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Papa’s coming home

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SUN VALLEY, Idaho — At long last the people of Ketchum and Sun Valley will hold a festival for the writer who was called "Papa." For five days next fall there will be an Ernest Hemingway Festival, and there will be lectures and panel discussions, a tour of places where he hung out, and even a short-story contest.

The writer came to Ketchum just before World War II, not long after the Sun Valley ski area was opened, and he had some good years there. He hunted in the forests, and he cast his flies into the silvery waters of the Big Wood River, and he even wrote portions of several books, among them The Garden of Eden and A Moveable Feast. It was a good place to be when the monsoons were wreaking havoc on his other homes in Cuba and in the Florida Keyes, he said.

In all, he spent parts of 22 years in Ketchum until finally, in 1961, wracked by mental illness as well as other health problems, he turned a 12-gauge shotgun on himself in the front room of his house in Ketchum.

The Idaho Mountain Express says the festival has been in planning for some time. The festival would have been held last year, but the chamber of commerce organizers could not come to terms with the owner of the name Ernest Hemingway. Now they have.

Snowshoe spider captured

SILVERTON, Colo. — A century ago, newspapers in little mountain towns sometimes saw themselves as entertainers, where fiction was as much fair sport as was fact. Among the best in the old mining towns was Leadville’s Orth Stein, who offered fantastic tales of giant, glistening caverns, giant footprints found in the snow, and other such fare to tempt the gullible.

Carrying on that tradition is a story in The Silverton Standard, which reports of the capture of the reclusive snowshoe spider by a skier near the old Juan Mountain mining town of Eureka. And since a representative in Wyoming is trying to adopt the jackalope as Wyoming’s official mythical creature, San Juan County might try to do the same for the snowshoe spider, reports the newspaper.

Thinking inside the big box

EAGLE, Colo. — Eagle’s town leaders are thinking long and hard about the virtues of big-box retailers. The problem is that population growth, which hit nearly 16 per cent last year, is outpacing tax revenues.

Located 30 miles west of Vail, Eagle is something of a typical down-valley town. It had cattle drives on its streets even within the last decade, but today has a new golf course lined with massive neo-Victorian and Prairie Style homes and a few streets of New Urbanist-style homes. Out along the highway there are the fast-food joints. The population is still only 4,500, but at the current pace could hit 9,000 in a half-dozen years.

Right now, everybody seems happy, but town manager Willy Powell can see storm clouds on the horizon. It sounds like that old computer game called SimCity. Traffic at several pinch points, which is merely annoying now during rush-hours, could congeal. New water and sewer plants will be needed soon enough, with a collective price tag of several tens of million dollars.

Meanwhile, the growth in taxes has been like a green ski trail. In Colorado, property owners pay very little in the way of residential property taxes. Only 7 per cent of towns’ revenue comes from property taxes, and much of that is from commercial properties. Sales taxes provide nearly 63 per cent of the towns’ revenues.

Powell notes that small businesses generate relatively little in the way of taxes. People spend most of their money in larger stores. Aside from places like Vail’s Bridge Street and Aspen’s Hyman Avenue, retail sales per square foot are much higher in larger stores like Bed, Bath & Beyond, Gart Sports, Target, and other mid- and big-box retailers than they are in small businesses.

As it so happens, a proposal for a commercial complex that would likely include Target or some other big-box retailer is now before the town board. Town trustees have not said yes, but Mayor Jon Stavney says the town cannot afford to sentimentally look backward.

"Nobody comes to Eagle to buy; and most Eagle citizens shop elsewhere for everything but groceries," he told the Eagle Valley Enterprise. "All that has to change."

National security increased

GRAND COUNTY, Colo. — In response to the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks by Islamic fundamentalists, the federal government continues to dole out grants to local governments. What this means in one resort valley of Colorado is new radios that can better link together.

The Winter Park Manifest reports that Grand County’s share this year, $160,000, which is about the same as the last two years, is being used to purchase radios that use digital technology, as well as training for use of them, to replace radios that use analog technology. The newer technology allows enhanced "interoperability," according to a government report.

One benefit of the federal bucks is that the local emergency personnel, although they had the mechanisms in place before, now have a chance to practice, to see their weaknesses and correct them, said Jim Holahan, whose salary is also the result of the federal funding. In past years, the money was used to better prepare for hazardous materials.

Sliding hazardous to health

BERTHOUD PASS, Colo. — The U.S. Forest Service is clamping down on sledding at the former Berthoud Pass ski area. The agency took the stance after learning that an 8-year-old child had suffered spinal injuries recently. The child had apparently slid across a berm of snow and into the windshield of a parked car. As well, there have been a broken arm and other injuries.

"The injuries were almost a weekly event," Brad Orr, a Forest Service employee, told the Winter Park Manifest. "The speed at which they were coming down the hill, over the berm and into the parking lot, we had no choice but to close it down before somebody got killed."

In a somewhat parallel case, the Forest Service closed down a popular sledding area near Vail, at the former Meadow Mountain ski area, after being sued as the result of a sledding accident.

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