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News in the foothills in 2020 centered on the COVID-19 pandemic — changes to schools, businesses and the arts, plus the cancellation of many annual events. Yet, many other issues and activities did …
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News in the foothills in 2020 centered on the COVID-19 pandemic — changes to schools, businesses and the arts, plus the cancellation of many annual events. Yet, many other issues and activities did take place to keep area residents involved and engaged in their families and community. The Canyon Courier looks back at 2020.
Elephant Butte fire contained but causes a scare
The Elephant Butte fire burned 50 acres west of Evergreen, causing evacuations and fear for days in mid-July. More than 130 firefighters fought the blaze, plus helicopters and planes dumped about 56,000 gallons of water from Evergreen Lake on the flames.
No one was injured and no buildings were destroyed. Evergreen Fire/Rescue later announced that the fire was human-caused, though officials have not announced any arrests.
The Elephant Butte Fire was a reminder for everyone living in the foothills about being prepared. It’s been several years since the area has experienced evacuations because of wildfires: The Bluebell Fire in 2013 and the Lower North Fork Fire in 2012 were two of the largest.
Protests over the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis
The national unrest over the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police and similar incidents spilled into Evergreen as area residents gathered in downtown Evergreen and in Bergen Park in June.
Holding signs that read, “Pull over. Let’s talk about white privilege,” “Black Lives Matter” and “If you aren’t angry, you are not paying attention,” the protesters were met with honking horns from many cars. But there were the occasional derogatory remarks of “Go home,” thumbs down or middle fingers flashed at them.
The protesters gathered weekly through the summer to make their views about social injustice heard.
Both Conifer and Evergreen saw their share of developers interested in bringing housing to the area, all with pushback from residents.
Jefferson County commissioners denied a plan for 65 townhomes in El Rancho, and a proposal for up to 220 residential units at the Evergreen Tennis Club property was withdrawn after the Planning Commission recommended denial.
A request to add lodging at the Red Barn in Marshdale was denied with commissioners concerned about water usage and other issues, and developers of the proposed Conifer Commons behind the Conifer Safeway have come back with a new proposal for 188 homes after the Planning Commission recommended denial of a 220-unit development.
However, trees are being cut behind Evergreen Safeway to pave the way for the 52-home Pinecrest Village, and Bergen Park residents were cautiously optimistic about initial plans to develop seven acres where the Wild Game and Mercantile are now.
Morrison Police Chief Mumma leaves
Morrison Police Chief George Mumma and the town of Morrison parted ways in August. According to a memo from the town, Mumma left over a disagreement with town officials: enforcement of the noise ordinance and speed limits. Phil Baca was named interim chief.
Mumma, a Littleton resident, was hired as interim chief in October 2017 after former Police Chief Rudy Sandoval retired. The town ultimately offered him the permanent position. Prior to coming to Morrison, Mumma was a senior investigator with the Jefferson County District Attorney’s office.
Mumma hoped to strike a better balance between writing traffic tickets and solving crimes. Ultimately, Morrison opted to cut the police department budget by $300,000, and Mumma formed a three-person traffic unit that could focus on writing tickets while other officers were assigned to working cases.
Plunging into 2020
Evergreen began 2020 with tried-and-true traditions with a twist. The Evergreen Plunge moved to Buchanan Ponds and the New Year’s Eve Skate the Lake turned into a block party on Evergreen Parkway with fireworks to ring in the new year.
Both twists were thanks to the replacement of the bridge into the Evergreen Lake House, which took four months, ending in February. The bridge had been damaged in the September 2013 flood, and Denver Mountain Parks, which owns the lake property, the Evergreen Park & Recreation District and the Evergreen Metropolitan District collaborated to fund the bridge replacement.
Because of the bridge replacement, there were only a few days of skating on the lake in February. Using the Buchanan ponds for the plunge gave Evergreen Park & Recreation District staff the idea to use the ponds for skating, so COVID-19 restricted ice skating is available at both the Buchanan ponds and Evergreen Lake in 2021.
New trails coming to Evergreen Lake
The Evergreen Park & Recreation District received the last piece of its grant funding to build a two-tiered trail on the north side of Evergreen Lake. The EPRD board continues to work with consultants to get plans together with the work expected to begin in late 2021.
Evergreen elects dog mayor
Evergreen elected its first dog mayor — Whitman the Newfoundland — in February, with Chuk the chocolate Lab as the deputy mayor. The election was a fundraiser for the Evergreen Animal Protective League.
The special appearances that Whitman and his chief of staff aka owner Kay D’Evelyn LaMontagne expected to make throughout the year were canceled thanks to the pandemic, but Whitman still kept up a presence in Evergreen until his untimely passing in October. Chuk took over the mayoral duties.
Fire stations in Inter-Canyon’s future
The Inter-Canyon Fire Department has moved forward with plans to upgrade Fire Stations 1 and 3, using funds from a bond approved by voters in 2018.
The department received some conceptual designs in 2020 and hopes to begin construction in 2021. It is trying to figure out how to get public input on the plans when no in-person community meetings are allowed.
The mail isn’t always delivered
Conifer and Evergreen residents’ concerns about mail and package delivery came to a head in March as the U.S. Postal Service conducted a meeting to explain that it was hiring more workers and trying to solve delivery issues. They said more online shopping coupled with several veteran mail carriers retiring caused the issues.
While issues seemed to resolve themselves for a short time, the pandemic plus the November election and the holidays exacerbated the problem.
Spero allowed overnight clients
The Spero Recovery Center was given the go-ahead to have clients stay overnight at the church and a home across the street that it owns on Buffalo Park Road.
Neighbors provided hours of testimony, asking the Planning Commission and the Jeffco commissioners to deny the rezoning because they believe the center would change the neighborhood’s character. While the Planning Commission voted 6-1 to recommend denial, the Jefferson County Board of County Commissioner after seven-plus hours of testimony and a closed meeting with the county attorney, voted 2-1 to approve, saying Spero’s programs were a community use and good for the area.
LID approved for Evergreen
Evergreen now has a local improvement district after Jeffco commissioners voted 2-1 to create it. The district has been in the works for several years, and it faced opposition from some who believed it would add taxes for local residents.
The ELID plans to use proceeds from the Evergreen Legacy Fund, which is a voluntary 1 percent donation on some services and businesses in Evergreen, to make improvements in downtown Evergreen, along Evergreen Parkway and in Bergen Park. ELID organizers are meeting with Jeffco Road & Bridge officials to begin laying out timetables for projects that can be done in the next five years.
Bailey residents want to keep traffic light
A group of Bailey residents called SAFE285 voiced their displeasure at CDOT’s plan to remove the traffic light on U.S. 285 at County Road 43 because they say it will harm the dozens of businesses near the intersection.
SAFE285 suggested a number of potential solutions, including stopping the project until a comprehensive traffic study is completed, installing a smart signal to allow variable timing, restriping the roads to better utilize existing pavement and extending the merge lanes.
Showing resiliencethrough children’s mural
The children’s mural in downtown Evergreen was defaced with graffiti, and the community rallied to clean and repaint it.
They added tiny hearts to the mural in the walkway under Highway 73 to show the community’s love and solidarity. Wilmot Elementary School art teacher Elisabeth Marcus, who organized the creation of the mural by students at Wilmot and the Bergens, stood in the walkway under Highway 73, handing out small paintbrushes to the children. Adults touched up the background of the mural that was defaced with racist and graphic graffiti, which has been removed thanks to the quick work of a half-dozen people.
“This is a symbol that the community has joined together,” Marcus explained as she told the kids to pick a heart that had been drawn in chalk and paint it.
New home for EChO
Evergreen Christian Outreach has found a new home that will allow it to provide all of its services under one roof.
The nonprofit moved its food bank from the buildings next to Church of the Transfiguration to The Place on Meadow Drive in October, and it is moving its other services to the building, too. Officials plan to move the Resale Shop to that location in 2021, and EChO will embark on a capital campaign to purchase the building.
Efforts to rename Mount Evans
Mount Evans’ name has come under more serious scrutiny in the wake of 2020’s national movements for racial equality. Then-territorial Gov. John Evans is believed to have authorized the Sand Creek Massacre, during which dozens of Cheyenne and Arapaho people were killed.
This summer, Gov. Jared Polis reformed the state’s naming advisory board to assess the petitions to rename Mount Evans, along with other Colorado features.
In November, the Oklahoma-based Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes and The Wilderness Group submitted a petition to rename the peak Mount Blue Sky, a name that honors both tribes. The petitioners hope to have a decision by mid-2021.
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