Saturday, October 15, 2011

Exhibit One: Weirdness in Spades at Wolf Creek ~ by Allen Best ~ May 2007

As the saga of Alberta Park enters a new phase I believe it's a good time to review some past articles written in Colorado newspapers regarding Mr. McCombs’ acquisition and development pipedream.

The following is an unauthorized condensation,
actually just selective quoting from Allen Best's May 2007 article: "Weirdness in Spades at Wolf Creek" in the Colorado Central Magazine.
I recommend the entire article here.
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Weirdness in Spades at Wolf Creek
Article by Allen Best
Wolf Creek Development – May 2007 – Colorado Central Magazine
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Paragraph one:

¶ two:
“... In mountainous Colorado, one good rule of thumb is that the highest priced real estate is closest to the ski lifts. Another rule is that the higher the location, the pricier the land.”

¶ three:
Given that logic (10,300 elevation should beat all) {...}
{...} (but in actually) this is just a rotten place for real estate development.”

¶ five:
And in the early 1980s, when ski areas were still riding the demographic bulge of baby boomers in annual double-digit growth, McCombs was persuaded by a fellow Texan to get involved with this itty-bitty ski area. “We’ll do a land exchange with the Forest Service and build condos at the base of the ski area,” ...”

¶ eight:
“...The broader story would seem to be that Kingsbury Pitcher figured a growing business would eventually need base-area lodging, as was found at other destination ski resorts. So, in 1986, the Pitcher family endorsed a land swap: 1,600 acres of inholdings located elsewhere went to the Forest Service, and McCombs got 286 acres of public land next to the ski lifts. Land swaps then were rarely controversial, and neither was this one. Still, the district ranger in Del Norte initially rejected it, but was overruled two weeks later by superiors in Washington D.C. It wasn’t the first time the top brass in Washington have been involved.”

¶ ten:
“Colorado county boundaries often conflict with geographic barriers. Consider the town of Marble. It’s just 45 minutes to Glenwood Springs, the county seat for Garfield County. Yet Marble is in Gunnison County, and thus relies on a courthouse three hours away during snow season, and close to two hours away when the snow has melted. Can there be any sharper rebuke to the watershed thinking of John Wesley Powell?”

¶ eleven:
“YES, THERE IS, and it’s in the San Juan Mountains. Hinsdale County may well be the most ill-advised chunk of governance ever created. Originally designated to accommodate the mineral wealth being exploited around Lake City, it sprawls across the Continental Divide and encompasses the San Juan, Rio Grande and Gunnison river drainages. ...”

¶ twelve:
Blame it on dead white men, says John Wilder, the Mineral County attorney for the last 30 years. “There’s no question that when the county lines were drawn, there were, I guess you’d say, a bunch of morons in the state legislature, because they (county lines) utterly ignore natural features that are huge — like the Continental Divide. It’s absolute madness to have a county split by the Continental Divide.”

¶ fourteen:
“Consider that this potential city of 5,000 or more people is located at 10,300 feet in elevation, about the same as Leadville. But people in Leadville mostly live there full time. The Village at Wolf Creek is planned for mostly time-share residency, presumably of people arriving from low elevations. The closest comparable resort is Breckenridge, which has a base elevation of 9,600 feet. One study showed that 40 percent of visitors arriving at Breckenridge from sea level can expect to have a headache, poor appetite, and not sleep well for several nights.”

¶ fifteen:
“This new city in the sky would also need infrastructure. There is no nearby energy supply. {...} Then there’s all the snow, on average, more than 400 inches of snow annually, {...} modern destination resorts need air access. {...} East West Partners managing principal Harry Frampton, one of the major developers at Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, and Park City, believes the Village at Wolf Creek is doable, but will require “extraordinarily deep pockets.”

¶ sixteen:
RED MCCOMBS has precisely such pockets. He is, according to Forbes, the 258th richest American. And he’s not afraid to donate it to good causes, mostly Republican ones, $524,000 altogether in recent years, according to federal election records. ...”

¶ nineteen:
“... fears that Mineral County could end up holding the legal bag for a project gone bad. For those who do not trust Colorado governments to properly safeguard the high country, there are precedents aplenty, but none so blatant as the mining disaster at Summitville, located just a few miles away from Wolf Creek. Public costs for the toxic cleanup there have reached $200 million.”

¶ twenty:
...“I would say the grassroots is against it, but the public officials have supported it,” says Chris Canaly, of the San Luis Valley Ecosystem Council. ...”


Allen Best traverses the West from his base in Arvada.

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