when his Sherpa guide boosted him. "You can do this. You have a mission and purpose, and you can make it."

And so he did, speaking to his wife in Colorado from the summit. "It was an incredibly surreal moment to be able to talk to my husband while he was on the top of Mount Everest," his wife, Jess, told The Post.

A happy story about how Wesley became Lesley

BRECKENRIDGE, Colo. — The Summit Daily News reported an exceptional story about a 13-year veteran of the Summit County Sheriff's Department named Wesley Mumford who became Lesley Mumford.

Mumford told the newspaper she had struggled with gender identity even while growing up in a small town in Michigan. In 2004, she entered law enforcement after several years as a park ranger. She said she believes she got involved in law enforcement because it imposed uniformity, as a way to suppress her feelings. It did not.

"I absolutely struggled with depression and confusion," she said. "There's a constant dissonance that transgender people experience. The way that you understand yourself as being and the way the world sees you are in conflict, so there's a constant internal dialogue trying to make sense of that."

In 2014, Mumford decided to transition, seeking therapy and over time telling family members and close friends. By then she was married, and had a child. Her wife knew of her struggles.

"We got married in 2005, and I had an idea early on in that she had these feelings," her wife, Sarah, told the Daily News.

The couple thought that making the transition in Summit County would be monumentally difficult. They considered relocating to Denver, starting over in the anonymity of a metropolitan area. Then one day, Mumford learned of a decision by the Summit County commissioners to add language about gender identity to its equal-employment opportunity policy.

At the time, late 2015, Summit County was only the second county in Colorado, after Denver, to adopt such a policy.

"Transgender people experience grossly disproportionate levels of violence, harassment and discrimination," said Summit County Commissioner Thomas Davidson in a release issued at the time.

Summit County already has prohibitions in place against harassment and discrimination on the basis of sex, race, religion, age, sexual orientation, and other factors. The commissioners added "gender identity" and "gender expression" to the county's equal-employment-opportunity and anti-harassment guidelines.

"You're not going to believe this," Mumford told her wife. "Look at what the county did."

Instead of leaving Summit County, the couple stayed. In January, she scheduled a meeting with Sheriff Jaime FitzSimons. The conversation lasted about three hours.

"I was both humbled and honoured," FitzSimons told the Daily News. "I was humbled that she had such courage to do that, and honoured that she wanted to do it on my watch. The response from our staff was incredible."

Not all transgender stories end so well. This one has, and Mumford said she wants it known that "it is possible to be transgender and find love, be a parent and have a rewarding career with goals and dreams like everyone else has. There was a time in my life when I didn't think I could."

Cannabis chain unwelcome

TELLURIDE, Colo. — A new business called Green Dragon has been granted a license to sell recreational cannabis in Telluride. The four existing cannabis stores in Telluride aren't doing cartwheels of joy.

The "Wal-Mart of weed," said the manager of one existing store. The "Starbucks of marijuana," said another of the Denver-based chain. It has 10 stores, including Aspen, Breckenridge, and Glenwood Springs.

Green Dragon's price of US$5 a gram undercuts prices of existing stores. It sells only in the recreational sector. Other stores sell to both recreational and medical customers. A competitor argues that those with medical needs will be hurt by this price-cutting.

According to the Telluride Daily Planet, this new twist has some existing cannabis stores calling for new rules to govern marijuana sales. Like Aspen, Telluride has largely treated marijuana stores like liquor stores. There are no limits and there are no special prohibitions about locations, such as restricting them to industrial zones.

Now, there is talk about how many is too many and, for that matter, whether chain cannabis stores should even be allowed.

Green Dragon owners estimate the new Telluride store will produce $8 million to $10 million in gross sales annually.

Town officials in the ski town of Winter Park also aren't doing cartwheels of joy about a new marijuana-selling store called Serene Wellness.

About half of Colorado ski towns want nothing to do with marijuana sales, and Winter Park is among them. But Grand County, where Winter Park is located, allows sales. Here's where it gets tricky: an old motel in the town's core was never made part of the town when Winter Park was incorporated in 1979.

As such, town officials have no control over what happens there. This is the site of the new operation. The result, said the Sky-Hi News, was a tense relationship between town hall and the county courthouse.

Like the new store in Telluride, the new store in Winter Park will sell only recreational marijuana, meaning there's no need for a doctor's prescription.

Trump's picture back up

JACKSON, Wyo. — U.S. President Donald Trump's mug is back up on the wall at the Jackson Town Hall, this time along with that of Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead.

Trump's photo had been removed, along with that of Vice-President Mike Pence, at the discretion of the mayor of Jackson, Pete Muldoon, after consultation with one council member, Jim Stanford. Muldoon defended the removal by saying that the photos of U.S. presidents did not belong in local town halls.

By then, the disappearing photos had drawn national attention — in no small part because the local Republicans had circulated an on-line petition calling on the town council to restore the photos. The local chamber of commerce reported that booked cancellations reached $100,000.

At the very least, said the Jackson Hole News&Guide, the matter needed to be voted on by the full town council. Several days later, the council did just that, restoring Trump's grim visage to the council meeting room, this time in the company of the governor, but not the vice president. Before, there had been no formal policy governing whose photos went on the walls.

The News&Guide reported sharp comments before the town council. One woman expressed outrage over Trump's sexual boasting, while a man questioned the mayor's right to be an American. Muldoon had served in the military during the Middle East conflicts but was not deployed to a war zone.

But the local Republican Party is officially pleased at the outcome and the process.

"Tonight's discussion by the Jackson Town Council represents the very best of our community," Paul Vogelheim, chairman of the Teton County Republican Party, said. "Citizens with diverse opinions were able to come together and engage in a passionate but civil dialogue."

Underground coal fires

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. — The resort community of Glenwood Springs, located along the banks of the Colorado River, has four seams of coal underlying its western portion, and they're all on fire.

Fires have long burned in the seams. In 2002, an ember from one of those fires may have ignited brush on the surface that, whipped by hot, dry winds, blew up into a raging inferno that burned 29 homes and forced thousands to flee.

Can the fires ever be completely suppressed? Maybe not, but state officials have been in Glenwood Springs recently in an effort to starve the coal seams of oxygen, thus preventing the spread, reported the Glenwood Post Independent.

Tara Tafi, who is with the Colorado Inactive Mine Reclamation Program, said 30,000 cubic yards of soil and rock will be spread on surface vents that feed the fire with oxygen. "The purpose is to seal up the fractures on the hillside that are helping to fuel the fire."

Complicating the work is the history of mining. Three of the four seams have been mined on multiple levels.

The seams are part of a broad swath of coal in northwestern Colorado that is called the Grand Hogback. More than two-dozen fires are burning in the seams underlying that hogback.

And there are more such fires burning underground elsewhere in Colorado, said Jeff Graves, director of the state's Inactive Mine Reclamation Program. Colorado is planning to spend US$5 million during the next five years to try to prevent the underground fires from starting above-ground fires. He said in many cases, the coal mine fires have been burning since the early part of the 20th century.

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