Vaccination

Chuck your calendars and tear the shrink wrap off the new ones because another lap around the sun is complete.

Last year, reporter Max Smith broke down some stats to reveal that, in terms of news coverage, 2020 was the year of COVID. More than 30 percent of Times articles posted to the web in 2020 contained the term.

While November 2021 showed the greatest recorded number of community transmissions of the disease so far, the newsworthiness has diminished and the term only appeared in a smidge over 18 percent of 2021’s articles.

Vaccines rolled out to most of us in early 2021, then Delta took over by June, right around when boosters started became available. And in case you hadn’t heard, the Omicron variant is in the process of surpassing Delta as the dominant strain in the state and country.

But a river runs through it, so the saying goes – or at least a Brad Pitt movie title, which is functionally idiomatic in American English, is it not?

The Arkansas River featured prominently in 2021’s news, beginning with the Colorado Midland & Pacific Railway Company’s announcement that they were entering into a lease agreement for the rails along the river, owned by the Union Pacific half of the U.S.’s transcontinental rail duopoly.

Buena Vista’s board of trustees met with a railroad representative in late January. Members expressed interest in passenger operations and concerns about potential environmental and traffic impacts.

The Arkansas River Outfitter’s Association sent a letter in opposition.

“We signed off with Trout Unlimited and Friends of Browns Canyon,” said Bob Hamel, executive director.

Hamel said that the main concerns are freight and environmentally hazardous material transports. Passenger transport, he said, was not apparently an incentive for the lease agreement. He doesn’t think the demand is sufficient.

The majority of AROA’s members are part of the larger Colorado River Outfitters Association, which made national news this month when it joined Arkansas Valley Adventure in suing the U.S. Department of Labor and President Joe Biden, among others, for an executive order seeking to raise the minimum wage and ensure overtime pay structures for river guides operating on public lands.

The first hearing of the suit in federal court is scheduled for Jan. 6, said Hamel.

In yet more river legal news, Blue Triton (formerly Nestlé) secured continuing rights to Arkansas River water, extracted at Ruby Mountain and further processed in Johnson Village.

As for fun on the river, plenty was had in 2021. CKS Paddlefest returned with a river surfing competition and other events to generally kick off the Ark’s popular high-water fun season.

Rapidgrass provided music at The Lawn on South Main at the event-opening town party during Paddlefest. Member and Coletrain Music Academy founder Coleman Smith hosted weekend open jams at the venue and a number of concerts were held throughout the summer.

Great music was also being performed all summer at some of BV’s other established venues, such as historic Turner Farm, McPhelemy Park, House Rock Kitchen, Deerhammer Distillery, the Buena Vista Event Cooperative stage at the BV Roastery and Surf Hotel’s Ivy Ballroom.

Perhaps the premier musical event of the season was Leftover Salmon’s 3-day run over the Fourth of July weekend at The Lawn, which featured a bevy of supporting acts and closed with the spaced out Deadphish Orchestra.

From 2016 to 2019, The Meadows had been the area’s largest outdoor venue music and events venue. After 2020, the year of all things canceled, owner Jed Selby made a bid to come back strong at the site, which lies just outside of town limits off Crossman Avenue/CR 350.

He planned for the site to host another 7 Peaks Music Festival, Campout for the Cause, and applied for permission to hold 12 large scale annual events at the site.

These plans became mired in controversy and significantly curtailed when property owners protested on grounds of peace and quiet, and the county commissioners on grounds of pandemic-related public health orders.

In the end, event production company Country Nation bowed out, unwilling to produce an event limited to 5,000 attendees. Selby withdrew his 12-event permit application.

Campout for the Cause founder Scotty Stoughton created Renewal, a 2-evening concert event featuring red-hot artist Billy Strings and the only one held in 2021 at The Meadows.

The permitting process for this was not without complications.

“The process to get events approved at The Meadows has been very difficult this year,” said Jed Selby in July, about a month before Renewal. “We do not want to endure this type of process in the future.”

Bonfire Entertainment founder Stoughton’s Renewal event was deemed a success. Virtually no complaints from neighbors were lodged with authorities during the event, and reviews from those inside were resoundingly positive.

Stoughton returned to BV in early December to provide an after-action report and gather community input for moving forward.

“That space is big and it’s gorgeous,” he said.

He hopes to bring another concert to The Meadows for the same weekend in late September 2022.

Renewal this past year coincided with 14erFest and the OHV Color Tour.

14erFest was packed with action, with participants motoring, cycling, hiking and running through the plentiful natural areas around Buena Vista in every direction.

Runners were participating in the West Line Winder 50k, the second of a 3-part ultra-marathon series in the Rockies. The race was won by Leadville native Courtney Dauwalter.

Dauwalter inspired another Leadvillian, Annie Hughes, to enter the Moab 240 after Hughes watched her win the race in 2017. Hughes, a BVHS alum, won both this year’s Leadville 100 and the Moab 240, which she ran with another Leadvillian, Eddie Sandoval.

Sandoval, for his part, won a race in BV this year that was roughly half the distance but included twice the number of species in the competition.

Sandoval won the Curtis Imrie Day burro race again, which took place during another very lively and well attended Gold Rush Days in BV.

The burro race and Gold Rush Days are long running traditions, but not so long running as the Collegiate Peaks Stampede Rodeo, which drew over 1,500 people to the local rodeo grounds for its centennial event in 2021.

And finally, the last news highlight involving outdoor events and local elite athletes was BVHS alum Mason Finley’s trip to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Alas, despite impressive season and personal bests in view of the competition, his throws fell short in the key moments of the ‘20 Games after waiting until ‘21.

Shifting from outdoors to indoors, and the doors themselves, housing was a big story in 2021. From town to county, county to state, state to nation, everybody’s talking about housing.

Real estate prices and home values exploded in Chaffee County this past year, shifting from steady and accelerating to unprecedented growth.

“I’ve been in the real estate business in Buena Vista and Chaffee County for 30 years, and I haven’t seen anything like these past 12 months,” said Century 21 Summit Realty’s Dan Cooper in July. “Very dynamic.”

Meanwhile, the Chaffee Housing Authority released the results of its Housing Challenged survey in the fall which confirmed suspicions of widespread shortages and lack of affordability throughout the county.

“The results of the CHA community survey overwhelmingly point to the stress working families are feeling trying to find affordable or attainable housing in Chaffee County,” said Michal Rosenoer, a BV resident appointed to the CHA board at the end of September.

In a related issue, the town grappled with short-term rental regulations, along with municipal, county and state-level elected bodies.

State level action is still being debated, as a recent draft bill intending to increase property taxes on STR properties failed.

The county tightened up ordinances and capped licenses at 6 percent of housing stock or 310, whichever is less. Chalk Creek area resident Jan Wondra noted, however, that the county’s ordinances in no way address STR density in any given area.

The town of Buena Vista, for its part, capped STR licenses at 6 percent for out-of-county residents, 3 percent for in-county residents licensing a non-primary residence, and did not cap in-county, primary residences.

Trustees and staff made other moves to improve the housing situation in town. Former Chaffee County Community Foundation director Joseph Teipel was appointed as the town’s planning director and quickly set to work seeking solutions.

He and principal planner Mark Doering, with the planning and zoning commission, devised some zoning amendments intended to incentivize more multi-family dwelling developments in town limits.

Additionally, he sought and gained approval from the board of trustees to request proposals for more multi-family dwelling development at Carbonate Street, adjacent to the Collegiate Commons apartments, which are Low Income Housing Tax Credit subsidized.

“We’ve been talking about this for years and to finally do something with it is pretty amazing,” said Trustee David Volpe.

The Collegiate Commons apartments were a signature project of Charles Forster, the former president of Buena Vista’s Collegiate Peaks Bank and a member of the Chaffee County Economic Development Corporation.

Forster, while a Salida resident, was known for his work in BV, where he also helped Sunrise Manor become a reality decades before Collegiate Commons.

“He was always trying to think of ways to make things work for the good of town,” said Joel Benson, current special projects manager and mayor of BV when he worked with Forster.

Forster passed away early in 2021.

Local developer Charlie Chupp, CEO of Fading West Development, was working this year in other ways in the private sector, hoping to mitigate the valley’s deepening housing crisis.

2021 saw Chupp enter phase two of The Farm, his affordable housing village on the south end of town.

Phase one began in 2017 and came to establish 90 units of manufactured homes. With the aforementioned housing price boom, these units began to appreciate at incredible rates.

“Phase one resale prices have skyrocketed,” said Chupp in mid July. “This is great for our owners but doesn’t accomplish our mission of creating long-term, attainable housing.”

In phase two, then, Fading West is looking at deed restrictions at The Farm to help keep prices under control.

Additionally, Fading West’s factory came online in late 2021. The factory is helping BV’s working class two ways, employing almost 100 people and producing cost-efficient housing.

Other honorable mentions in addressing the local housing crisis include Chaffee County Habitat for Humanity and the more recently established Chaffee Housing Trust, who both worked diligently through the year to help lower income residents attain home ownership.

At the other end of cost efficiency, the Buena Vista post office hiked rates significantly at the end of the summer as complaints over service continued to mount.

Local postal officials said dire staffing shortages and were to blame for service issues. Regional and national officials said fee schedule redesignation was responsible for the price increases.

Meanwhile, inquiries revealed that the postal service was unable to locate any documents to substantiate their claims that a 1997 survey exempts town residents from free PO box services.

On the brighter side, the issue was brought to the attention of U.S. Senators Michael Bennett and John Hickenlooper, and has several concerned and dedicated citizens pursuing a resolution.

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