(Other content regarding the recent election and local government news has been moved to the Town Hall page)
June 19, 2018
The municipal election in April wasn't so much an election to bring new people in, as much as it was an election to get rid of those people who were not doing a good enough job.
Last week, junior town trustee Patrick Martchink found his voice and said loudly that not only should the loop happen, but he thinks it should happen faster! He suggested that the schedule to begin construction on the loop be accelerated. He may have missed the point when The People spoke up through by way of their votes, and now there are 3 fresh new trustees. Those newly elected officials might be influenced to support Pat's cause, because they don't know any better- except trustee Cenac, who came into office saying she would support a public vote on the issue. (New) trustee Ken Zornes and Carlie Bangs don't have a strong opinion, so they followed Martchinks lead. Dangerous move you two! Don't forget The People who chose YOU to effect change, because those ex-trustees didn't get it right.
So now is the time to help the new (and old) trustees understand what the people think about The Loop, and just how significant the opposition is to this project, since the former trustees did such a good job ignoring it then set the facts so far aside, and way out of sight (out of mind)- and the project went on without a formal tally of the public sentiment. And THAT caused them to lose their jobs at the hands of the voting public.
"EstesTruth" came about in early 2015 when The Loop reared it's ugly head for the first time, and the negative public sentiment was actually set aside by CDOT and the Town as the government began making plans to spend their surprise grant award for BIG CHANGES in downtown Estes Park. A CORA request revealed hundreds of public comments that were being held for future use by CDOT. Today, after some administrative changes at EstesTruth, the dust has been blown off and the original objective of this opinion and commentary website has been renewed, with a fresh perspective and commitment to 'try and be nicer' while still presenting the facts and inside story about important local issues. Sometimes the truth doesn't seem very nice to the people involved, especially when they are hiding the facts. If you have an opinion to share or would like to contribute an article to be featured on EstesTruth, submit it here.
This is a very vulnerable time for The Loop project, with Town Administrator Frank Lancaster recently acknowledging that he is researching plans for "IF" The Loop project is killed. How much it will cost, and the logistics of The Town wiggling out of it. This is a conversation that should have been had years ago, the day after the 5 1/2 hour public meeting (with police security) when locals and visitors demanded that the project be stopped, or at least voted on. The trustees said "NO THANKS, WE'RE SMARTER THAN YOU" in prepared statements.
Because that vote never happened, the division between The People and The Government is growing, and without an opportunity to either support or stop this Estes-character-killer project, the damage may never be repaired and The Loop will become more of a local symbol of what's wrong with government, rather than a way to get vehicles into the national park faster- which is the original objective of this entire boondoggle.
So begins the "No Loop" campaign, Part II.
Contact the trustees and discuss The Loop:
Mayor Todd Jirsa: email@example.com
Mayor Pro Tem Cody Walker: firstname.lastname@example.org
Trustee Carlie Bangs: email@example.com
Trustee Marie Cenac: firstname.lastname@example.org
Trustee Patrick Martchink: email@example.com
Trustee Ron Norris: firstname.lastname@example.org
Trustee Ken Zornes: email@example.com
The Town gloats faster than a toupee in a hurricane
After the public meeting, the speed with which the Town of Estes Park distributed their glorious proclamation that "The Loop Was a Go!" was remarkable. Truly faster than a toupee in a hurricane- within 24 hours, news articles showed up on radio and TV stations across the front range, as if the article was written before the meeting even began.
Wasn't it? Didn't We the People learn that our opinion really doesn't matter to the Town Leaders? We did learn that, and we learned the hard way that the numbers matter. If you were on the 'winning side' you proclaimed that this was 'government in action' and that the trustees were right to "make the decision". Unfortunately for you winners, that's not really the way democracy works. Democracy is run by the people, and the people are represented by voting, and from the looks of the feedback to the stories popping up all over the media, the visitors are mad about this decision. So, we predict The Loop is not a done deal, and that there are still some major trials to overcome for you winners. Like electing representatives that aren't afraid of what their electors want, like Bob Holcomb, Ward Nelson, Patrick Martchink and Ron Norris- 4 trustees that refused the public the opportunity to have their official voice heard, then LIE about the public sentiment that Bob Holcomb said was 2/3 in FAVOR of the loop project. Back it up with facts, Bob or you may end up being unseated for your boldfaced misrepresentation of the truth. We hope.
Tom H of Estes Park captures the reaction pretty well after he read the Trail Gazettes anonymous propaganda/opinion piece heralding the success of the Town Board to vote to move ahead:
"What the above anonymous author, expresses as "courage and determination" I see as dogma and entitlement. Trustee Holcomb reiterated the exact same argument about a popular vote as a year ago. He "knows more" and won't "abdicate". Trustee Holcomb gives false count of the audience; he tallied last year's "deny the vote meeting" in favor and not, saying most were in favor of loop. I wondered and waited, so, this year I tallied....2/3rd's of public speakers in opposition. Much as I guessed in last year's meeting.
The above author's obvious prejudice towards the loop vote precludes any worthy comment on Trustee Walkers and Mayor Jirsa's promise to the voter. Walker and Jirsa based their position in reason, contact with, and wish for harmony among our people.That I call Wisdom, not in my opinion, the divisive exercise of vainglory exhibited by four of our trustees. My gratitude goes out to their broad, fair perspective. I "salute" and "applaud" their action.I call that "courage"...
Now, having heard rumblings of actually recalling Bob Holcomb, Ward Nelson and Patrick Martchink for their brazen display of defiance to the faces of their electors last week, it does seem to be time to take it to the next step. Does anyone have the energy to organize this effort? We hope.
What just happened? Election is coming.
Listening back to the recording of the 11/29 meeting, Cody Walkers words were so spot-on with what we want in a trustee, we've transcribed them below for you. Listen to Bob, Ward or Patricks words and you will hear their illusory superiority, while Cody is standing up for people, and not claiming to be smarter than the rest of us.
A public vote would have almost magically repaired the community split- as the people had their say, and the losers realized that a vote was the true representation of the people's choice. In contrast to Bob Holcombs unsubstantiated claim of a majority being in favor of this project. Although November 29th's audience was a nearly even split of public sentiment on both sides of the project, the last 2 years of public input have been overwhelmingly against this project. Shameful that the shortsighted trustees denied the
Town Trustee Cody Walker
Tuesday night, Cody Walker prefaced the trustee vote about allowing the people to vote on the Loop with this statement:
"We have been fortunate in the town that no other issue in recent memory has divided us in a way this project has divided us. We need to bridge the gap between our citizens and their local government and also between citizen and citizen in order to bring a spirit , a Mountain Strong Spirit, of marching forward in common unity. Marching forward was a community. There is a general feeling of disconnect in Estes Park between the town government and our citizens. There is currently a strong division among our board for the best route forward. This project is different than other projects we face, no matter what side you sit, we all agree this project is monumental . It involves using eminent domain to take people's property, and it has divided us. It's time for this board to send the message, through its actions, that this board doesn't govern against the will of its constituents. It's time to truly be able to sit in these seats, we claim represent our community, and be able to say we are all in this together. This is the will of the people. Some on this board say that asking for a public vote is akin to abdicating the responsibility that comes with this seat, but when a project is this different, there comes a time for compromise and the need for unity. Unity between our citizens, unity between our citizens and their local government and last but not least, unity on the town board. I vow that should the public get a chance to speak at the ballot box I will completely support what they have to say, be it continue or discontinue the loop project."
Cody is the kind of trustee that we would vote for to replace Bob Holcomb and Ward Nelson. The election is coming.
November 30, 2016
The Loop takes another step forwardLast night the trustees cast their votes on three issues:
1. De Minimis impact from project: Accepted report
2. Let the people vote on the Loop: No (4:3)
3. Proceed with the Loop project: Yes (4:3)
...but it wasn't that easy. In front of a much smaller crowd than previous public meetings, the meeting started off with yet another sales job from the state and federal representatives who at times warned the Town about 'risks' if they voted against the project, including $1.5 million of expenses that would become due immediately, and the threat of not getting funding for federal projects in the future. Their words did not go unheeded, as several trustees and even some pro-loop public speakers quoted those risks when justifying their decision to continue with the project. Sadly (but expected), past public input seemed to be unimportant as the Loop salesmen and Trustees made their case to move ahead.
In a an odd public show of their relationship, Bill Pinkham paused as he approached the podium in the front row of the audience as we all waited on pins and needles for his citizen comments- to shake the hand of Johnny Olson (CDOT's head salesman & Region 4 Transportation Director). Bill then spends half of his podium time with acknowledgments and thanks to those involved in the project- as if he'd just been awarded the Oscar for best horror film. Ironically he may end up being named Executive Producer for Estes Park's horror story: The Loop.
Co-Producer of the horror show goes to Bob Holcomb, who dramatically prefaced his motion to move forward with The Loop, with the statement that there was 'more public input in support of the loop than was opposed to it'. Bob is either lying to our faces, or has disconnected himself completely from reality. Bob Holcomb epitomizes the problem with government and is unsuitable for the position. He again made a statement that is merely his opinion, unsupported by facts as if it were the gospel truth, and went on to make a decision on the fate of our community citing this data as his reason. WTF, Bob?! Prove us wrong, please Bob- show the data that backs up your claim to say that the majority of the people support the Loop.
An important detail was revealed to the public by W Nelson last night, when he asked if the date of construction could be moved up to the original date- and to his delight the government planners replied that the Town could ask for that modification.
Kirby Hazelton spoke in favor of the project, and made one accurate observation during her comments about current public involvement. She said public comment had dwindled because of the fatigue with The Loop. She hit it on the head! The government has prevailed, the people are tired, they believe that their comments don't matter so they have stopped contributing them- and lo and behold they were right all along. The decisions were made before last nights meeting began.
Mayor Todd Jirsa presented an interesting document, that listed the citizens of Estes Park at the top of the Town's organizational chart, which then descended to the Town Trustees, then down further to the Town Administrator and the rest of the folks in local government. He didn't have to say it, but his point was clear- the flow chart ain't working.
Trustees read for the most part from prepared statements as they made closing remarks, and took action to move this project forward. Pro-loop speakers made remarks that appeared in other pro-loop speakers remarks- this process remained a mess until the very end and unfortunately the progress machine has been given a new tank of gas to continue steamrolling the charm right out of Estes Park.
November 28, 2016
Tomorrow night the trustees will sit in front of their electors, again, to 'listen' to the public about the contentious issue of The Loop, the FLAP grant. The most divisive issue in Estes Park, ever, is projected to be decided at this meeting.
At 6pm the third major public hearing regarding the Loop will get underway with a new mayor and trustees in place, some of whom campaigned on the platform of representing the people of the community and taking the Loop project to task.
Public Hearing at the
Estes Park Fairgrounds Event Center: 6pm Nov 29th
The same charm that competing communities can't steal because they have all upgraded so much that their towns have become ANYtown America, with the same architecture and streetscapes, the same colors and themes as the next community. Many communities in Colorado have abandoned their identities to modernize, often with government grant money. Same look among many of those towns, and why our visitors are SO loyal to their family histories, traditions and memories in this well kept Rocky Mountain jewel called Estes Park.
The Loop stands to change all of that, with it's answer to a problem that has been proven not to even exist - the national park can't handle the traffic we are already delivering.
Here's the number problem: Mayor Todd Jirsa and Trustee Cody Walker are just two voices on a board of seven.
Wendy Koenig has the most experience among the rest, but has waffled in favor and against The Loop. She has heard repeatedly from every age group that The Loop is unwanted, but obviously also has the loud voice of Greg White the Attorney and Frank Lancaster the Town Administrator blaring in her ear. She is a reasonable woman though, and we hope she hears the people more clearly than the salesmen.
Patrick Martchink was recently elected and has no experience in public service. He's a family guy that works for a living, and despite his staunch position of not calling for a public vote on the Loop, offers us hope that he will represent the majority of his electors. Although the voice of the Town's Publicity Office (aka Trail Gazette) demands that our public servants make a decision int he best interest of the community for the long term future- we think that Patrick will see through their smokescreen and listen to the common man & woman- those folks he will have to look in the eye for the rest of his time in Estes Park if he messes this one up. Government will change, but the people will remain the same.
Ward Nelson doesn't seem to be interested in the Loop very much, although he is very fond of a downtown plan cooking in his mind that involves some big changes for our little downtown.... Problem there is that if the Loop goes in, all bets are off for Ward's downtown plan, as the winds shift and the downtown planning committee changes to damage control committee, instead of a bona fide planning group. Ward has a lot on the table personally if the Loop moves forward, he just doesn't appear to be paying attention to that risk yet. A no vote for Ward preserves his ability to have a say in the plan. A yes vote gives his opinion away. We hope he votes against it and then participates in the planning- he has a few good ideas we'd like to hear more about.
Bob Holcomb is in favor of the Loop, for a dozen reasons that seem to have been spoken directly by his puppet master Flancaster. We hope that Bob is well rested before the meeting.
Ron Norris is an engineer. He's a numbers guy. He held out for the EA to gather better information about making this tough decision, but unfortunately the EA failed to deliver much that wasn't already obvious. Called a sales pitch by many, that EA made a glossy presentation about why the Loop was so good for Estes Park and challenged the notion that there would be a minimal impact. Ha! Knowing that Ron is not interested in emotional decisions (or confrontational conversation in our experience) he should make a decision based on facts. He dropped the ball big time with representing the community at past meetings, but we HOPE that he will use all of the info and vote responsibly against this project that has been the most flawed, error stricken, embarrassing process... especially now that its been revealed there ARE other solutions. Ron could be the hero in all of this and make a wise decision. We hope so.
Worst case scenario- we must elect new representatives that will have the balls to say no to Frank, Greg and all of the wise government employees ramming this project forward. There will be 2 more elections before a shovel of dirt is turned- it's just the issue of how much this big fat debacle will cost US the taxpayers. After Tuesday we'll know who to blame for that expense, or, who to thank for standing up for the community.
TRUSTEES: PLAN first, then take ACTION. Please. Vote against The Loop.
Attend the meeting Tuesday night and share your opinion. Invite a friend or two.
November 9, 2016
You Think We're Bluffing?
Seize this Opportunity to Exit, Trustees.
Here’s a suggestion for future do-gooders: If the results of meaningless surveys cause anguish and necessitate drastic unnecessary “fixes”, stop conducting the meaningless surveys. Consumers given a chance to complain about the smoothness of peanut butter will invariably complain, especially if samples are not being distributed free of charge. “Would you rather pay $79 for a hotel room or $7 for a hotel room?” is not a legitimate business question. It is an invitation to allow the inmates to run the asylum. Similarly, placing an open check box next to “Would you enjoy having a national park and its approaches all to yourself?” is solipsism, not justification for altering the very fabric of a community and extracting dwellings that don’t meet the standards of your refined taste.
If cumulative downtown “congestion” four hours a day three months of the year were truly a problem, our visitors, as we have been repeatedly warned, would go elsewhere. But the false handwringing about losing ground to other Colorado tourist destinations while headlines trumpet year after banner year of increased visitor counts and sales tax revenue is the very definition of hypocrisy, of speaking out of both sides of the same pie hole. How greedy do we as a destination need to be?
Subjective “congestion” (compared with the real gridlock of, say, Friday afternoon on the San Francisco Bay Bridge) is not an Estes Park problem, but rather an indicator of economic well-being. If it were otherwise, tourists would stop coming, and their warnings on social media would discourage replacement visits by the uninitiated. No sane person hits their thumb repeatedly with a hammer for the sheer joy of it.
Instead of hectoring, Charles Dickey IV and Steve Komito could use their obvious talents to seek out real problems to fix, not invent ways of dividing their community in order to conquer/justify their beliefs. Countries all over the globe lack clean water and food free from parasites. These are legitimate, life-threatening problems, so why do certain individuals feel compelled to waste everyone’s time constantly educating innocent bystanders on how stupid and backwards they are to stand in the way of accepting federal bribes to smash things? If someone wanted to pay you $10,000 to put an open pit toilet in your living room, would you do it? That’s the type of question our local liberal advocacy group known as the League of Women Voters should be asking at each election cycle. “How much money is enough to gain your allegiance on any issue, even one that would sicken you outside of office, to buy you off and get you to look the other way? $10,000? $100,000?”
Simply put, this is no longer about the Loop. It has devolved into a set piece on the dangers of giving indulged children everything they want. All the Shakespearean posturing and jigsaw puzzle analogies (complete with graphics, no less, the better to demonstrate how this is all fait accompli, just add the words “exterminate the unwanted” and “master race” to see how ancient and overpowering the argument is) amount to so much bullying. You may truly believe you are saying “This medicine is for your own good” but here is what we hear: “We are backed into a corner and must win, and you, the voter, the common man, the proletariat, the unwashed, the uneducated, you who elected us or appointed us or allowed us to build our soap boxes and create our silly committees and busybody 501c3s and take turns heading them, you who financially support our endeavors and pay our salaries and tolerate our relentless propaganda because ultimately you thought we were decent individuals at heart, and could be trusted to carry out the collective will or at least find a less destructive hobby, you must yield to our desire to prevail.”
And here are the sorry-ass optics, for those whose hearing is suspect: A small group of self-appointed decision makers (recent arrivals, in some cases “already come and goners”), encouraged by hangers-on wishing to gain admittance to their select and powerful fraternity, is attempting to ram something down the community’s throat, not out of concern for its livelihood or well-being, but to pad their own reputations and resumes. If this was simply about rerouting traffic, they would have given up long ago in the face of relentless, unremitting opposition. This is about control, about asserting authority over those deemed unimportant or inconsequential simply because it can be gotten away with. This is about piggish justifications to keep money dropped in one’s lap, kind of a reverse lap dance where a “problem”, real or imagined, is invented to extract maximum financial pleasure from taxpayers. It used to be that you didn’t mess with someone else’s livelihood unless you had legitimate justification, a clear and unavoidable option of harming a few for the greater good of many. The Loop is now just about knocking down someone else’s sand castle because, well, just because, and what they hell are you going to do about it, girly man?
Again, if members of the town board find this characterization unfair, or think the “Pro Loop” side represents the true majority, educate the electorate on the error of their ways by granting them their God-given right to vote, instead of hiding behind talking points crafted by others, spouting empty nonsense distributed pre-hearing by anointed benevolent dictators/historians laureate about being “elected to make the tough decisions”. We’re not talking about the civil rights movement here, or the suppression of labor unions, outrages with clear moral justification for swimming upstream. We’re talking about a cosmetic change for the sake of cosmetic change, ripping up our streets and smashing things in order to pass “Go” and collect another $200.
As evidenced by the April 2016 town board elections and the just-completed presidential campaign, folks in power ignore the will of the electorate at their peril. If members of the town board are too dense or too insolent to acknowledge an obvious trend, and read from prepared statements written long before citizens are trotted up to speak, I fear the public will be only too happy to reacquaint them with ground-level reality at the earliest opportunity.
That is not a threat. It is simply an observation about misguided attempts to thwart human rights, about how justice delayed ultimately prevails: People denied their right to be heard (or grudgingly accorded the opportunity to have their voices tolerated in patronizing ways) eventually find methods of speaking out anyhow. This can occur through, but is not limited to, passive resistance, organized marches, whisper campaigns, business boycotts, newspaper subscription cancellations, recall elections, angry exchanges, withering criticism from across the room at parties, pretending not to see you at the grocery store, or rectification at the next scheduled trip to the ballot box. If you think the “No Loop” side is bluffing, and their opposition can be outlasted, just continue doing what you are doing, dismissing their immediate and confident re-raises on the turn and the river. That would be the easiest way (and the riskiest, but hey, it’s not your money) to play out your potentially awful hand, and earn a really fitting epithet for your tombstone.
Park Service just now working on a plan for high visitation
In a recent email that has circulated around the Park Service and even our own Estes Park Town Hall, National Park employees are acknowledged for doing an awesome job handling the crush of visitors to the park, and encouraged to continue their diligent work, managing the onslaught of visitors that love Rocky Mountain National Park. That email also details the upcoming study of use, overuse and the plan that must be MADE to stabilize the impact on the National Park in our backyard.
Superintendent Darla Sidles has done an admirable job in parks she has been involved in, including increasing visitation, managing access and solving problems. We're confident she will be effective managing the People's love for Rocky, too.
We're pleased to see the park is moving ahead to make a 'big plan' to manage growth. That makes them different than the Town of Estes Park, who is implementing their own, independent construction solution, without a 'big plan' or collaboration from the park service. The Loop, having been called the "cart ahead of the horse" by Town Administrator Frank L:ancaster, continues to move forward amid concerns that there is no big plan for growth, parking, etc etc etc. And not to overlook that little issue of The Loop forcing changes on the community that will be irreversible.
Did anyone notice that the road system in Estes Park is already delivering more vehicles to the park that they can handle? The Loop objective has been exposed again. We, Estes Park, have no Big Plan, our leaders are grabbing money without vision for the future.
We wish the Park service the best in their study to manage growth. They acknowledge that just adding shuttles will not solve the problem, but a "parkwide, holistic visitor approach strategy" will be necessary to make bigger changes. They forecast that The Town of Estes Park will need to work with the them to address transportation issues. Make a plan.
Darla Sidles was recently named superintendent of Rocky Mountain National Park. Sidles rose from within the park service to the top spot in the #3 park, having worked as trail crew and dispatcher among many other positions in parks around the country.
Sept 13, 2016
Embarrassing Pro Looper in action, and the intelligent reaction
Mike Romero is an editor over at one of the local newspapers, which seems most days to be on the Town of Estes Park payroll the way they beat the drum in support of anything that comes off of Kate (Town PIO) or Frank's (Town Administrator) desk. On August 28th, Romero published this article as part of a series that advocates in favor of The Loop. The 'facts' are standard Town issue facts, contained in previous press releases and debated ad nauseum, in some cases this is old information and a case of 'true until challenged'.
Take a few minutes to read this article, then read the commentary that intelligently challenges Romero and the Loop in general. The intelligents are joining the NO LOOP cause, and the GOVERNMENT GROUPIES are sticking with Frank and his merry men (& women) that make up the PRO LOOP contingent. Most the folks in favor of the loop are in government, real estate, or are related to the project in some fashion. That being said, the Estes Park Realtor organization have formally come out TWICE against The Loop project, and there are only a few folks that stand to benefit in real estate if the Loop moves forward- our comments are not a slam on all real estate folks.
Here's his article:
"Life teaches us that it is much easier to do nothing than to step out of our comfort zone and do something daring, to do something meaningful. Procrastination and willful inaction is a mindset that freezes us up at key times in our lives — it holds us back from being truly great, or bold, or innovative. That's unfortunate. Because, history (both in personal and public life) has proven over and over that "stepping out there" and taking a chance more times than not proves to be not only the right move but, often, a definitive, life-altering one that changes the future. We've all been faced with such challenges through the years and with few exceptions we always find some excuse to not do the right thing. Here in Estes Park, we've done it so often that we've now become known in state and region as "the town that can't help itself" or "the town that gets in its own way." We're better than that. We deserve better than that. But, we won't be able to change our notoriety until we take that first big step. That step could be making the right decision on the proposed $17.2 million Downtown Loop project. The options that our town faces? There are several that all of us should carefully consider. But basically it comes down to this: Either we move forward with the $17.2 million project — funded entirely by grants. Or, we turn the money down and do nothing. Nada. Life, as we know it, stays the same. Actually, that's not quite right. If the town chooses to do nothing, the National Environment Policy Act study tells us our traffic conditions will continue to get worse downtown and throughout our community. Traffic congestion inevitably and perceptibly impacts quality of life. And our quality of life will continue to erode . Our ability to attract tourists and entice them to visit (and shop) again will most certainly dwindle. It already is. Just a few, short years ago Estes Park was rated by state officials as the top destination resort in Colorado. It isn't anymore and recent articles suggest that other local ski towns are now becoming year-round destinations rather than ski towns as they once were. Where are the tourists visiting those towns coming from? Are they possibly from those who have chosen not to return to Estes? It's hard to say exactly, but very possible. While Estes Park has done very little to retain its tourists, other mountain resorts have worked hard at drawing our crowds away. State officials tell us that we've dropped from first to fifth. How were other communities able to do this? They simply have found ways to offer a more pleasant experience for tourists and are doing so all year. While we are trying to find a way to make our economy a year-round one to stay competitive, we are doing little to fix our streets and bridges, and address our dreadful traffic issues. Band-aids in the form of temporary fixes no longer work. This year, through June, thanks to increased signage, park-bound traffic on Fall River Road is up 14.1 percent; but Elkhorn-Moraine traffic heading to the Beaver Meadows entrance is up by 11.5 percent — by nearly 68,000 people. Combined, this is an increase of more than 110,000 visitors entering RMNP from the east side. And that's only through the month of June. Let's face it: tourists want to visit Rocky Mountain National Park. But, you will be hard pressed to find many of the more than 4 million who visit the park that are excited about fighting the snarling traffic as they wind their way through our community. It's little wonder that we have to market like crazy to get tourists — other than our Front Range faithful — to come back. We could go on and on about why the Downtown Loop is important. But, let's consider for a moment what happens if we turn down the grants and do nothing. Town officials close to the project say if we turn down the FLAP grant ($13 million), that it's highly unlikely we will have a chance at a FLAP grant again. In fact, it will be difficult to get any federal grant. The feds simply don't like to go through a lengthy process of awarding grants and then have a community turn it down. That's not a hard concept to understand. We're also told that we might be stuck with having to pay for the environmental assessment done on our behalf if we turn down the grant. Great.Nothing like throwing away a couple million dollars. If we turn down the money and do nothing: • Traffic continues to get worse. • Potential for serious accidents increase. • Quality of life for residents gets worse. • Our flood plain issues grow. And, the list goes on and on. We simply cannot do nothing. Maintaining the "status quo" means you are falling behind a world that is constantly changing, growing with the new generations. We must take that bold move and address our problems. The Downtown Loop certainly won't solve all of them but it can be the catalyst. Yes approving the project will have its challenges, where will work equipment be kept? How will we mitigate the potential loss of business along the route during construction? Maybe we should focus our energies on these rather than fighting something that is needed. Estes Park, we need to be known as "the town that helped itself."
------There are SO many places we want to rip off Romero's blinders and point at his complete lack of a real local view. Here are a few of the comments that followed his article:
BT: As a journalist I would think that you would look to answer these questions:
Why is a project that is federally funded to increase access to federal lands not really increasing access? Why is it that the federal land that this project is supposed to help, have no opinion on it?
Why is the town government ignoring the mass opposition? Don't forget that the PDC recognized this opposition and denied additional funds because of it! Why is the PDC allow this project when they know there is so much opposition? Why not bring in the proper stake holders and re-scope the project to make it viable? And just to note, executing a poorly planed project doesn't demonstrate competency.
JM: Why don't the people who oppose this grant money - come up with a solution or an alternate plan ? Doing nothing and sticking to the status quo is not an answer. The rock bottom truth is -SOMETHING has to be done to repair the damage from the 2013 flood AND address the flow of traffic thru town. So let's hear your solution- all ye Nay Sayers.
BT: Before I spent 17 million dollars on a project that will drastically change the downtown I would have done the downtown master plan first, not second. Alternatives to the LOOP:
Proper signage; the big temporary CDOT signs have made a difference. How much better would it be if permanent signage was used in conjunction with lane markings. In big metro areas on interstates it is not uncommon to have a giant arrow with "to I-70" under it. So I would have the lanes on HWY 36 just before the 34/36 intersection pained with arrows pointing in the correct direction with "to RMNP" and the Lanes to Downton painted "to downtown". This would help to get people to use north park entrance.
Next I would work with RMNP to find a solution to both organizations issues. There is no parking space left at RMNP after 8:30am. So a parking garage with a shuttle to RMNP SPONSORED by RMNP would be better than the LOOP.
I would also build a parking garage behind the municipal building for people who want to go down town. This would keep many visitors from trolling downtown looking for a parking spot. It would also provide covered parking for municipal vehicles. I am sure this could be done for 17 million dollars. Remember this project was not intended to address issues with the flood plain and even if completed will NOT address flood plain issues.
There you go, ideas better than the LOOP!
JM: So now all that is needed for your plan is to find the money and the people to implement this plan and 3 years since the flood have already been lost. The money seems to be a big hurdle for a small community. I feel much time and effort has been expended on the plan for the loop and I feel it is a workable solution. No solution will suit all people - and Estes Park will have to change - because that is what is happening in all towns/cities as the population of this state grows. Estes Park is certainly not the same town that my parents moved to 40 years ago - in fact it is very different.
Trail Gazette: It should also be noted that we openly asked for this many years ago, we applied for the grant and received it with open arms. Now we can't make up our minds, not a good way to plan for the future and hope to get support from such programs going forward. It would also be a shame if we had to pay back the money spent on the study when we are not even financially able to correct our post flood issues, I.E bridges etc.
BT: So you are advocating to throw good money after bad? The town wasn't insured to cover the cost to fix infrastructure in the event of a disaster?
The LOOP, by your own admission won't address all the bridges. What I am advocating for is a re-scoping of the project. The FLAP PCD are aware of the opposition, the town is aware of the opposition. It is governments responsibility to listen to its citizens. Both entities, Estes Park and the FLAP PCD are ignoring the people!
JM: BT - I believe the "insurance" that towns,cities,and states rely on is called "the Federal Government" - sometimes FEMA. These entities have rules and regulations concerning funding projects - to ensure that disaster prone areas (such as flood plains along rivers and streams ) are not rebuilt. The trend is for flood insurance to go up encouraging people to build in lower risk areas. Unfortunately the main business area in Estes is built right on the banks of the Big Thompson River. Other than rebuilding with an effort to mitigate future damage - Estes should "ideally" relocate its downtown. There are some towns that have moved entirely to higher ground. I'm not saying all this to provoke you - but to say this is a very complicated issue - and that the current design of Estes is not built to handle the high volume of traffic generated by tourists.
ME: Spending grant money just because it's available is silly. The author seems more concerned about losing the money than solving problems.
-- THE END
August 7, 2016
The Loop: Shortsighted and ignores what makes Estes special
As a former resident of, and frequent visitor to, Estes Park, I am desperately hoping the citizens of this extraordinary community will take time to carefully consider and respond to the Loop proposal and the recently released EA.
I support "No Action" on the Loop because I believe the best future both for Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park involves strategically reducing, rather than attracting and accommodating, automobile traffic downtown. Unlike Atlanta or Dallas, neither Estes Park nor Rocky Mountain National Park can or should continue adding and widening highways indefinitely as its traffic flow continues to increase. Even a project as well-planned and forward-thinking as the Loop is, in my view, a temporary and ultimately shortsighted solution which ignores not only what makes Estes Park a special place to be, but also the geographical and other limitations that come with that.
I support "No Action" not in the literal sense of the words, but in the context of strategically engineering a future in which Estes Park will promote, support, and encourage having visitors and locals park in the planned future parking structure across from the Visitor's Center, and walking, biking, or using public transportation from there when the automobile traffic is so heavy as to be a deterrent to visitors (one of the main concerns I know the Loop proposal addresses).
While many will, of course, continue to drive, visitors could have a strong incentive to take advantage of an affordable, convenient, and efficient parking and public transport system which promotes and preserves downtown Estes Park as a unique destination, respecting its geographical character and limitations as a valley, and embracing its unique history and "flavor" as a small, "walkable" town. "No Action", with an emphasis on the new parking structure, and the ongoing and increasing support and promotion of the shuttle system, will also encourage visitors to reach Rocky Mountain National Park safely and conveniently, while minimizing the inevitable growth of automobile traffic to protect both the natural resources and the unique visitor experience of the Park as much as we can. As a visitor myself, I have no problem accepting that if I choose to drive downtown, rather than using the wonderful free shuttle service, walking, or biking, I am choosing to sit in traffic at times. I would actively support the town's decision to "discourage" me from driving downtown, and if I choose to drive to or through Estes Park, I can accept that I will be in traffic, as I would be at any tourist destination across the country. I would be more, not less, likely to return to Estes Park in response to its commitment to emphasize public transportation and the character of the town over more efficient traffic flow.
The Loop, in contrast, would actively encourage visitors to drive through Estes to the Park, while reducing the parking available to them and pushing the traffic "bottleneck" further west of town, where congestion is already often at its worst. Furthermore, it is worth noting that there are very real limits to the traffic RMNP can or will accommodate, and thus very real limits to the value of channeling traffic into the Park with greater speed and in greater volume.
I believe that the Loop is a temporary approach to Estes Park's growing traffic problem. It seeks to accommodate visitor traffic without adequately addressing the parking that goes with it, and without, in my personal view, adequately protecting downtown Estes Park as the unique destination, with unique history, that visitors are coming to see in the first place. In contrast, a truly long term outlook would, I believe, suggest that a town inevitably constrained by the small mountain valley in which it is situated, and made uniquely appealing to visitors by its small-town character and its history, should plan for a future in which driving is possible, but parking east of town and switching to public transportation is the easier, more attractive, more fully supported and encouraged option—the one that is made most convenient, affordable, efficient, and attractive to visitors during times of peak congestion.
Seen in this way, the term "No Action" can also represent a proactive and prescient commitment to a carefully chosen future for this unique location. Estes Park is a special place to be not only because of its beauty and history, but because of its active, connected, and involved community. Whatever residents decide, I hope they will make their voices heard on this important topic.
-- Shandi Stevenson, SC
EstesTruth Note: The public comment period for the EA ended 8/5, but comments are still being forwarded by this site to 26 points of contact when you submit them on our CONTACT page, or email our 'representatives' directly with the links here.
Leadership: Ask yourself in good faith if the Loop is right
After reading that the meeting on July 20 with the Central Federal Lands Highway Division was poorly attended, it was easily understood due to two factors:
#1 the timing was not a good time for business persons to get there for it: and
#2 was the memory of the open air meeting in 2015 held by the Mayor and the town council and attended by approx 350 interested business owners and other citizens. The town council said they would listen to all comments, etc. Well, some council members listened so well they fell asleep and their glasses fell on the floor and woke them up.
Most people have not forgotten that show of interested listening given by a person who in good faith, should have been supporting those persons who he represented in his position on the council. Out of a person employed the city of Estes Park came this grant to help tourists get to the National Park South Entrance faster by providing a bypass which involved the loop. Was this the purpose of the person writing the grant, to destroy landmarks, homes, businesses, 100 year trees and a park that is a refuge to some wildlife, etc.,etc. in construction of the Loop?? Or was he coached by others to do this to get some MONEY that looked so good to some council members. And following the knowledge of receiving the grant, the person who wrote it was let go by the city. Doesn't this raise another big red flag???
Never was the project made transparent for all to know what was going to be destroyed in order to get someone to the South national park entrance a minute faster, nor why we needed another bypass since we already have the North one. Many businesses would be bypassed if this Loop comes to fruition, causing them to lose money and perhaps then making them close their doors. Is this what we want for our Estes Park????? And now, the National Park is making it known that they may have to work on admittance of less people in the future to avoid severe crowding.
So isn't our Loop really redundant to hurry people through the city only to be waiting in long lines at the admittance booths due to over crowding???? Isn't there some civil and visionary way to get the bridges we need changing revamped, the roads repaired, and traffic routed appropriately through downtown for the few months that would be needed? And then, how about parking (for a few summer months)??? That seems the biggest problem of all. Do we really need a Loop??
Leadership ask yourself in good faith: It would seem that we need city planners with common sense in their vision to carry on the support needed for our businesses, tourists (just a few months if the year), the residents and who will also make all things visible and transparent so that the citizens can be united in keeping Estes Park a wonderful gateway to the National Park and bring back the faith in the people who make up Estes Park's leadership so that we can be a TEAM for maintaining the city we love, Estes Park .
Confused by the 'Loop Logic'
I appreciate the well-intended efforts. Still, here are a few reasons I am confused by the Loop logic I have read and heard in town presentations:
1. Unless I'm mistaken:
- The FLAP funds we have been awarded can only be used to create better/faster access to RMNP.
- The Loop is the only option that we are allowed to use the FLAP funds for.
a) Even now—as slowly as traffic moves through town—there is significant congestion at the entrance to RMNP.
b) Once you've paid to get in, you are often turned back at Moraine Park. RMNP is often at-capacity in many other areas, also.
I'm not understanding: why does RMNP needs more people getting to RMNP faster? And how does the above add up to sound logic?
2. Also, according to the town studies presented, any gains towards alleviating congestion in town—what everyone says is the real, but not FLAP-fundable, problem—will be modest; a projected 17-second improvement according to at least one presentation.
3. Also, again according to town studies and projections, any modest gains the Loop may make appear to be short-lived; the traffic "grades" the town studies say we're projected to receive in 2040 include a D and an E, not a gigantic leap forward from the F we now have. (I know my parents wouldn't think so if I brought home a report card like that—especially if they had spent a lot of money to improve it.)
4. Also, to the west of town, not only does RMNP not appear to need more congestion faster, to our east, the project traffic engineer explained the intersection of 34 & 36 will very likely become even more congested if the Loop is implemented. (We have all experienced the back-ups that can snake up Pole Hill and/or past the Catholic church on 34 even now.)
5. As a life-time visitor and long-time resident of Estes, I have seen improvement, modest though it is, with just the improved and additional signage, the return of the simultaneous pedestrian crossing, etc. And done at a modest cost, too.
The fact is, there ARE alternatives to reducing traffic congestion downtown, we just can't use the FLAP funds to implement them. (i.e., improved signage, improved parking, perhaps some of the earlier alternatives that we're suggested by citizens and committee members that WEREN'T FLAP-fundable and more.)
We seem to be letting our source of funding dictate our solution to what appears to be the wrong problem (faster/better access to RMNP), as we try to solve our true problem—in-town congestion—regardless of whether it's the best/wisest solution (or even a workable solution). We are choosing to let our ability to explore solutions be amputated by our dependency on FLAP funding,
And, on top of those concerns, we're now learning that the FLAP funding only covers Phase 1 of the project; not as originally proposed, and we have no idea how much the other phase(s) will cost OR where that money will come from.
6. If the town has enough faith in getting non-FLAP funding for subsequent phases that they are considering proceeding with Phase 1, wouldn't those same funding sources potentially be available for Phase 1, too, opening up our options for how we solve the congestion (and other floodplain, bridge, etc. issues) we are facing?
7. And, also very importantly, what is the town's plan if we proceed with Phase 1 and then cannot find sufficient funding to complete the project?
I've yet to see how the Loop will do much to improve our congestion; it appears it will merely "rearrange" it to our east and to our west—at great cost to our town's budget and character, and with real loss for some of our neighbors.
Congestion, flood plains, bridges all need to be addressed as part of maintaining this area we all love, and I respect that funding to do so is hard to come by, but it appears that we're trying to cram too many issues into a single solution and that may be leading us down a path of rationalized and compromised thinking.
I have yet to see how the logic, or the funds, are there to support moving forward with the Loop.
Thankfully, we haven't gone too far to stop.
-- JM, Estes Park
PS - Lastly, how does it work towards the stated goal of creating better/faster access to RMNP, that, even though we were to spend all of that money, destroy seven properties, lose parking spaces, diminish playground space, etc., we still would allow a horse-drawn carriage downtown to "set the pace" of traffic in the middle of summer?
August 5, 2016
Board of Realtors says NO LOOP, again
This is a group of local professionals who meet every new person that moves to Estes Park, know everyone that has already moved to Estes Park, remember every person that has left Estes Park, and socialize with everyone that lives in Estes Park- this group is well connected to say the least; it's fair to say they have a pretty good 'feel' for local sentiment about community issues.
When the Board of Realtors submitted a letter opposing The Loop back in June 2015, they predicted why the EA (environmental assessment) would come back not in favor of The Loop- but they didn't word it that way. They just offered some key concerns.
Lo and behold, the EA is back, and the issues the Realtors cited in 2015 are exactly the issues that surface (among dozens of others) which demonstrate that this project will have a significant adverse impact on the Estes Park community.
Our favorite line: "It is difficult for the EPBOR to comprehend that the authors of the EA find there is no significant impact upon the community by recommending the continuation of the loop project."
Well said, Realtors.
August 4, 2016
Everyone sees the writing on the wall, except CFL, CDOT and TOEP
Here's another article that just was published that basically shoots down the reason for the loop as it is designed to bring more visitors into RMNP. Based on projections for this year and the forthcoming years, RMNP won't be able to handle more visitors without a shuttle system similar to Zion National Park (our vision based on the article). If a true shuttle system is necessary, then there will never be an issue of traffic in Estes Park as all the cars driving into RMNP will be replaced with a shuttle system with additional parking around Estes. The writing is on the wall as RMNP almost can't accommodate the traffic now. RMNP has a big problem now and it is not a problem of getting more people into the park faster. It's a problem of how to accommodate the visitors that we have now and how to accommodate the visitors that we project to have. That's why they didn't put their signed name on the final application for the loop. They projected what was going to be a problem and if they cut off visitors entering the park with cars after a certain amount, they didn't want their name to be associated with the loop.
The loop has to be stopped as it is a project with terrible implications associated with it. Because RMNP has no moral obligation to abide by what the loop stands for. They are their own entity and RMNP will do whatever they see fit to help RMNP succeed and be a healthy environment for people, wildlife and nature. Just because cars move faster through EP, doesn't guarantee that they will be let in RMNP in the near future. All these points have to be laid out on the table so people understand of the possibility of outcomes.
This article (among dozens of others) should be read by all the trustees, Frank Lancaster, the residents and the Mayor.
This has been a remarkable summer- numbers are up all over the place from visitor count to revenue, and we'll be the first to admit that fighting The Loop has not been our first priority for several weeks if not months. Traffic and submissions to this website have remained firmly opposed to FLAP and The Loop, and there remain a large number of visitors in stores that ask "What is this Loop thing all about?" when they see signs in town. Signs have been slowly coming down and moving around as the project has been dragged out.....
Help Spread the Word, again.
Decision time is upon us again, and the NO LOOP effort could use YOUR help!
Click the pdf link to the right and print a sign for your window right now. It includes the NO LOOP statement and the EstesTruth.org website address. Makes it easy to direct curious folks to a plethora of information.
DEADLINE: Friday Aug 5th
Your opinion about the EA that was released last month about The Loop project is due before this Friday August 5th, 2016. If you downloaded the EA and have a regular job, there's no way you could have read the entire document and understood it in the month that the public was given to read, understand, ask questions and respond- but that's the way the government works.
PLEASE, take a minute to share your thoughts on this project by visiting the contact page at the official Downtown Loop page:
While you're in a letter writing mood, consider sharing your thoughts with the Town Trustees, as they will have another conversation about what to do about The Loop, and love to hear from their constituents.
Todd Jirsa, Mayor firstname.lastname@example.org
Wendy Koenig, Mayor Pro Tem email@example.com
Cody Walker firstname.lastname@example.org
Patrick Martchink email@example.com
Bob Holcomb firstname.lastname@example.org
Ward Nelson email@example.com
Ron Norris firstname.lastname@example.org
Coloradoan article peeks behind the curtain
Today, Coloradoan writer Pat Ferrier assembled the results of her recent probe into The Loop. Unfortunately she merely caught a glimpse of the Loop unfolding behind the Town curtain. We'll elaborate on some key points in her article:
She is correct that one of the key concerns is the change in Estes Park's character, as The Loop project will re-create downtown in flow, charm and ultimately the small town appeal. This seemingly insignificant 'small-town feeling' is one of the top reasons loyal visitors say they return for generations. Changing the feeling of Estes Park, while difficult to quantify, will occur if The Loop is completed. Many visitors have said that they can already go to anytown USA and find common features, pedestrian safe walks, perfect traffic lights and well manicured pavement... but they come back to Estes Park because it is a small town that has stayed true to its roots and feels good. Town administrators, former Trustees and current pro-loopers concede those changes may happen- but in the words of Frank Lancaster (Town Administrator):
"We're a hundred year old town, and when you're putting in new roads, sometimes things have to be... moved."
Trustee Holcomb makes another of his dramatic statements in this article and said "The Loop is not a panacea to the town's issues, but one piece of a larger puzzle", "If the town doesn't use the grant to ease traffic issues, it will lose the money and likely "never see a grant again." " Sometimes we wonder what planet Trustee Holcomb is looking down upon Estes Park from? Apparantly Trustee Holcomb didn't get the memo that the Town receives grants on a regular basis, and there is no shortage of money from government programs. The problem that the article doesn't explore with regard to Holcombs statement, is what the larger puzzle is in which this Loop fits into? There's the problem with Holcomb- no big picture, and no specifics, just relying on what others tell him.
That 'larger puzzle' Holcomb speaks of? It doesn't exist. The agency that was hired to work with the community on a downtown plan was let go a few weeks ago, and work on that plan has stalled out. It's no surprise that this little fact wasn't brought to the writers attention. To build The Loop first, then make a plan to work around the new environment created by The Loop isn't a plan at all- it's damage control by The Town of Estes Park- after they get the money, make the changes, then offer a chance for residents to 'plan' downtown.
I live in Dallas, Texas, seven months out of the year and in Paradise (Estes Park) the other five months. I have to chuckle every time I hear people talking about the proposed loop. I always think, "I wish these people could experience just one hour of Dallas traffic (it doesn't even have to be rush hour) and they would then believe that the traffic congestion in Estes Park during the peak tourist season was not that bad, and that normal "traffic" during the rest of the year is NOTHING. Sure, I try not to go through downtown on Elkhorn Avenue if I can avoid it during the summer weekends, but I've already been to all the shops on Elkhorn and go to them often. What about the tourists who haven't and possibly never will because of the loop? Also, I've lived here for nine years and experienced the devastating effect of the flood. I find it hard to believe that so much money is going to be spent on a loop that a few traffic police at a couple of major intersections every weekend during the summer could greatly help (for far less money) instead of having a loop. Tourists who might decide to live here have to still look at washed out, temporarily repaired roads, a washed out walking trail and deep, unsightly crevices (on Fish Creek Road), etc.Let Estes Park be, and please fix what really needs fixing! We need tourists to visit the downtown businesses who had such a horribly rough time after the flood and to see Estes Park as repaired, beautiful and back on its feet with money spent in the right places - repairing roads and washed away places and taking every step possible to make sure it doesn't happen again.
Cecy Turner Todd- Estes Park and Dallas
Holcomb dropped another great line when he said "We are elected to make the tough decisions," then, "Anything that diminishes that should not be considered." We've said it before, but here we go again: Bob- the toughest part of your job is the mundane, routine decisions that the Board must endure and make in the best interest of the community. Decisions like The Loop, grand in scale and community impact, are best decided by the voters themselves. When community members that haven't spoken one word poltitically through their whole life in Estes Park, speak- you may want to listen to what they are saying.
Another overlooked piece of this puzzle, is perspective. In the most intelligent words to be printed in the local newspaper for over a year, a letter to the editor called attention to what many visitors are chuckling about- that Estes Park is fussing about traffic problems, and 'have they driven into any other city recently?'. See the letter in the box above. The fact remains that current Estes Park roads deliver vehicles to Rocky Mountain National Park faster than the park can handle them. So why build a solution to federal land access? "The Future!" they will say. That is true if you're willing to sell out the chacater of Estes Park for a bigger highway to the national park. The elected representative that says that will likely not be the elected representative after the next election, or the recall we hear is likely if the Trustee vote about The Loop doesn't reflect the will of the majority of the people next month.
The Loop purpose, that has changed regularly since it's first introduction to the Board and community would deliver faster vehicle access to the park, then flood damage solutions, then flood mitigation solutions, then bridge repair (the number of bridges changes regularly), then downtown planning, then enlarging downtown to include Riverside and the Donut Haus, then back to faster park access and through all of this- the price is going up.
So, what if- like the parking garage at the Visitors Center- The Loop is approved, and moves forward through construction beginning in 2018.... and the construction costs have gone up so much that the project can not be built, because the money doesn't exist?
If only there was a good, old fashioned investigative reporter to look into a dozen local issues. We have a list if you'd like it Ms Ferrier- and it starts with The Town of Estes Park's Money. We'll share what we know here in the coming days.
Who designed these signs?!
They nailed it. This pair of signs alone will alleviate frustration, delays, and pollution....
Why did it take this long?
Why wasn't this part of the solution before selling out the soul of downtown to The Almighty Loop project?
Well, thanks for getting it right CDOT. The verbiage is accurate, the color and size are correct.
Houston, we have a Problem
On Wednesday July 20th, CFL (Central Federal Lands) and CDOT (Colorado Department of Transportation) hosted a meeting in the middle of the summer season to collect public input about the ongoing process known locally as "The Loop". It is a FLAP grant (Federal Land Access Project) originally awarded to The Town of Estes Park to essentially improve access to federal land, aka, Rocky Mountain National Park.
This public meeting was the second major event in the course of this project that has provided a forum that members of the public could speak for or against the project. In both cases, the project was grossly opposed by public speakers, but this meeting was very different.
Estes Park residents, living and working in a tourist economy, are different people in the summer and winter. The timing of this meeting strikes at a time that the focus is on serving visitors and like a squirrel gathering nuts, local business owners, employees, students, international workers and the community are collecting millions of dollars that keep this town alive throughout the year. If they aren't working themselves to the bone, they are outside trying to soak in the majestic beauty that is Estes Park. In the summer season, many of the behind the scenes community groups take a few months off, and their members focus on survival.
That may explain the turnout on Wednesday night (as we predicted). Of about 60 people standing in the room, most of them were Town, CFL, or CDOT staff. A few elected trustees showed up (we did not see Ron Norris or Patrick Martchink), and the common folks that were robust enough to attend and make public statements were overwhelmingly against the project, again. The attendance was paltry, but of the 12 folks that spoke, 11 said 'no'. So that, in the government numbers game, is 91% against.
At what point the FLAP organizers will realize that this community is not in favor of the project escapes comprehension. We must hearken back to the first public meeting, when the Town hosted a meeting that ran for 5 1/2 hours, and collected dozens of heartfelt and fact based arguments not to move forward. The Town Board at the time moved forward.
Since then, a local election replaced the old Pro-Loop Mayor with a new, No-Loop Mayor. Candidates old and new were grilled about their position on The Loop, and despite the demand for leadership change by voters, not quite enough spots on the Board turned over to provide a majority of opinion against The Loop.
Remarkably, several current Trustees have declared their ability to make tough decisions on behalf of Estes Park residents to be a better choice in this decision process than to actually hold a public vote. "That's why the people elected us, to make tough decisions". You might have that wrong, representatives- your tough job is sifting through the details of every routine project, every month. When an issue this big comes up, and the town people have educated themselves to this degree, you may want to 'permit' them to vote on it. Alternately, the voters could continue to vote their will during the election cycle.
That's OK, as a member of the public pointed out at Wednesday nights meeting, there's another election in the spring of 2018, before any construction will occur on this project. That will provide another opportunity for this community to decide their future. Stopping the process at that stage will be even more expensive, and will have damaged even more relationships, but winter will come again soon, and with that our ability to refocus on big picture issues (The Loop) will return, as it has returned for generations after each season.
The FLAP project is not a sure thing. It is important to continue to talk about it, to gather facts, and we continue to wonder how we got to this point. If only the project leaders were listening earlier in this process just think of the money and heartache we'd have saved.
And that, is the problem. The process of this project has divided Estes Park, polarizing neighbors and business owners against the Town government, who as elected representatives, should be fiercely standing up for what is best for the community. The community leaders must take a step back from their personal circles of friends, and swallow some pride, then stand up for what the community has been demanding for nearly two years, and put an end to the painful FLAP process.
#1: We told you so
#2: Meeting Wednesday
Our lessons on how to plan a public meeting without public participation have been proven in real life. Less than 5 people showed up for the 'public meeting' about The Loop on July 14th at Town Hall. Yeah, actually less than half of 5 to be more accurate. That should tell you something. Like, people know their voices don't matter in this process and aren't wasting any more of their valuable time with CFL and CDOT. Perhaps we focus on what the trustees do in the end. Will they give this matter to the people? That's the only way out for everyone to come to an agreement.
There is another meeting Wednesday night you may have heard about:Location: Estes Park Events Center (Fairgrounds)
Time: 430pm doors open; 5pm presentation; 530 public comment
Executive summary: This meeting is being put on by CFL (Central Federal Lands) and CDOT (Colorado Dept of Transportation). This is not being hosted or sponsored by the Town of Estes Park, in fact, the elected Town Trustees MAY NOT EVEN SHOW UP. They are not 'required' to attend. The primary purpose of this meeting is to gather any additional public input regarding the EA (Environmental Assessment) that was recently released.
The Town Board will not be taking any action or even participating in this meeting.
Should you attend? Meh. (That's the new hip word for: "Whatever".) Will it make a difference? Who knows.
This meeting is another little cog in the process, and if you read the EA, or any parts of it, you know that this process is moving forward in spite of a remarkable amount of negative public sentiment from a diverse field of residents, visitors, professionals and even some Town insiders (that are afraid for their livlihood if they speak up). THAT's what this FLAP project has done to our town. Division.
Can we change it? Only if the Trustees ALLOW us to vote on it. They don't have the balls to stop it (pardon the reference Trustee Koenig). It's actually a few of the male trustees that don't have the balls to stand up to this flawed process- Trustee Koenig has already shown that she's willing to fight for the voice of the people, and thanks for that.
If the trustees continue to demand that they know what's best for the townspeople, and won't allow a public vote, they should probably find themselves on a recall ballot.
Just sayin. (also contemporary hip talk for 'my 2 cents')
Please share this with your friends. Hopefully someone can make it.
How to Plan a Public Meeting without Public Participation: Chapter 2
Step #1: Schedule two meetings that impact the same members of the public for the same night, 22.3 miles apart.
Step #2: Wonder publicly why no one participated in the important public meetings, then do what you wanted in the first place.
Wednesday July 20th at 6pm
Ellis Ranch, Loveland
CDOT presentation about the impacts of work in the US Hwy 34 canyon during the summer season
Wednesday July 20th 430 - 830pm
Estes Park Event Center
Project management team presentation and public comment session following the release of the Environmental Assessment
How to Plan a Public Meeting without Public Participation: Chapter 1
Step #1: Schedule the meeting for the middle of July in Estes Park, for an issue that has been dragging on for over 2 years.
Step #2: Invite business owners and tell them how important their input is.
Step #3: Wonder publicly why no one participated in the important public meeting, then do what you wanted in the first place.
Projections are for a low turnout due to the workload on the business owners that will be most affected by the project, in high season.
Past public input has been delayed, misplaced and disregarded (read down on this page for specifics) and this will be the final opportunity for public input before the project continues forward.
The EA is a sales pitch.
There are a lot of reasons you will not read the EA regarding The Loop.
-Timing: summer season has every local resident working overtime or outside 16 hours a day
-Sheer size: The EA is over 5" tall when printed, in multiple volumes
-Does Your Opinion matter? It hasn't so far; the process has steamed forward with haste without regard for strong public sentiment.
Read the EA here, or see it in person at Town Hall, library etc.
On page 3-26 and 27 of the EA (in chapter 3) where the writer of the EA makes an assertion (unsupported statement) that "for pedestrians, one-way traffic would also create a safer environment..." What that statement ignores are the handful of legitimate studies which reveal one way traffic is more dangerous for pedestrians.
Lets look at just TWO sources we trust more than the salespeople that wrote the EA on this single issue of safety:
American Journal of Public Health (2003)
"Children 5-9 have the highest population-based injury rate in pedestrian-motor vehicle accidents." Why? As the report goes on, "because in many pedestrian crashes the driver reportedly does not see the pedestrian before the accident. Higher vehicle speeds are strongly associated with a greater likelihood of crashes involving pedestrians as well as more serious pedestrian injuries... In residential settings with large numbers of children, speed management appears to offer the greatest potential for injury prevention."
Journal of the Institute of Public Engineers
"Superficially, it would seem that crossing traffic on a one-way street is preferable to crossing a two-way street. As is often the case, the conventional wisdom is wrong. In fact, crossing a one-way street presents greater difficulties to the pedestrian than crossing two-way streets... "
This document relies on you the reader, not checking the facts of their assertions to be successful. Unfortunately we also have to work a regular job and do not have the hours required to fully uncover all of the dangerous misstatements in this 'study'. The Town staff on the other hand, is punching in on the time clock to spin this as good for Estes, and good for 'safety'.... The Trail Gazette should have the latest town news release in the form of an 'editorial' any second now. We pray (yes, actually pray) that the trustees will take the necessary time to fully understand what is contained in this document and not accept it at face value. Reminds us of a scary conversation in early 2015 when trustee Holcomb remarked that "we don't want what happened in Gatlinburg to happen to Estes Park did we?" When asked- 'what happened in Gatlinburg?', Bob replied "Well, I don't know exactly, that's why we pay for studies from folks that know more than we do". Amazing response Bob. PLEASE read the document and understand how allowing The Loop to move forward will destroy this community's character.
We expected FACTS and SCIENCE from an environmental assessment (EA) to either support or question the suitability of this project for our community.
That is not what has been delivered. The trustees should consider if this document is even what they expected? Originally sold as a well researched document to bring additional facts to the discussion, the FLAP movement has underdelivered.
These facts are on top of the fundamental problem with The Loop: It's a project that is being done without a proper downtown plan, and will desecrate the character that Estes Park already has, not to mention being built on the premise that traffic needs help getting to the National Park, which is now the worst possible reason for this proposal, but remains the primary purpose of the grant that has been overlooked in an effort to grab some of that federal money. Shameful that's it's gotten this far.
Reject the EA, stop The Loop.
The Dragon Awakens
It's been quiet on the home front, the public conversation about The Loop has been intentionally subdued, as the Environmental Assessment (EA) has been moving forward at a snails pace.
The EA will be released to the public on Tuesday July 5th- and the public comment period will end August 5th.
Downtown Loop project members will be available for one-on-one meetings to discuss the technical aspects of the project on July 14th from 12-4pm.
A public hearing will be held on July 20th at the Estes Park Event Center from 430 - 830pm. The Pro Loop employees will answer questions and spin the project from 430 - 5, then a formal presentation from 5-530, and the public comment session from 530-730. Not sure what the last hour is scheduled for from 730-830. Perhaps in case the public session runs long- since it was a 5 1/2 hour meeting back in April of 2015 when the public cried foul, and the Town Board moved on. The timing of this public meeting may work in the favor of the Pro Loopers, as the bulk of local business folks are dead tired collecting sales tax revenue and operating their businesses... There are new Town Board members seated this time around, so there may be hope if the new folks have their ears on and are not sitting on prepared speeches when they arrive. Hearken back to the video of the previous meeting when Trustee W Nelson snacked all night and tried so hard to sit still, and Trustee B Holcomb couldn't keep his eyes open before rumbling through his prepared speech at the end. The good news about this meeting? The Event Center has a confirmed booking, yay!
So, get out the NO LOOP signs, talk to your neighbors and prepare for another discussion of the worst idea for Estes Park in all of time: The Downtown Estes Loop. It will destroy our communities character and is built on a foundation of flimsy representations to grab some free federal money, controversy compliments of the former Town Board, and our current Town Administrator Frank Lancaster.
How bad is this idea? Scroll down this page for a collection of facts and fun commentary about how The Loop has split this community for 2 years. We've got to recognize Frank Lancaster, for his leadership on this project. From selling the idea that Scott Zurn took a gamble on and won the money, spinning 'change' to the media and selling it among your Town Staff and Trail Gazette editors- then even making fun of the voice of the people that elected your bosses at a local fund raising event. You've never taken responsibility for, apologized for being insensitive or acted anything other than aloof. Perhaps The Loop will be your most dramatic career accomplishment- we just hope that it doesn't work out the way you planned it. There's still time to make this right Frank, but we're not holding our breath anymore.
National Park visits surpass 4 million
In another remarkable series of statements, the Park Service has revealed that visitor numbers will exceed 4 million for 2015, shattering previous growth records- and drawing comparisons to the growth spurt that surprised officials just after WWII ended when visitation skyrocketed.
What's this mean?
The Loop, which was originally sold as 'better access to federal lands', is unnecessary.
It seems that our wise visitors have figured out how to get to the Park just fine, and navigate through Estes Park without the 17 MILLION dollar boondoggle known locally as 'The Loop'. In fact, local businesses and Town leadership have acknowledged that 2015 was one of the "best years ever" for tourism, visitor satisfaction and tax revenue.
Unfortunately for locals, loyal families that return year after year, and future visitors- as you read this, The Loop is moving full steam ahead under the direction of Town Administrator Frank Lancaster and some of the Town Trustees despite strong community sentiment against the redevelopment of downtown Estes Park using the false pretenses of this federally funded project. The FLAP project will redesign the highways, creating a counter-clockwise 'loop' that circles downtown Estes Park, which tragically includes a new 'exit corridor' that will be built over the top of the Riverside neighborhood- the park at the heart of Estes "Park".
What can we do? Make your voice heard. Residents & visitors alike should share their opinions.
Call Frank Lancaster in his office to discuss your concerns: 970-577-3700.
Or, write an email to any of our trustees from our contact page, or, send us a message and we'll forward it to 26 contacts affiliated with this project.
Will they listen? Despite saying they will (then losing the information), or holding a 5 and-a-half hour public meeting before reading written speeches... Their track record says: Probably Not.
They will however hear the votes in April during the election for Trustees and Mayor. Let's hope someone runs that will actually represent the people.
Read the article in the Ft Collins Coloradoan that quotes the latest statements by the Park Service which suggests that crowd control is on the near horizon... The Park has never publicly endorsed The Loop, and it appears that their concern is TOO MANY VISITORS, and it's not concerned about making it easier to visit..
Kill the Loop!
It's time for an Election
The LOOP is still moving forward at a quiet, albeit uninhibited forward pace- FULL SPEED AHEAD.
The Estes Park Trustees have said 'No Thanks' to the Estes Park community that asked for the opportunity to hold a public vote on the issue of redesigning the Downtown without a plan via the FLAP project, aka, The LOOP. Our representative leadership has said that they know better, and will make the decision for us. It was Trustee (and 2016 Mayoral Candidate) Bob Holcomb that said: You have families and businesses to run- we'll handle this decision... (WOW, Bob)
So, perhaps it's time to get more involved? Does anyone that has a family or a business have time to serve? Our local government has become so demanding on our trustees time that it may be too much for most of the best candidates. We can change those time demands, but not from the outside.
Join us, and let's offer some truly representative candidates for the 2016 Town of Estes Park Trustee Election.
Here's the info from the Town:
Candidate forum scheduled Jan. 4
For individuals who are interested in learning more about becoming a candidate for Mayor or Town Trustee, the Town Clerk will offer a candidate forum on Jan. 4, 2016 at 6 p.m. in the Town Board Room of Town Hall, 170 MacGregor Ave. This forum will include a review of the candidate packet, including candidate eligibility, nomination instructions, the nomination petition, Fair Campaign Practices Act instructions, expectations of time commitment and the role of a board member.
For more election information, please visit www.estes.org/elections, or contact the Town Clerk's office at 970-577-4777 or by email at email@example.com.
CDOT: Your downtown is not our priority
Johnny Olson, Region 4 director for CDOT finally admits that the vitality of Downtown Estes Park is not their top priority, as quoted in last week's Trail Gazette:
In response to how some businesses and property owners feel the Loop will hurt the downtown economy, Olson said he is sensitive to those concerns. "Our intent is not to hinder the economic vitality of the town," he said. "The Department of Transportation is in the business of roads, but we know we have an impact on economic development. We do not want to hinder that. We know downtown Estes is a draw."
Johnny Olson, Region 4 director for CDOT
Here's the slap to the public. The thousands of voices that have said that the LOOP will change Estes in a negative way are being summarily dismissed by CDOTs assertion that they "just need to communicate better". Remember this is the agency that told you that based on their 2-weekend test of crossing signals with compromised vehicle data and untrained traffic cops passively observing vehicles struggling through intersections* was better data than the historic performance of trained summer officers doing a better job than the CDOT lights.
We all know, through personal experience, that the data may be used to support any perspective. So now, when the State and Town are prostituting the data to support their underlying mission of building the damn loop, the data will support their position.
Unfortunately the leaders are not listening to the People, and our elected trustees should be gearing up for a dramatic showdown at he election booth in April.
*See the related article about Police services below
Handsome Police Budget has no room for quality traffic control
In the list of responses to survey questions about The Loop, Town Administration acknowledges that the police budget has more important things to pay for than lowly traffic control.
Q: Why don't they have the summer police direct traffic again, the traffic always seemed to flow much better when they did this?
A: The Town incurs liability when the Police take manual control of the intersection. Placing an officer in the center of the intersection creates unneeded risk of personal injury. Adding officers for this task increases Town personnel costs. This would require deletion of an offsetting service currently provided by the Town or an increase in tax dollars spent on police services.
The Police Department budget deserves a closer look, in order to prioritize what equipment and services most benefit the community as a whole. It would appear that the Town organization (not just the Police) can find money when they really want something. The question that must really be asked is- What does this Town really want?? A Downtown plan is in order.
What is a "Handsome Police Budget"? Here's what the Town Finance officer Steve McFarland said about the 2015 Town budget last November: "(2015) Expenses are divided into 8 percent for community development; 25 percent for police; 22 percent for community services (museum, senior center and fairgrounds); 21 percent for public works; 4 percent for finance; 4 percent for executive, judicial, and legislative; 3 percent for administrative services; 6 percent for intergovernmental support; and 7 percent for capital projects. " McFarland said. We are again merely reporting the facts from the Town.
These facts are probably uncomfortable if you're the top spender in the entire Town budget, and when the Town says that the Police Department can't afford to put on trained traffic officers without cutting services- there are going to be questions. Please, however, direct the response to this important community wide issue to the entire community, the citizens that are funding 25 cents of every dollar the Town spends on Police Services. Take a closer look at the police budget for 2014, 2015 and 2016 HERE. (Town budget site)
Apparently, the administrative person that wrote this response has no personal experience with the effectiveness of the trained summer officers that SOLVED the traffic woes in the 90's- until then Police Chief Lowell Richardson cut the funding for those officers. That was a mistake that we are all paying for over 10 years later. Just like The Loop will be a mistake that this community will suffer through if the project is built.
(From the Trail Gazette- 2011) Estes Park Chief of Police
Wes Kufeld is at the wheel of the department's newest addition to its
September 24, 2015
Confused Town Still Pursuing The Loop
The Loop is not dead- being pushed harder than ever!
Remarkably, after the latest NO from the Feds in response to the Town's request to change focus from The Loop, to a parking garage (in order to keep the $13M in FLAP funds) -- the Town of Estes Park is back to saying The Loop is a good idea.
Amazing. How many times and ways will the Town have to hear "The Loop/FLAP is a bad idea for Estes Park" until they DO SOMETHING to stop the process? Perhaps the Town is confused about this process. It's more likely that they are creating confusion in order to continue moving forward with the FLAP project.
Just yesterday, the Trail Gazette featured an article about a local man - Paul Fishman - beating the bushes in a solo attempt to create an Urban Renewal Authority (URA) to fund downtown development (more on this to come).
"You need a vision first and then the tools. It doesn't mean that discussions have to end but the discussions should be guided by the vision, not the tool."
Nicholas is the President and CEO of the Estes Park Economic Development Corporation (EDC), and we think his words regarding the URA are correct. Plan before action. Why doesn't Jon apply this standard to the FLAP/Loop process? Confusion appears to be contagious. Jon has spoken publicly in support of FLAP/Loop. The saga continues as the FLAP/Loop keeps dividing the Town, and conquering our community bank account.
It's official, the Federal Land agency said NO to the Towns 'new alternative' of a parking structure. You can read their original letter on the right --->.
So what now? Our Town Administrator Lancaster says that they're not going to let this money get away, and will be waiting for the results of the Environmental Assessment to come in.
Read it for yourself! Tony Galardi's letter to the Town that says NO to their proposal for a parking garage, including formal admissions of some well known shortcomings of the LOOP project.
Galardi response to town.pdf
Size : 1732.634 Kb
Type : pdf
September 15, 2015
Bombshell #2: It was never really about congestion
When you start to peel apart this whole thing, and look closely at each layer, keep your eyes open for anything that is consistent, that shows up at each chapter or event. We think the true objective is the one consistent element that appears in every option, plan and proposed solution- and that is the Golden Plan, the Sacred Cow, the Town's Ulterior Motive (revealed below).
Keep in mind the FLAP project is a Federal Land Access Project. Getting people to the park more efficiently. Don't forget that the park is full and the roads on either side of the FLAP project will not change, creating a counterclockwise loop of traffic or perhaps a parking garage that will not enhance park access (but don't mention this fact to the project administrators, for they seem to have overlooked this minor detail when they awarded the money).
Now go way back to the beginning of the FLAP discussion: remember when the community complained that the original option (the Loop) wasn't a very good option? The Town responded to the early criticism by adding in a half dozen alternatives, different combinations of lanes, directions and uses that did two things: 1) Provided enough options so that almost anyone could find an option that worked for them, and 2) Confused the issue. Come to find out (in March), NONE of the alternatives were really options according to the Federal Lands agency- and only the one written into the original contract was acceptable. The Town acted surprised and cried Foul! ..then said they were duped into believing the options (that they created) would be accepted. This worked in their favor because the project moved forward through the confusion to the next stage, as sympathetic Town supporters offered a shoulder to cry on.
In or before March of this year, contributing to the uproar about the troubling FLAP process, Town Administrator Frank Lancaster made several missteps and revealed clues about the hidden treasure that the Town had discovered and was pursuing by pressing the FLAP project forward. Although it doesn't appear that Public Works manager Scott Zurn intended it from the beginning, the benefit of using a federal project to implement changes to the downtown area, which would force any future planning to follow behind the project, was so attractive that the Town bit into the project, and hasn't loosened their grip to this day. In March, Administrator Lancaster responded to a question about whether the Town was pursuing Riverside commercial development with this cryptic answer: "You know, development follows transportation corridors"... That was it, and he hasn't proactively brought up the topic ever since, although he could defend himself and say that no one has asked about it. About 7 days after that comment, the Trail Gazette, aptly nicknamed the Moraine branch of the Town Publicity Machine, ran a front page article which questioned the definition and boundaries of 'Downtown Estes Park'. Their article all but proclaimed that the definition of downtown was the area from around the Donut Haus to the banks East of Riverside Drive and all the way East and North to the Stanley- which was news to most of the community, who have traditionally defined 'downtown' as the vibrant corridor of East and West Elkhorn Avenue, you know, where locals venture once a year to collect free candy for their kids at Halloween.
Stumbling through the messy and irritating public input process, the Town floated the idea that the soon-to-be-released FEMA flood map and ensuing insurance fallout would force many business owners that were within reach of the river- or expanding flood plain to go out of business due to insurance premiums in the tens of thousands of dollars or worse- no insurance at all IF THE TOWN DIDN'T REBUILD THE 3 BRIDGES. The Town told us that the FLAP grant was a critical component of rebuilding bridges, and if we didn't jump at the chance to get this FLAP money, we would never find another source for funds to rebuild the bridges and it sounded like the Town was losing a lot of sleep on behalf of the downtown business owners and the impending flood-doom. A few weeks later, when it became common knowledge that the data they made their predictions with was not completely accurate- they started printing DRAFT in big red letters on their maps, and then the maps disappeared altogether when well informed critics accurately called out the data shortcomings and grandstanding tactics by the Town to press the FLAP/Loop project forward under the scandalous guise of a program that would save Downtown from the next big flood. Interestingly, a few weeks after that announcement the Town was awarded a grant to rebuild one of those endangered bridges after they said it couldn't be done- good job, Town! Miracles DO happen.
Keep in mind through all of this, the Trail Gazette is publishing every scrap of a press release that the Town has produced to create dramatic news stories and boost their sorry circulation numbers. The facts are only revealed when citizens and business owners concerned about the FLAP project have requested, paid for and then publicized information and facts acquired through Freedom of Information and Open Records requests that proved many of the published Town 'facts' to be misleading or dangerously vague. On cue, the Trail Gazette danced into action to defend the Town and actually went on the offensive to point fingers via articles at downtown business owners for neglecting their frontages and being the noisy minority through Mayoral quotes and published statements by their Editorial Board. Interestingly, the TG's editorial board is made up of new local business people that have publicly spoken in favor of the FLAP project or are related to people with vested interests in the success of the FLAP project. Their articles always appear in the first few pages of the paper, and always carry an impressive headline. Unfortunately, their opinions that are presented as 'facts' that have later been often mitigated by the full story, shared on any of several information sources like EstesTruth.org, the Facebook page FREE Estes, or in any of dozens of articles and letters prepared by unrelated citizens that have taken an interest in fighting against a crusade by the Town to make the FLAP project happen at all costs. Through all this, no one can understand why there is such passion to press the FLAP project forward.
The local bicycle group has spoken up gently to advocate in favor of the LOOP (FLAP), after the Town dangled the prospect of bike lanes downtown in front of them. That group is correct when they say bikes are not respected in the Town of Estes Park, but their efforts for improvement are being prostituted by the Town to further the FLAP cause, even though the inclusion of bike lanes is dubious, and the benefit of a counterclockwise bike lane around downtown should make them sick to their stomachs, if the repetitive circular motion wasn't too much already. Another unfortunate casualty of the messy FLAP process will be the efforts of the Bikers- although their voices are appreciated, they will fall to the wayside as the Town changes their tactics to pursue the Sacred Cow- and get the FLAP project done at any cost. The Bikers energy and constructive input would be much more productive participating in long range planning for the downtown area, and saying NO to the FLAP which will dictate bike path options that aren't going to be very friendly to bikes or vehicles in the end (read up on the shared lane concept).
The story of the Bikers isn't unique. Special interests have surfaced here and there advocating for small pieces of the project that may be beneficial to a degree, but the overall cost to the community far outweighs those small benefits and those small group Loop proponents may want to reconsider throwing their names behind Franks Loop project, since there really isn't a 'master plan' in place, or even being discussed.
There's the problem. The FLAP is being pursued without a plan in place. The Town has so generously offered a Downtown Planning process to the community, with one caveat- the planning will take place AFTER the Loop is being built! At the risk of insulting our readers intelligence, we must ask WHO MAKES A DOWNTOWN PLAN AFTER THEY REBUILD DOWNTOWN? Idiots, that's who. We'll all be idiots scratching our heads if we let this happen the way it's going.
This is the only consistent element of every plan the Town has presented: RIVERSIDE DEVELOPMENT. Expanding Downtown and in theory, doubling their Sales Tax revenue. The green area shows the historically accepted downtown district; the red shows the Town's 'New Downtown', or EXIT Development district, if the FLAP grant is allowed to go through.
Every plan, every twist, every option that the Town has presented has included the development of a new road along East Riverside. Frank has minimized the description, but has acknowledged that it will happen: The 'New Downtown' will be created when the FLAP project moves ahead. Properties formerly hidden in our unique downtown park setting will be now be seen by every single vehicle that travels Eastbound out of Estes Park, and out of Rocky Mountain National Park.
Imagine! "Last Chance Gift Shop", "Last Restaurant", "Last This and That". Those properties will change hands and after redevelopment, landlords will likely ask for top dollar to be a part of the Exit Corridor, the New Downtown, the Riverside Highway.
Why does the Town want this development? Doubling the size of downtown, adding sales tax revenue and taxpayers and real estate to their landlocked downtown corridor- it's the trail of money everyone's been asking about. It's all about the money. Town Hall is already mortgaged for the grossly underperforming Multi Purpose Events Center. Money is tight downtown.
Can you think of one small downtown district that has survived the
addition of a 'bypass' road to their community?
The Town of Estes Park has already laid the groundwork to redefine Downtown- they will say that this isn't a bypass- because downtown now stretches over to East Riverside, and it's all downtown now. Whether it's connected with the existing downtown by a parking lot, by a newspaper definition or just what because it's what the Town tells us, this complete redevelopment of downtown Estes Park will have a catastrophic impact when part of the new 'Old Downtown' becomes dusty and storefronts are shuttered, or the "New Downtown" has trouble filling all of the Anytown USA storefronts because they are too expensive and lack the charm of a small town.
Perhaps the visitors will give us feedback about whether or not they want to create a new downtown that includes features already found in redeveloped cities and towns across the country, with concrete steps to the Little Thompson River waterfront for picnicking.... or integrated retail spaces along the new parking structure... or a reminder of every other front range community that's trying to attract more visitors with re development that the planners assure them is necessary and prudent.
Except that the visitors have spoken. They have in remarkable numbers made statements that the way Estes Park is, is why they visit Estes Park. They come several times a year because of what Estes Park is. They come because Estes Park is not like every other tourist town in America. Don't believe what they say? Believe what they do: Estes Park is struggling to deal with issues of capacity that are limited by geographic limitations (the land is built out), and the Town planners are using the FLAP project to expand what the land has given- and flatten parks, rivers and wildlife habitats to create a more efficient way to get the the National Park. Really?
If the newest proposal- for a parking garage first, and a Loop later- doesn't fly, what next? The Town is waiting on pins and needles to see if the Federal Lands folks will bite at their newest proposal. The Town refuses to give up their hold on the FLAP money- at the dire costs of pitting intelligent community leaders against one another and gutting the character of our Town. Surely they have a plan "C". Or would that be plan G, H or I- because the nearly comedic new options that the Town has created to keep their 13 million dollars has made the Trustees and staff that are working on taxpayer funds out to be jesters in the court of public opinion. The Town may get off the hook at no expense to the taxpayers, if the environmental assessment shows that 'No Action' turns out to be the best option. Then, the Feds take their project money back and spend it on something that was a little better planned out.
We're anxious to sit down and work on a downtown plan, THEN take action. Not, as the FLAP project would force us to take action, then make a plan around that action.
Might also be a good time to think about who you want to elect in April to REPRESENT you on the Town Board. We predict a very interesting race for 4 seats on the Town Board. Know anyone? We do too.
First responders not factored into Loop
My disappointment and disenchantment in the "due process" knows no end. My trepidation grows by leaps and bounds. Why haven't the EMS response times after the FLAP(py) Loop is built been addressed? Why are so many sheep in town blind to what the FLAP(py) Loop will do to Estes and Rocky Mountain National Park?
The "horse" has clearly been beaten to death in regards to the Town's response (or lack there of) to first responder response times.
So ... on to other frying fish.
In Rocky Mountain National Park, as of July 1 ( if not sooner):
• Fact: Glacier Gorge parking lot is full no later than 7 a.m. at least five days a week.
• Fact: Bear Lake parking lot has filled as early as 7:30 a.m. and as "late" as 8:30 a.m. at least five days a week.
• Fact: Park and Ride parking lot routinely fills 2 to 2.5 hours after Bear Lake very day of the week. (Five years ago this rarely happened.)
These lots can stay full (rain storms not with standing) until: Glacier Gorge 3 or 4 p.m., Park and Ride 1:30 or 2 p.m. and Bear Lake can remain full anywhere from 1:30 to 5 p.m., yes, 5 p.m
When all the legal parking is filled along Bear Lake road, the real fun begins. The creative, destructive, and potentially dangerous jockeying for a place to park a vehicle can start a spark at anytime as folks park on dead and dried vegetation. Rumor has it that the Elk Meadows fire down Highway 36 was started by accident, when someone parked on dried vegetation.( I haven't even touched on the Fern Lake area, the Alpine Visitor Center or Old Fall River Road.)
My point is: Rocky is already starting to be loved to death, even before the FLAP(py) Loop is built. The board's reasoning for the FLAP(py) Loop is to get faster, easier access to Rocky in the future, based on traffic projections in town 20 years from now.
Rocky will never get big enough to accommodate the towns projected traffic increase (and reasoning) for the FLAP(py) Loop.
Bringing more people into Rocky at a faster pace will only drive (pardon the pun) the parking lots to fill faster in the morning and stay full later in the day. Rocky, (and conversely Estes) will become a place to be avoided. Does anyone really want Rocky to be overrun literally from dawn to dusk every day from (no later than) July 1 to Columbus Day in October?
How will the town mollify the angry, frustrated, combative visitors when they get crammed down Elkhorn Avenue's "throat" then up Rocky's entrance only to have no where to park?
The FLAP(py) Loop is an environmental and economic disaster waiting to happen. Wake up people. The FLAP(py) Loop will destroy the reason we live and work here, along with why the guests to our town and park come here. Rocky as we know it, as our parents remember it, and how the next generation should be able to look forward to, will cease to exist. This will not be a "progressive" or good thing.
I can't vote. I can't "fight city hall." However, Estes residents can, and you must, if you want the children of today to have something to cherish tomorrow .
Thank you for your time.
'No Loop' is Still a Thing
Last week Town Administrator Frank Lancaster threw a monkey wrench into the meeting: 'Something important has come up, but we can't give you any details', basically. So we've waited for an update in any form, and we the people remain unintelligent enough to understand the information that Frank and the Trustees are powerful enough to contemplate (Our interpretation of their message at the Town Board meeting), because they haven't shared an ounce of information. Yes, we can begin with the freedom of information requests again- which has been our most accurate source of information- or, the Town could let the community know what's up.
This time of the year is tough for business owners with the transition of employees back to school as the crowds remain robust... time is scarce!
We hope that there are 4 new Trustees in April, and we're going to offer some remarkable resources to new candidates that are interested in advocating for the people as representatives, and resistant to Franks handshake allure- if he's still working here.
Take a step back and look at what you've done here, town leaders. This process has been an avoidable mess. If there were attentive leaders at the wheel early on we wouldn't be here. You were misled by many, and no one picked up on the problems until the "vocal minority" spoke up (to quote Mayor Pinkham). Trustee Tip: Don't believe everything set before you in Town Board meetings. Due diligence is gathering your own facts and asking uncomfortable questions right after your employee or consultant provides you with a pile of information that they say you can trust them on. The tough decisions should not be taking decisions out of the hands of 'busy incompetent electors' - our interpretation of the Trustees remarks last Tuesday.
A well dressed public speaker at Tuesday's meeting said our elected representatives were called trustees because they could be trusted. We're thinking they are called trustees because they trust the people that feed them information, and maybe they should be called something else, until they can earn the trust of the people for their actions, and not be trusted because of their title.
Time to start writing record requests...
Frank Drops a Bomb
Just 20 minutes into the Board meeting tonight, in his Administrators Report, Frank mentioned that he had become aware of a third option that "sounded pretty promising", and that he and CDOT and the Federal Lands people are starting a conversation about this mystery option to see if it would work. He did say that it does not include one way roads, and it doesn't include a Loop- but he couldn't offer any other details because he just heard about it- yesterday.
Oh, and the resolution to allow the citizens to vote? Didn't pass. Trustee Ron Norris made a motion to allow the EA process to finish, predicted to be spring, and then take a Trustee vote about whether to continue. This isn't all bad news, considering the information presented tonight. FLAP is a flawed project, it's bad for Estes without proper planning.
Maybe if they drag this out long enough, rewrite the application and introduce some new options we can actually make something work that's good for Estes. Or, end the FLAP, and make a plan- what 'we' should have done months ago.
Will we be Allowed to Vote?
We elected trustees to run the Town: to handle day-to-day operations that are too cumbersome for every citizen to vote on every month. That's what they signed up for, and that's why we elected them. There are controversies that must settled by decisions they make and indeed those are tough decisions.
Recently Mayor Pinkham was quoted by the newspaper: "only a small, vocal group has surfaced to attack the project." He believes that "a large, pro-group will show up at the Aug. 11 meeting and voice its support". So, if this large group does show up and read lovely speeches, or brown nose their friends at Town Hall a little bit more- what happens to months of public outcry and thousands of concerned citizens & visitors voicing their opinion that this is a terrible choice for Estes Park?
Town Hall is the site for tonights Board Meeting, when Trustees will decide if local voters will be allowed a voice in the decision to change downtown Estes Park forever. Meeting time is 7pm at 170 MacGregor Ave
The Town paints a picture of this project being the solution to many upcoming local problems, but admits in the same paragraph that it isn't the best solution to the original grant purpose: relieving congestion and speeding access to the Park.
The most concise presentation of facts to date has been on the pages of Rick Grigsby's paper (see it here). Or, scroll down on this page and collect a sense of the issues that come up week after week after week, from the beginning of public attention to this project.
Readers, without your interest, this issue would be well underway and on track to completely redesign Downtown Estes Park- without any constructive public input! Thanks to the awareness that has been raised on this project, and subsequent public participation, we may have a hand in the future of our community. May? Right, if the Trustees decide that we the voters should be allowed to vote on it.
Show up tonight and let the Trustees know that this is important to us, and to Let Estes Vote!
No Loop Supporter offering shirts
Many folks that are against the loop own businesses, and many are stepping up to support the NO LOOP movement with things that they're experts in. Starting today, Jimmy Haber at the Estes Park Sweatshirt Center is offering a grassroots statement on a nice quality shirt for the cost of $5.00. It's a simple message that really is democracy in action. Sure, we elected those trustees to represent us in day to day operational Town issues, but when an issue that threatens to change the community's character comes up for discussion and the trustees thumb their noses at the voters? Time for change!
Despite informal surveys and the words from the almighty Town Information Offices (including the Trail Gazette branch), the actual numbers of voters that are against this project will simply not be known until a ballot is cast.
The Trustees have an opportunity to represent all of the folks in the Estes Valley by listening while they decide what's best for the residents of Estes Park. Or, they could have the vote and get the hard data from the registered voters (and exclude all of the residents outside of the town boundaries). That's their option, what mechanism will they use to stop this project? Will they take responsibility for a messy process that no one wants and end it, or will they brush this mess of their hands and ask the voters to do their dirty work for them, and vote this project down. At least that way, they can say they didn't make the decision, and when someone fusses about how much the EA cost, they can point the finger right back and say- YOU voted to end the process!
$5.00 per shirt
Wear yours to the meeting on Tuesday and silently make an important statement.
Another Supporter Opens Info Center
250 Moraine Ave
It is true that after a while of listening to the Town and their well conditioned supporters spout off the same old scare tactics about bridges and insurance and if-we-dont-use-this-money-well-never-get-more, we begin to second guess if we are the crazy ones? So, it's reassuring that every day, new names join the cause to FIGHT THE LOOP. New names to the cause, not new names to town. Smart, invested local folks that have been here a long time, that are well educated, and after gathering their own information, they say NO LOOP.
We're working on that NO LOOP supporter list- you'll be surprised at whos saying that this is the dumbest idea for Estes Park in, forever.
Someone is going to end up with a lot of egg on their face when this is said and done, will it be you? Consider carefully what side of this issue you take- EDUCATE YOURSELF with facts, and not Franks smile and handshake as he tells you he knows whats best for Estes.
We'd like to update our recommendation to the Trustees to just end this project. Taking it to a vote will bring the will of the people, but the longer that that the Trustees delay the inevitable, the more it costs US, and the more angry the people will be at them.
Trustees: Do you not have enough FACTS to make that decision? No matter what the EA says, the people have been speaking up for weeks and weeks, the project application is full of half truths, the original objective of the project sailed out of the window months ago. Enough!
The Mayor has laid down a challenge
In todays edition of the Trail Gazette, writer David Persons quoted Mayor Bill Pinkham: "only a small, vocal group has surfaced to attack the project. He believes that a large, pro-group will show up at the Aug. 11 meeting and voice its support."
That, dear readers, is a challenge to appear before the almighty Trustees on August 11th at 7pm, to voice your opinion AGAIN, about this project. Perhaps they are going to repeatedly ask for public opinion until they get the answer that pleases them?
At that meeting, the Trustees could:
1. Make a motion to immediately abandon the FLAP project (best choice- read Rick Grigsby's paper to see why they should be running away from this project)
2. Make a motion to bring the issue to a public vote
3. Do nothing, and allow the FLAP project to continue on
This process deserves a close citizen eye, because so many things have been miscommunicated and mishandled during this project so far. Tuesday is another time that we could use your help when there's a show of hands to say NO LOOP.
The meeting is Tuesday August 11 at 7:00pm. Town Hall - 170 Macgregor Ave
Let the People Vote, maybe
After the executive session last night "for the purpose of receiving legal advice from the attorney on The Loop", the trustees emerged from the session and the Mayor announced quite abruptly that they wanted the Town Staff to draft ballot language. Attorney Greg White interpreted what the Mayor just mumbled and this is it: The Town Staff will draft ballot language to be reviewed at the August 11th meeting, which was mysteriously not specific. It would appear that they had discussed this prior to the announcement (staff/board) because the direction the Mayor gave wasn't clear about what the staff is supposed to actually do. So, perhaps it's another confusing twist in this FLAP saga, or it's the first step to bringing this issue onto the ballot for the good people of the community to vote upon. We'll have a better idea of the new tactic after the language is revealed.
Things to watch for:
Until this becomes an actual election issue, the Town may spend (our money) freely on re-educating and leaning on the public about the tremendous benefits of FLAP. The printing presses and publicity office are already likely humming. Once this is an election issue, their spending must cease, and a "YAY FLAP" committee, or something like that composed of brave, fund raising Town supporters will be formed to promote the issue with their own political action committee (PAC).
Note to potential YAY FLAP PAC members, take a few minutes to read the paper released by Rick Grigsby this week (posted on our Additional Reading page). It outlines the reasons you should be cautious about getting on board at this stage. This FLAP process has become the most convoluted issue to hit Estes Park in, forever. Depending on the Towns commitment to keeping this grant money, the Trail Gazette stands to sell even more papers as the plot thickens.
The announcement was a double edged sword last night. The Trustees have made a decision that could free their personal consciences, but sink the Town if they continue the fight to keep the money in a flawed process that is so far Out of Order. Ideally, the Town keeps this simple: Draft the language and let the people vote, and stop bickering about it. Enough has been said.
July 27, 2015
The first bombshell has been delivered
Today, local resident Rick Grigsby released his FLAP paper, accurately critical of the runaway train the Trustees call the FLAP project. We have posted the entire paper on our Additional Reading page for you to draw your own conclusions. You will not believe the LIES, INTENTIONAL DECEPTION, MISREPRESENTATION and OVERALL INEPTITUDE that this paper calls out in living color. Fortunately for our 4 meek trustee holdouts, there's a way out of this mess offered as well.
You have to read it to believe it. READ IT HERE
Signs headed to a new level
A new set of NO LOOP signs has been received, with an interesting new twist: you could write your own message at the top.
The signs are available at 3 locations in Estes Park, in limited quantities, get yours today! (we can order more, just being conservative)
Cost is $4.61 + tax, so each sign is $5 with tax, and each stake is $1 with tax if you need one (cash please). All are 2 sided red on white.
Get your sign at:
235 West Elkhorn
162 South St Vrain
Rambo's Longhorn Liquor
1460 Big Thompson Ave
THANKS to the business owners for their support of this important educational campaign!
July 20, 2015
A climax worth forgetting
It will be interesting to see how real life observations are borne out by the official test results of the Barnes Dance Crossing, which actually "happened" on Saturday July 18th. We use "air quotes" because it was one of the most anti climactic pinnacles of hype that we recall in modern history. Here's the real life timeline:
Wednesday July 15th: The Barnes Dance crossing pattern is initiated by CDOT
technicians at Elkhorn/Moraine and Elkhorn/Riverside intersections. There is no public notification, signage or other assistance. Oh, the Town might have tweeted it.
Friday July 17th: Observation equipment is reinstalled along Elkhorn
Ave, and at the intersections to collect data, just like the previous weekend- when they collected 'normal' crossing
Saturday July 18th: The Test happens (which is a period of data collection), including the assignment of CSO's (Community Service Officers) that were to step in for 2 of the 4 hour test and demonstrate how the crossing pattern worked with and without human assistance. There's a little bit of controversy about what the CSO's were supposed to do, were allowed to do and what they actually did. We witnessed some quiet standing around and not getting involved to educate and provide control as needed during the test period. CSO grade for participation: F.
Our insiders at CDOT tell us that they think the Barnes Dance should be left in place, that it's 'not their decision' and that someone higher up is calling the shots on this. We are assuming it's someone that was also in charge of creating chaos by the mid-day stripe, signal and sign spectacular at 34 and 36 several weeks ago. Almost as if the objective is to create problems that beg the answer to be "The Loop is the Solution". Ha! These are symptoms of worse things to come.
There's a good chance that this test will be deemed a failure, because YOU GET BACK WHAT YOU PUT IN. Not much has been put into this being a valuable test by either the Town or CDOT.
It all begs the question: Do you really want the miscommunicating multi agency panel of nitwits to realign downtown Estes Park with a 17 million dollar highway project? We do not.
The Barnes Dance is Back! (for a few minutes)
Way back in March, Trustee Bob Holcomb said that the summer traffic officers would be back in full force for 2015, directing traffic and alleviating congestion, AND, the Barnes Dance crossing would be used to further assist relieving auto/pedestrian conflicts. Good News!
That would be a valuable study right? The Town Board opted not to put up any of their own money on what Town Administrator Frank Lancaster has called one of the biggest problems for Estes Park in decades. Not a penny. How about those priorities, trustees? You're about to contribute $25,000 to the National Park to help buy Cascade Cottages from a private seller, and the biggest problem in decades for Estes Park gets nothing to study a solution. The trustees passed on the option to extend the study to 4 weekends and is letting CDOT pay for the entire cost of the 2 weekend study. Although, the way it's been set up- the outcome may already be determined. Take a look at the Eastbound traffic light cycle at Moraine/Elkhorn, the abundance of traffic counters watching Eastbound traffic, and then drop in a completely different crossing pattern on pedestrians and Summer Officers in the middle of the busy weekend. This should be an interesting experiment, to say the least. I think we'll take the folding chairs and stake out our spot to watch the action before the crowds get too thick. It is our hope that the traffic officers have been responsibly briefed on this test, because it might turn out to be a tough day for them- and as hard as they are working this summer, as nice as they are- they don't deserve what the Town is about to dump on them.
If you're new to Estes Park, or forgot about how this 'Barnes Dance' works- it's an extended period of time that pedestrians are allowed to cross in any direction including diagonally- then everyone waits for all traffic directions to cycle through the intersection before pedestrians are permitted to cross again. Estes Park used to employ this crossing cycle, which has been said to be friendlier to pedestrians than automobile traffic in most applications. In Estes Park, the opposite is true- traffic moves better and pedestrians are safer, when properly supported by traffic officers. For most pedestrians, this concept is confusing at first, and most will try to cross with traffic and the green light. Their jaywalking completely defeats the streamlined automobile traffic movement that is going on when they should be standing on the corners, waiting to cross. In Estes Park, a group of pedestrians (or even a single renegade street crosser) can hold up an entire cycle of traffic because the first car wants to turn, but can't because of the pedestrians in the street, who are moving with the green the way they have been trained for years of using standard crossing signals.
Traffic officers add the educational advantage and control factor that makes the Barnes Dance a success for Estes Park, and the limitation on their use for only 2 of the 4 hour cycle, and their overall absence from traffic this summer shows us that the Trustees, Police leaders and concerned traffic engineers are not actually concerned about congestion in downtown Estes Park. Their budget decisions prove this is true as well.
The Loop is about money for Town projects, not congestion.
"CDOT is working on the problem"
(Could this be the new Town of Estes Park response for The Loop project?)
Thanks to the freedom fighters over at FREE Estes on Facebook for these pictures, of the CDOT sign debacle over the weekend The 2 messages above alternated back and forth, back and forth- and even if you stopped your car to try and make sense of the sign, because maybe you misread it- the message never became any clearer! A similar message was shown on hwy 36 (until they shut it down after the post on FREE Estes).
We did drag our feet a little before posting this article, so we could capture the whole story for you, and we're glad we waited:
Last week- Thursday or Friday, the 2 electronic message boards that had been set up along hwy 34 and 36, just before the 34/36 intersection- were turned on. They both displayed a cryptic message, that alluded to the national park, but didn't tell drivers anything helpful. They were on for a while, and quickly became the talk of the town, thanks to their mysterious message. Cars proceeded past and managed to work through the intersection despite absent directional signage for the option to bypass downtown enroute to the National Park.
Saturday July 4th, FREE Estes posted the pictures above with a critical, but well deserved comment about how bad the message was. Later in the day the 36 sign was no longer displaying any message.
Monday, Estes Park Town Administrator Frank Lancaster tweets: "Variable message signs on 34 and 36 this weekend didn't make sense due to technical problem at CDOT. They are working to fix the problem."
So, here we are, at the front end of a 17 million dollar project that the majority of the people that live in and visit Estes Park do not want. Our elected trustees have already snubbed their noses at their constituents, as they moved on with the project despite 5 hours of testimony against it on April 15th.
Now, when a little problem comes up, the Town responds a couple of days later by passing the buck along to the State Highway Department (CDOT). Who knows if the Town even noticed the problem other than reading about it on Facebook when they arrived back to work Monday morning? We hope that's not the case, but the evidence says that perhaps we should be MUCH more concerned that this FLAP is going to turn into an over budget FLOP and the electors (that's us, the taxpayers) will regret not stopping it when it only cost US thousands of dollars versus millions of dollars in over runs. CDOT- you might want to take a closer look at your relationship with the Town, and start counting how many times they throw you under Frank's bus, loaded up with Trustees Ericson, Norris, Holcomb and Nelson and their supporters- as this moves forward.
We will implore our trustees, again, to stop this project now- and encourage you to ask them as well. You may reach them via our contact page. Sure, the NEPA process might stop it, but this is your responsibility, trustees.
The Town's Own Traffic Study Discourages One Way Streets
In the recent BizWest newspaper article, the Town of Estes Park spokesperson, Kate Rusch, said that the one way loop was supported by various studies, including the 2012 study done by the Town's Transportation Visioning Committee. However, here is a direct quote from the study that she says led to the one way loop.
"The committee feels that the resistance to one way streets is significant enough that the town should focus on the other three projects first, and with a high sense of urgency, considering the confluence of traffic causing celebrations beginning in 2015, just three years away. " (This was a 2012 report)
The committee is referring to projects regarding better and different signage, a better shuttle system, and more peripheral parking that is better utilized so that less cars will go downtown and add to congestion. These projects have only been partially implemented and need to be fully implemented before proceeding with any street configuration options.
The town knew well before the TVC study that there were many things that needed to be done with respect to congestion.
The TVC study also said the following:
"Congestion on Elkhorn Avenue cannot be reduced unless action is taken to remove vehicles circulating through town looking for parking."
The above is from the study and yet Town Spokeswoman Kate Rusch implies that the loop will solve the downtown congestion problems.
Here is another gem, the antithesis of the path the town has chosen.
"The goal is to get people and things where they need to go, not to specifically facilitate vehicular traffic which is the goal of most transportation planning."
The town is to be commended for conducting such a progressive and thorough study. However, it cannot be commended for ignoring the actual conclusions and recommendations of that study.
It's hard to argue facts, and that's probably why this FLAP (Federal Land Access Project- aka The Loop) is creating such outrage among residents and visitors.
Town Spin Department back in Business!
16 June (Tues): Eric Blackhurst submits Board of Realtors letter to Estes Park News & Trail Gazette
19 June (Friday): Estes Park News prints the letter
26 June (Friday): Trail Gazette prints the letter, accompanied by statements from 2 of it's editorial board members, TheresaMaria Widawski and Greg Rosener, under the guise of 'Letters to the Editor'.
So, the newspaper publisher decides to hold this important letter for a week, while the Editorial Board can draft and revise their 'responses' to run in the same issue- disguised as community members writing letters. Of course, that arrangement will be much more interesting and believable to visitors that happen to pick up the paper, having never heard of The Loop, and see that 2 community members have issues with the Realtors letter, right?
At least we have a clear understanding now about where the Trail Gazette publisher stands on The Loop. The timeline shows that the TG is willing to manage their content in a way to present a biased view- which is interesting, considering their public statement just 2 months ago that they wanted to share all sides of issues and be a valuable community paper. Today, their actions are speaking louder than their words.
At no charge to the Trail Gazette, we have taken a straw poll opinion survey and offer this new and more accurate masthead based on the results:
Update 6/30: It would appear that the Trail Gazette has sacrificed one of it's own to take the fall for getting caught managing their content (reference the article above). Brand spanking new editor Anthony Welch posted a paragraph about the debacle to say: "In getting acquainted with the daily workflow of things here in my first month, the letter got lost in the email shuffle."
Anthony, you look like a great find for this community, an asset for the Trail Gazette and a nice guy from what we hear around town. Even if what you wrote was 100% true, a series of unfortunate events leading up to this overlooked email put you at a disadvantage.
Unfortunately, you came in at a very difficult time, with ongoing employee turnover, ads composed and proofed in another country, biased editorial columns that serve as a mouthpiece for the Town administration, and generally slim newspaper that seems to be more ads than local content most weeks (of course, this is our opinion).
PS, It's strange that one of the letters that we referred to in the article above, that was printed in Fridays paper was dropped for the online 'letters to the editor' and replaced with a new letter in its place. You see, it's this ongoing pattern of little details that define the newspapers actions, which are not speaking louder than words... and before you jump us for calling these follies to the community's attention dear newspaper editors, note that we are reporting facts, timelines and the truth. That is all.
A simple mistake is what led me to run a letter to the editor from Eric Blackhurst and the Estes Park Board of Realtors in the June 26 edition of the Trail-Gazette.
Thank you, Anthony Welch
The 'No Loop' effort is growing thanks to some new faces and energy. Every day there are a handful of offers of support, money and most importantly- TIME. As we assemble the organization that will manage donations, volunteers and publicity- you can expect opportunities to get involved YOURSELF and help put a stop to The Loop.
Today, the Facebook page was started, to help disseminate information as it develops, and keep you up to date on this dangerous proposal for the future of Estes Park.
'Old Timers' said "No."
Here's another story you didn't read in the local paper, even though it's important, pertinent and timely. Because it didn't arrive in the newspaper editors inbox, it didn't get printed. Newspaper writers take note: Listen to the community and follow up leads- that's where our article came from:
The 'Old Timers Breakfast' happens occasionally, at the same restaurant for many many years. It's a social gathering with some clout- you see, the people that attend have lived here a long time, and you can't just show up- you have to be invited to join the club. So, no one is planted in the audience that moved to Estes 5 years ago and has the solutions to all of the local problems. These folks are invested in Estes Park and love this community.
Then she asked how many were opposed to the idea? You guessed it, just about every single person there thinks the loop stinks.
Thanks to Mrs Koenig for stepping out and getting some community input when it wasn't a Town sanctioned PR event. With people that have some incredible perspective on our community. We wish the Town Administrator and his band of Pro Loop trustees would take 1 or 2 humility pills, swallow some pride, then LISTEN to what this community is saying so damn clearly.
Yes, the trustees can make the decision to stop the project. "I move that we withdraw from the FLAP process." Then a second, then a vote. That's it.
We would like to move past this to more productive community involvement and planning. Plus, we are very busy this summer raising money for the Town through sales tax, and this Loop is a major distraction.
Thank you, from your bosses, (most of) the residents of the Estes Valley.
Information is Power.
Do not believe everything we write. Do not believe everything you read on a government website.
Read it for yourself and make your own decision, then join us (for that will be the most responsible course of action, you'll see).
Don't blink, you'll miss the "Packet" for this months Town Board meeting. This information is important. Better than the agenda, minutes or gossip from your friends on Wednesday morning, and WA-A-A-A-Y better than what Frank tells you happened at the meeting. These are the documents that the trustees use for reference materials as they have discussions, make decisions and otherwise govern our town. Strange thing is that you have to make an information request for the 'packet' if you miss it during the online window (currently Friday through Tuesday approximately), because it's not archived for your easy review on the Towns website.
Here's the website to review minutes, the packet, etc etc and inform yourself:
If you miss it, we'll try to make it available here each month, since the Town, who should be publicly archiving these things for us, quickly shoves them to the back of the information closet and hopes you don't ask too many questions.
Points of interest in this months 'packet':
Did you know Police Chief Wes Kufeld is proposing allowing RV's 48 hours instead of 18 to park on streets? (We think that's a good idea, thank you), and he's also proposing ALLOWING bicycles to be operated in Town parking lots? Can you believe that the Town prohibited bicycles to be operated in Town owned parking lots until this new suggestion by the police chief? Good work, Wes. Now, Chief, can we do something about those CSO's being utilized MORE OFTEN to alleviate traffic congestion? Years ago Chief Lowell Richardson made a big mistake when he slashed the CSO responsibilities and pulled them from the streets by cutting their numbers. We would suggest that if you trim back on putting a new police cruiser in every police officers driveway (very questionable use of community funds no matter how you spin it) and spend that money on alleviating traffic congestion by adding CSO's, you'll be a hero!
Perhaps we'll get into the police budget next, but that's a whole new can of worms.
(LEFT) This morning, Public Works Director Greg Muhonen reviewing plans with CDOT as they performed some striping and sign work at the 34/36 intersection. Thank you Greg- you seem to be a reasonable voice in this Loop mess.
CDOT: thanks for getting this project done. We are all anxious to see how your signal & cycle timing updates work out, as well as the signs and striping. The CDOT folks in Lyons have it figured out, at the 36/66 intersection- we're hoping your changes will be that good! Imagine, CDOT emerges as a hero in all of this by implementing some well planned traffic management.... Come on guys you can do it! Trust us, the No-Loopers are ALL anxious for positive change, without the LOOP stripping away our community's character.
6/23 Update to the congestion question: Signs, re-striping and new light
configurations have been added to the 34/36 (Elkhorn/Wonderview)
intersection in an effort to divide traffic a little more evenly between
the 2 national park entrance stations. Only the left northbound lane
of 36 will be required to turn left onto East Elkhorn. The center of 3 westbound lanes will now provide a choice to either
turn left or to head straight onto Wonderview along with the right hand
lane. This may not ease congestion in an obvious, meaningful way, but
it's a start. Thank you CDOT for getting it done ahead of your intended
schedule of October.
Now... what is with all these shortened green lights, eh?
6/28 Update: The signal at 34/36 hasn't run this smoothly in years. The recent updates by CDOT have 12+ vehicles moving through per cycle and seems to be working very well with the Westbound traffic to the 34 bypass- after the pavement stripipng went down last week to clear a few close calls up with the locals. The signs remain woefully inadequate, but surely that's in the works (brown signs that park travelers are looking for, set up with more advance notice than the point that you have to commit to a lane)... We're off to a good start at this intersection, Thanks CDOT!
Realtors said "No".
The group that may stand to make the most money on the Loop, other than the Town itself, are Realtors. Imagine it: new commercial properties lining the new Riverside State Highway running Eastbound, clamoring along the exit route from Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park for the last chance at tourist dollars- CASH COW properties that will turn over often thanks to the new and degraded Estes Park character that is just one result of the FLAP project if completed....
They said No.
Realtors are ambassadors to our community every day, and with this stance have taken a bold move to protect the community, instead of holding out for the future dollar.
The community should be proud of these
advocates for our rights and our community's future- tell a Realtor
THANKS when you see them.
The local Estes Park Board of Realtors have shown their true character, and have taken a stand AGAINST THE LOOP proving their personal commitment to the oath each member takes as a Realtor.
They are correct in stating that the Loop Project will:
- Eliminate Housing
- Eliminate Parking
- Decrease Green Space
- Degrade Quality of Life
- Make it difficult to USE or sell property NOW
- Remove Businesses
Then, they sum up the deeply flawed FLAP/Loop proposal:
"This project does not protect the right of real property ownership nor the opportunity to
enjoy it, and it certainly does not act fairly toward all."
Coincidence that traffic feels worse?
You may have noticed, as we have, that the signals between 34/36 and Moraine Ave are often red one after another. You may have also noticed that after it takes a car 3-5 seconds to react to a green signal, the light stays green for only about 22 seconds- which allows only 4-6 cars through, and then the traffic builds and builds....
Signal coordination is indicated for implementation by the Federal Highway Administration "when the intersections are in close proximity to one another and when traffic volumes between the adjacent intersections are large." Sounds like they wrote this standard about Elkhorn Avenue. Is Signal Coordination being used in Estes Park? Watch a few cycles to see for yourself.
Could it be that the signals are running coincidentally sluggish as the local, state and federal government make their case for radical street changes to our community? Perhaps.
We'll look into the traffic data and let you know what we find. Until then, pay attention to the signals, watch your watch. How many cars get through? Are the signals coordinated to move the congestion out of town, or complicate it?
SEE THE ADS AT EstesTruth.COM
That's right folks, the hinky hijackers that registered the website estestruth.COM (trying to steal our unsuspecting visitors) and originally redirected those visitors to the Towns Pro Loop website have changed the direction and now are sending those poor visitors off to the Crafty Capitalists at EstesPark.me for a heart wrenching version of how the whole redirect hijacking played out. Let us save you the time in reading it with this summary:
The hijackers registered estestruth.COM to cash in on our success with estestruth.ORG, and they got caught. The tactic is despised among web developers and business people, but they couldn't give it up, so worked out a deal with and they forwarded it to the website (EstesPark.me), who makes money when you visit inadvertently after you type in EstesTruth.COM.
So perhaps this little mention will ad another 25 cents of ad revenue to the estespark.me coffers at the cost of a big ol' black eye for their whole otherwise pleasant website in this capitalistic money grab as they join the likes of the Trail Gazette as the second satellite office for the Towns PR department.
Or, EstesPark.me chooses to abandon that sinking ship and create some distance between EstesPark.me and the desperate soul that registered estestruth.COM.
So many dots to connect.
Update 6/3/15: That whole story above? Moot point, almost. Today, in a responsible move the owner of the site EstesTruth.COM has redirected visitors to this site, EstesTruth.ORG- which is most likely the intended destination of anyone accidentally landing on the .COM site, don't you think? So we appreciate the reasonable resolution to the tactic intended to capture errant searchers- and we hope that this issue for one, is laid to rest. We've become comfortable before, so we're not settling in. But today, as of this second, it's good. That whole thing was a big mess for nothing, huh? It DID generate an awesome number of visits to this page though- so thanks for that drama.
Final update 6/4/15? We hope, that this .com redirect issue is water under the bridge. Much more important things to be talking about than where a website is pointing :-) . Thanks to all involved for swallowing some pride and letting it go. Now, back to the issue at hand- that pesky LOOP proposal....
June 2, 2015
Pack your bags Trustees, April is your last day (or sooner)
As near as we can tell, there are 3 or 4 organized groups setting the foundation to fight the FLAP on multiple fronts. The most exciting (to us) are the originally-pissed-off-and-now-settled-in RECALL advocates. If the sleeping Trustee Holcomb at the April 15th public hearing wasn't enough to get your blood pressure up as a tax-payin' resident of this mountain town, perhaps the snacking, drinking Trustee Nelson caught your eye? Right before they said how much they appreciated the input, then went into their prepared diatribes? Recall for insubordination to the boss (that's "We The People" to you, trustees) sounds appropriate.
The most promising (to us) group is this collection of well funded folks from across the Estes valley including thousands of our visitors that are setting up to engage with their attorney in a high stakes takeover of the Town, putting the future of our community in the hands of the Evil Residents- you know, the folks that fell in love with Estes, pay taxes and rent, work the stores and elect the people that- as it turns out- choose to MISrepresent them? We are privvy to thier plan, and it's not looking good for the Town. We've said it before and we'll say it again- WE TOLD YOU SO- you should have dropped this foolish FLAP plan when you had the chance... Trustees, you're gonna look like (bigger) fools when the FLAP / LOOP project falls, and we're hoping it takes a few of you with it including anyone on the staff or family of supporters that helped force feed this project down the throats of the citizens that have plead with you to REPRESENT them.
The most questionable (to us) group are the renegades that are obviously angry about The Loop, the Town administration, and other miscellaneous issues that are getting thrown onto the coat tails of the Anti-Loop. Just making noise doesn't help anyone, even if you're screaming NO LOOP from the rooftops. How you communicate matters, and we could use your help with this project- so CONTACT US and ask how you can constructively help, would you? In example: DUMP FRANK stickers, F*** THE LOOP signs, etc etc. We know you're angry, but we need to channel that energy. You all DO make for some exciting chat around the water cooler however.
Plenty of talk about new Trustee candidates around town, which is great to hear! If you have the chance, talk frankly with those potential candidates and find out where they are coming from, and who they will be representing when we change leadership- because sooner than later, you'll be packing up your nameplate and leaving Town Hall. Alternately, you could listen, and represent the way you were elected to. Doing the right thing will be uncomfortable at Town Hall, but that's what you signed up for. In this case, you might want to listen to the MAJORITY, and not the well paid Town staff advisers.
Another weekend, another round of No Loop supporters
As the snowbirds return (Welcome Back!) and the visitors continue to trek to the beautiful Estes Valley, waves of new faces and minds are joining up with the NO LOOP movement to protect Estes Park from the FLAP grant and LOOP project that will forever change Estes Park from anything you remember.
Although it's been a little quiet on the website, we've been quite busy, and have finally interviewed several candidates and selected an attorney that will bring the experience and relationships to this fight that we are confident will not be lost. It will cost money, and more energy- at a time that we all should be focused on running businesses and saving up for winter! But priorities matter, and the number of new supporters has been awesome. If you haven't taken stock of the number of new signs around town, you'll find more than a hundred windows sporting the NO LOOP message, with business owners who have been pillars of this community for decades and longer, standing up for the right to bring this decision to the people. People that feel betrayed by leadership in Estes Park that is hell-bent on making the LOOP happen at all costs.
THAT, is unfortunate. One of the most common phrases we hear in conversation lately, is "I'm disappointed in him/her", when discussing the way this process has been managed and publicized by the PRO-LOOP folks including our elected Trustees, and spearheaded by Town Administrator Frank Lancaster. Have you wondered what his true feelings are about the Loop? Here's a peek at the fundraising event hosted by the Rotary Club in case you couldn't attend:
Is it odd that our Town Administrator would publicly make fun of a situation that thousands of people have said is bad for Estes Park, that hundreds of business owners have publicly stuck their necks out to oppose? An issue that has divided the community more than any in memory, and despite damning facts is still being pressed at full strength as a solution to a moving target - /federal land access/congestion/flooding/infrastructure/expanding downtown/insurance scare/idea of the day ?
Photos are starting to show up around the internet and on social media with NO LOOP signs in the background, while visitors continue to visit, which is a double edged sword to be sure. While Frank's Administration has control of Kates Media Release Department and Pro Loop publicity machine from their pleasant offices on high, the Business Owners are at street level meeting face to face with tens of thousands of visitors and discussing this issue in person, and answering the question "What's all this about THE LOOP?" "Every business in town has a sign!". . . That's what they're saying, just for your information Frank Lancaster (administrator), and Trustees Ward Nelson, John Ericson, Ron Norris and Bob Holcomb. Fortunately, our answer is an intelligent summary of your plan, and the impact on Estes Park. (Sometimes we use full names so that these pages show up when you Google our town leaders by name- they deserve the publicity).
Things would be a lot nicer if we were spending this time, energy and money on developing a successful plan for Downtown! But that's not the choice we're being given by our current Town leadership. Guess it's time for a change! Coming soon, we follow the money and start to unravel this project from the inside out, right in front of your eyes.
Cheesy Hijacker strikes again
Back on April 16th, someone registered the website EstesTruth.COM, and redirected the traffic to the town's official Downtown Estes Loop website, which is full of government information that has been properly sanitized and sorted to lead the readers to believe that this LOOP project is good For Estes! We brought this slimy tactic out into the light of day and Town Administrator Frank Lancaster said "The Town and the project team doesn't want to have anything to do with these types of tactics", and lo and behold the redirection stopped shortly thereafter.
The hijackers must have noticed the flurry of new sign activity as 15 more businesses have posted BIG signs in the last 10 days (hooray), so they reactivated their website redirection. It is hard to deny our successful marketing of our site EstesTruth.ORG. So, we understand that you want to get in on some of that publicity and TV coverage of EstesTruth.org. It's still a cheesy move to hijack a website name- although it is consistent with the way this whole process has been going. Loop supporters getting digs in at anyone who dares question the Loop, or even worse: display a NO LOOP sign or speak publicly about the terrible consequences that this project will have on the community.
We will continue to expose facts, publicize the project and poke fun at the underhanded tactics that are being used by the Pro-Loopers. Yes, these words may sound pretty harsh if you're on the wrong side of this issue, maybe even feels like a personal attack? But they're just facts, and sometimes the facts hurt when you're on the wrong side of an issue.
Stepping down from the soapbox now, thanks for visiting the real EstesTruth website, where you'll always get the straight story.
Update 5/17/15: The redirect is down again. Up, down, up, down.
Where we're at
We've been quiet, but working hard. Lots of inquiries to find out 'how the recall is coming' and where people can send donations, so here's a status report:
Our objective is to prevent the Loop project- from changing Estes Park forever:
- In the midst of legal counsel regarding the best options to pursue including recalling trustees, bringing the LOOP up for a public vote though an initiative, etc
- Organizing a formal group to allow collection and use of donations for legal and advertising expenses
- Marketing and communication projects
- Coordinating the influx of supporters that want to participate
Keep an eye on this page, and we'll let you know where you can help and when. We'll also send emails to the folks that have used the comment page to submit support or ask for updates.
Unfortunately, the Trustees seem to be intent on pushing this through, and they need to hear from you as often as you have the chance (because they say they don't read this site, or comment cards) about how you want to be represented! Is it acceptable for their answer to be that they know better than you do?
After all of the investigation we've done, the Loop looks like a losing proposition on many levels and over the next few weeks you'll see some of the dirty details that will reveal more damning facts to the community. Our elected trustees passed up their golden opportunity to stop this money sucking project on April 15th, and their poor choices for the community are continuing to be exposed as the support for the NO LOOP campaign grows- as seen by the signs and conversations all over town with each day of additional expense to the taxpayers.
NO THANKS from us to the trustees that think they know better than the people: Bob Holcomb, Ward Nelson, Ron Norris and John Ericson.
Our hats are off to Wendy Koenig and John Phipps for taking a stand against a poorly planned LAND ACCESS project that is actually being used to create a larger downtown- but more on that bombshell later...
"The Shot Heard Round The World"
....please, don't call the police!
Call the police, sound crazy? Nope. Our compatriots over at FREE Estes (the Facebook page that brashly advocates for transparent local government, and are therefore vilified as trouble makers) used a political reference to our forefathers standing up for their rights and it became another misunderstanding by the curious pro-loop citizenry. We've said before that we don't make this stuff up, and here's another case of 'stranger than true'.
We'll share the facts, so you may decide if it's a little over reaction, or if you were also scared by the threat of shooting:
FREE Estes posted this on April 16th:
Last evening, Ward Nelson - aka Tough Guy, John Ericson, Bob Holcomb and Ron Norris voted to sell the soul of this community for $13 million. They were elected to represent you, and they sold you out!
It gets worse. FLAP money comes from the Highway Trust Fund, which has to be backfilled every year from the government's General Fund. That means FLAP is part of the deficit spending of our government. Where does the government go to borrow money to cover it's deficit spending? China!
Those four traitors didn't just sell you out, they sold you out for Chinese money that you, your children and your children's children get to pay back, with interest!
Our founding fathers would be shooting by now!
Our understanding of that last line was an idiomatic reference to the revolutionary war, when the citizens stood up to government with pitchforks and rifles, forever becoming the poster child for law abiding citizens to speak their mind and defend their rights. Unfortunately there was at least one person that didn't understand the reference, who then posted a reply on the FREE Estes Facebook page and caused quite a stir, take a look:
It reminds us of the instance where a Trail Gazette editor called this website out for publishing a picture of the back of Hispanic males (the image on our website home- read the response further down this page) then calling us out on some thinly veiled racial statement, and we suggested he was 'making a mountain out of a molehill'.... Deja Vu all over again, a la gun threat.
For full transparency: Todd J has nothing to do with EstesTruth.org. ..and we don't know for certain who all are responsible FREE Estes, but we are not.
Apparently the Facebook posts were not satisfying enough, and the police contacted Todd J that afternoon to discuss the post that you read above- after they received a report of the alleged gun threat from a concerned citizen.... They wanted to ask if there was a gun threat to be concerned about. We called Todd to investigate the facts before reporting it to you here, and he stated that the case was closed after a brief (few minute) conversation with the authorities.
We don't make this stuff up! Please, pro loopers, base your campaign to ram this FLAP project down the throat of the community on reasons that it's good for the community, and discontinue the underhanded tactics*. Thanks so much.
* A few underhanded tactics of note, to date:
-- Trustee Nelson berates woman business owner in her downtown store about this site
-- Anonymous email sent to Elkhorn Ave business threatening store owners by name
-- Racial assertion by newspaper editor about the front page picture on this site
-- Gun violence assertion against activist site
-- "EstesTruth.com" is registered and set up to redirect visitors looking for this site, to the Town official Loop page
May 1, 2015
Listen up Trustees!
Changing the character of Estes Park is not in our best interest.
(to the Trail Gazette) Dear Sir: Please find our enclosed check for a subscription to your newspaper, which we have received and enjoyed very much. We found many items of interest to us, but one notice which I feel I must comment upon. There is a proposal underway to make an alternate route through the village which would relieve traffic congestion. May I take this opportunity to express an opinion on this as a recent visitor and possible future resident of the community? We visited many vacation spots throughout Colorado, and returned three times during our trip to Estes Park, because we felt it provided more for us than any other place we went. We feel most strongly that any change in traffic flow through the village would be a serious mistake. Ordinarily, we too object to traffic congestion and find it a trial, but in a vacation spot such as you have there, that is the very thing which adds to the general air of enthusiasm, excitement, and charm. Throngs of people milling up and down the streets and especially Elkhorn Avenue, simply add to the general air of popularity, and create the feeling that something wonderful must be going on to attract so many people. It would seem you would defeat the very thing Estes Park is trying to do, if you divert the flow of traffic from the main artery through the village. We are not familiar with the proposed changes, but wonder if the town itself might not suffer greatly from any diversion of traffic. We realize that the congestion is heavy in many spots, but the installation of traffic signals would help greatly and still not take the tourist flow out of the main streets. Estes Park is exciting, glamorous, full of people all enjoying the crowds and each other, and if you take this off the streets, you will be losing the very thing that makes Estes Park what it now is, i.e., a busy, happy, thronging, enthusiastic, exciting place where there is something going on every minute. What would Elkhorn Avenue look like devoid of its summer visitors? Thank you for this opportunity of giving you our sincere and earnest opinion, not only as boosters for the village as a vacation center, but as serious citizens contemplating a permanent home there.
Yours very truly, Mrs. Warren J.
Buchan, Alexander Lumber Company, Champaign,
August 30, 1954
April 29, 2015
Larimer County Commissioners are kept 'Out of The Loop'
We had the opportunity to bump into one of our County Commissioners recently, and we were surprised to hear he felt 'out of the loop' on this controversial issue in Estes Park- you know the one that involves the Federal Money, the State Highway Department, the Town Government, and Discontent Voters? Did Frank not relay the information to his old bosses (and OUR County representatives) who are still in charge of Larimer County? Oopsie, another oversight. Dear readers, please take a moment to send an update of your thoughts about THE LOOP (officially the FLAP project) to all of the Larimer County Commissioners at once by clicking HERE. We have also added a link to our contact page for your convenience.
April 28, 2015
Preliminary Flood Meeting Pearls:
Question: What percentage of flood mitigation relief will the FLAP project provide if it goes through?
Answer (Will Birchfield): "Yes (it will provide relief), but I can't qualify that answer until I see the modeling for this project". [ He's kind of softened his stance on how AWESOME the FLAP project will be for flood relief, huh? ]
Allison Chilcott (Town Planner) stated that the Town estimates $20 million will be needed to mitigate flooding concerns downtown, that should include flood walls, wider channels and using Elkhorn Ave itself during flood events to redirect water. [ Isn't that part of the reason we need to make a PLAN before we do 17 million dollars worth of construction downtown? Hello? Time to call off the FLAP project yet? ]
Will Birchfield: "The flood plain remapping will be a very public project" [ We hope more public than the FLAP project ]
Erin May, NFIP Bureau & Statistics: Buildings with existing flood insurance may be grandfathered to keep their existing designation if they have insurance prior to remapping the flood plain. [ That's a big deal that congress included in all of this as of April 1, 2015 ] She also said that a $10,000 deductible is available to offset huge premiums so flood insurance is a catastrophic protection that you can afford....
Finally, Will Birchfield is mostly a Floodplain Manager now. Before the flood, that was 5% of his job, after the flood it jumped to 90%, and now its around 75%..... So the question is- who will the Town hire next to fill another position created? Did we mention how many manager positions have been CREATED in the last 12 months? (Yet another big story we're working on, there are so many to choose from). Stay tuned.
"This whole site is Bull***t!"
^ ^ ^ That is the kind of vague, unintelligent fussing we hear about once every ten days via anonymous messages to this site. To date, we have received 3 (THREE) requests to correct information from Town representatives, which we have investigated and updated swiftly. One change was correcting Trustee Ericson's name spelling. That's the kind of mistakes we're making, and correcting. Now, the big ideas and facts that we publish? No challenges. Take it or leave it, this site is about sharing information for YOU to make a decision about whether this LOOP project is good or bad for Estes, and judging by the feedback we're getting, we're right: the LOOP is a bad idea for our community.
TOWN STAFF: Awards? Never mind those- We know better than you, so we're changing a few things, 'moving some things' to make Estes Park Better!
WINNER: 10 Most Beautiful Towns in Colorado (The Culture Trip)
[ read the article ]
WINNER: 11 Best Vacation Spots in Driving Distance From Denver (thrillist)
[ read the article ]
WINNER: Best Small Town To Visit in 2015 (Smithsonian)
[ read the article ]
Growth for growths sake isn't growth, it's greed. (Greed is not on the list of assets for award winning towns) This is a common mistake of new-timers that have a solution to a problem they perceive.
Hint for Town Staff not already smelling the messy end of this Loop debacle: It's nearly your last chance to stand with the common sense folks that are saying "No Thanks" to the loop and lend your vocal or quiet support to the defeat of this flawed proposal, although you may temporarily lose face with the boss... OR you could continue to say 'Yes Sir', and go along with the worst decision for Estes Park in decades. Seriously. Step back from the publicity machine running overtime at Town Hall and refocus on what is right for the community- are you really going to hang your hat on 3 bridges (or whatever number it is this week) and an intersection in exchange for:
- 13 million dollars
- One Way Streets that will drive us crazy all year and doom business plans as we become a BYPASS TOWN
- Keeping the Pro Loopers happy (who are counting on future Town relationship or Town payments- show us one that isn't?) Maybe we'll put together the web of connections of all the pro-loopers for you to see it in living color. Strangely connected they all are...
- More lost face for Estes as 'Town Staff' push this lost cause- and it costs more, and more and more (of OUR money) every week.....
Step back and take a breath Townies, you've got yourselves into quite a mess. Say sorry, make up with the community and move into a real planning stage.... not including the set of plans that the Town Administrator has already drawn up.
The NO LOOP signs are great conversation starters, and offer a chance to describe what the Town is trying to get away with to curious visitors. Visit the businesses that have signs and you'll find independent minded business owners that feel strongly enough to stand up for what they believe in by displaying a sign.
This awareness campaign has been FULL of intelligent conversation about this proposal and asking about the project in a business with a sign is a great way to learn more about the project from someone that cares deeply about our community.
If you'd like a larger sign, please contact us and we'll be in touch as they are available. You may also print your own from the pdf file above.
April 19, 2015 The Estes Park Town Board's special meeting held Wednesday night at the Fairgrounds Events Center was unique for many reasons. First, and foremost, it encouraged public comment in
a way we haven't seen in some time. Residents poured into the meeting
and knew ahead of time that everyone could speak and wouldn't be limited
to an amount of time. They knew their message would be heard. The
meeting has been widely characterized as a measure to humor the
citizens, who all but demanded this opportunity to speak at the public
meeting on March 25th. The Town doesn't get credit for going out of
their way to listen to the people, they had no choice and have shown
that public sentiment has been an irritant throughout this process. The residents took advantage of that opportunity and spoke out for
and against the continuance of an environmental assessment for the
proposed downtown loop for four hours of the five-and-a-half hour
meeting. That first hour and a half that isn't
described went like this: Blah Blah Blah Blah for 90 minutes of a
filibuster that was successful at thinning out the crowd that was there
to SPEAK, not be lectured about the same old story. Just 8 minutes into
the meeting, Town Administrator Lancaster admonished a man for shouting a
comment and said he would end the meeting if it happened again. That
was a popular crowd control technique in the 4th grade, Frank. But, not
to worry, the police quietly escorted that man out of the Town Hall
meeting a few minutes later, not to return.
Our interpretation of a Trail Gazette editorial
From their April 16, 2015 edition
TG words in grey, our comments in red
The Estes Park Town Board's special meeting held Wednesday night at the Fairgrounds Events Center was unique for many reasons.
First, and foremost, it encouraged public comment in
a way we haven't seen in some time. Residents poured into the meeting
and knew ahead of time that everyone could speak and wouldn't be limited
to an amount of time. They knew their message would be heard. The
meeting has been widely characterized as a measure to humor the
citizens, who all but demanded this opportunity to speak at the public
meeting on March 25th. The Town doesn't get credit for going out of
their way to listen to the people, they had no choice and have shown
that public sentiment has been an irritant throughout this process.
The residents took advantage of that opportunity and spoke out for and against the continuance of an environmental assessment for the proposed downtown loop for four hours of the five-and-a-half hour meeting. That first hour and a half that isn't described went like this: Blah Blah Blah Blah for 90 minutes of a filibuster that was successful at thinning out the crowd that was there to SPEAK, not be lectured about the same old story. Just 8 minutes into the meeting, Town Administrator Lancaster admonished a man for shouting a comment and said he would end the meeting if it happened again. That was a popular crowd control technique in the 4th grade, Frank. But, not to worry, the police quietly escorted that man out of the Town Hall meeting a few minutes later, not to return.
For the most part, the meeting was civil and respectful despite an occasional outburst of cheering and clapping. ...and the TG editorial staff shows their true colors: Cheering, an accepted symbol of support or appreciation is called out to be disrespectful and uncivil ??
Second, it should be noted that many good ideas -
some not heard before - were aired about possible solutions to our
downtown traffic congestion problem. If the Town leaders had been shown the comments that the public thought was being shared with them, they would have already seen all of the ideas presented on Wednesday night, because they were largely suggested in public comments that never reached the trustees. Publishing whatever the Town tells through their news releases isn't reporting, it makes you a dispensable messenger.
Third, it allowed downtown business owners and
property owners to voice their united support for change. It was clear
from the outset that they embrace change. It was also clear that many of
them - for a variety of reasons - don't think the downtown loop
proposal is a good idea and will not solve the traffic congestion
dilemma. Accurate, but you could add that the project managers, trustees and town staff also have said it won't solve the congestion problem. But no big deal, that's merely the primary objective of the 13 million dollar FLAP grant.
Fourth, it was obvious that the town board listened
and listened carefully to everyone's comments. Trustee comments
reflected this and even revealed a great deal of concern about the
project. Were we the only ones that watched the Trustees snack, drink and nap during the meeting? Then we suffered through Mr Holcombs prepared statement thanking the people for their input, although what he read was exactly what he said a week before while speaking with concerned citizens? The man is not cut out to be a trustee. TG Editors, are you intentionally ignoring the multitude of stories that are critical of this FLAP process, or do you just not get it? Except for a couple of old school folks on your staff, we had better investigative reporters in 6th grade journalism class.
In the end, the board voted 4-2 to continue the environmental
assessment of the loop project if for no other good reason than to allow
more data - especially economic data - to be collected and added to the
EA. The only dissenting votes were cast by Trustee John Phipps and
Mayor Pro Tem Wendy Koenig. ...and you didn't
mention the Trustees names who betrayed the citizens that were looking
into their eyes at that meeting because- they're your friends? They are
in Rotary? What's the connection of protection? We'll figure it out. No thanks to Bob Holcomb, John Ericson, Ron Norris and Ward Nelson for dragging this process out.
It became apparent that the downtown loop is not a "done" deal.
Rather, it is a project with more questions than answers at the moment. It is a project that will continue to accrue expenses that the taxpayers will have to suffer through paying because the Gang of 4 decided to string us along for a little while longer, protecting their friendship with the "Town Staff" who despite their smiles and warm handshakes are up to something.
We applaud the community for speaking out. We also applaud the board for listening and agreeing to gather more information through the EA process.
The ultimate decision on the loop project will now likely occur in
the late summer or early fall when a final EA draft is ready for review. Is that what the Town told you? Know anything about the Final Decision Date? That there's no legal requirement for the Town Board to vote on this issue again, because they have already approved it TWICE against the wishes of the majority of their constituents? That their offer to have another public meeting for additional input was to humor us and make them look like they cared? Ask a lawyer, this deal is now done. How is it that we, average business owners and residents of this beautiful valley, have more good factual information than the newspaper, or what is presented in town meetings? Because we personally invested in Estes Park, and our lives are on the line here.
We believe at that point that the town board will be able to arrive
at a decision - based on good information - that is best for the
On review, our red comments seem pretty harsh- until you look at the facts and see that the TG is reporting what the Town feeds them. There's hope TG folks, begin reporting both sides fairly and people will come around. Heck, you did an article we thought was pretty good, lets see.... its here somewhere... um, ok can't find it right now among all of the PRO LOOP pieces you have written. But, Wednesday is a new paper, so we'll see.
and now, we discriminate?
April 18, 2015
Yesterday one of our contributors received a letter in his personal email account that went like this: "In short, I am concerned about the cover photo (at the top of this page) and the mask photo (article at lower right) in regards to what they imply. May I ask what the Hispanic looking men with backs turned imply? The photo of the gentleman with the mask? As a native born educated Hispanic citizen of this country I am somewhat offended and wonder if this helps Estes Park in anyway. I understand your issues with the Loop and as you know, I believe everyone has a right to speak out on any issues but many are often mislead by images. I hope you understand my concerns and would appreciate a better understanding of these photos."
Are you kidding? This query is the essence of making a mountain out of a molehill.
So the reply from our writer went like this: "I took the photo, and the circumstances of that shot will put you at ease. During a discussion about the website, and the concept of providing an alternative perspective of our community we thought that a view of the back of the sign that thousands of visitors capture to represent their visit was iconic in itself, so I ran up to take the picture. By chance there were 4 men taking a picture at the time I arrived, and I asked if I could take one from the back for a project I was working on, and they laughed and said no problem. As you can see, they are not easily identified by their faces or the vehicle they are driving, and all of them consented to me taking their picture. After the picture we chatted for several minutes and I answered their request for some suggestions for a hike and lunch and they were on their way. Honestly, if you had caught me in the grocery store and asked me what their skin color was, I couldn't have told you because it doesn't matter. I believe, as my family does, that people are people. Doesn't matter what color their skin is or where they come from- is their heart beating? They qualify as people. Our family includes children that we have adopted from other countries, and we truly don't notice the color of skin unless someone calls my attention to it, like you just did with your email. The picture on the website has a picture of the back of 4 people at the Estes Park sign, that's it. I hope that this information provides you some relief if this was truly concerning. I will mention your concern to the group to see if it's worth mention, in the event that anyone might take offense to the website, which is intended as an informative expression of opinions and otherwise unreported facts, very clearly protected by the first amendment... The man with a mask and computer is an appropriate visual that someone located when the blurb was posted about an anonymous party that registered the alternate website name and forwarded to the towns project website. I received an email from Frank Lancaster yesterday declaring 'they wouldn't be a party to that kind of tactic', which I believe. Of course the estestruth.org website was updated to reflect that information within minutes and I hope that they figure out who's behind it, it takes away from their credibility in my opinion, and lends credibility to (our) site."
...So that's the kind of thing that we're hearing about in the comment box for EtesTruth.org, small nit picky details about this website. No one is contesting our assertion that Frank has a master plan in his own head that he hasn't shared, no one is contesting a hundred citizens suggestions that the trustees ignored the constituents, no one is contesting that the FLAP grant looks like a money grab- but Pro-Flappers are writing in with accusations that 'there aren't really 60 businesses with signs in their windows', or the complaint about the skin color of the men in our photo, above, or 'John Ericson's name is spelled wrong' (it was, and we fixed it).
Is that all you've got? Because we would expect more of you, especially from an editor at the Trail Gazette.
The passion to fight FOR the Loop by the small group of community 'leaders' makes us curious about what the hidden agenda is to get it done... We'll uncover it; people are lining up with tips and there are only so many hours in the day to check out the facts before we share them here.
April 18, 2015
The Special Town Board meeting has been posted online. We're still comparing our notes with what's shown on the video. It appears there are some simple edits, hopefully no important omissions. Grab a snack and something to drink, it's 5 hours and 19 minutes long. Don't worry, the trustees were comfortable enough: snacking, drinking and napping in front of their escape route, 'in case the crowd became unruly'. No kidding, an escape plan, and... before you call the last line snarky- check our facts! The dozen police officers in uniform and plainclothes might have been a tipoff to the riots that were expected.
April 17, 2015
We hear you Estes Park!
Since Wednesday nights meeting (April 15th) we have be overwhelmed with messages, personal contact, emails, phone calls etc etc from new names that are interested in supporting the fight against the loop, a recall effort, and the push back in general of the way the Town is handling this whole situation. So, rest assured we are working hard on taking a reasonable approach to everything and will continue to update this site with new information. Feels like a new company that just invented a cool widget and everyone wants to get one. Overwhelmed with support, thanks!
Tell your friends to check here too, and we'll move to the next step. If you have a talent, resource or inside tip to share, please do so here: CONTACT US
That is the BEST way to get in touch with the group. We're also working on organizing legally so we can accept financial support that's been offered to pay for legal expenses. Stay tuned! This is America in action.
The Town should have cut their losses Wednesday night and listened to the people.
THIS is what a pitchfork looks like in 2015: EstesTruth.org
April 16, 2015
We've received some real zingers in our comment box over the last couple of weeks. Most interesting are the hundreds (& hundreds) of people that say NO LOOP. Another email caught our eye yesterday that called out the 'greedy business owners downtown of not participating in any local groups to discuss the future of Estes Park'. Interesting point, but most of us are involved in places you may not be involved-and not everyone is a downtown business owner that is against the creation of a loop bypass. We are involved: Optimist Club, Volunteer Fire Department, Girl Scouts, Park School District Accountability Committee, Boy Scouts, Estes Park HS Alumni Board, Veterans Advocacy, Meals on Wheels, School Board, Fire District, Church Elder, international missions, even a member of the Downtown Business Partners! So, to say we're uninvolved complainers is uninformed. You give to the community where your talents are, and when something happens that catches your attention you pay better attention and voice your opinion, and that's what is happening all around you.
Estes Valley Fire Chief Dorman: "..the one way section could cause some significant response issues through this area."
The Fire Chief goes on to say that he is recommending the installation of specialized equipment that would turn the traffic light green when fire apparatus approach. So we're not accused of taking it out of context, read his comments for yourself:
"I told Greg (Muhonen) that the reason we can get through the downtown area now is because the summer officers can clear the east bound lane, thus opening up a lane for us to travel westbound. With the loop design of having 3 west bound lanes it created a situation where there could be gridlock in that portion of Elkhorn that was changed to one way. Therefore, a solution was needed to ensure that at least one lane could be opened up for emergency vehicles. (Police Commander) Eric Rose stated that they could not provide personnel to ensure this was done manually with PD personnel. I suggested that Greg look at an Opticom system on the down town lights which would clear at least one lane of traffic on the one way block. If it can be accomplished with the Opticom system then I do not feel there will be any impact on our emergency responses. However, without the Opticom system or some other way of opening a traffic lane, the one way section could cause some significant response issues through this area. "There are no plans to install an Opticom system currently. It would require devices to be added to the traffic signals, and emergency vehicles including police and ambulances. The system would turn the light green in favor of the emergency vehicle, but would not 'clear' the series of intersections the way the traffic officers are able to- so the actual benefit of this system would be an expensive experiment with public safety at risk. As always, in our well informed opinion.
April 14, 2015
A message from one of this websites contributors:
Yesterday this process took a strange turn, but I guess it should have been expected. Our neighboring business owner Carissa came by in tears because one of our Trustees had just finished working her over- that’s how she described it. He barged in and demanded to know if she was the one behind the EstesTruth.org website. The rest of the conversation didn’t go very well, but she held her ground, and good for her. This is a process of expressing opinions, struggling to get the Trustees to hear what we have to say, and creating awareness for those that have been uninformed. When I say we, I don’t mean 5 business owners downtown. I mean the hundreds of folks that I have seen that have been submitted to the EstesTruth website, it’s remarkable. I heard Elizabeth from Visit Estes Park describe surveys that have been done, revealing visitors who are concerned about congestion, and I’ve heard Frank describe public input that cries out for parking, parking, parking! Their data is a bit impersonal in that they are a group of surveys that are in a nice little organized summary. Reviewing the submissions to the website has put a name and face on this effort for me that has been the driving force behind a lot of my energy to continue contributing to this effort, because when things happen like yesterday, you wonder if it’s just too much.
There are other folks in Town (than me) that have loud voices, like Adam Shake and Jim Pickering. Both seem to me to be in favor of the Loop, and that’s OK with me. The next time I see Adam, I’ll shake his hand and smile, because he’s a nice guy, enthusiastic about what he does. I’m interested to meet Jim, because obviously he knows a lot about Estes Park that I’d like to hear, and they both share my passion for this community. That they are in favor of the FLAP project doesn’t make me think less of them- in fact- I appreciate that they are willing to say what they think and discuss the merits of their beliefs without a fight! That’s the way I’m trying to approach this, and after losing sleep the first week of this effort, I’m sleeping well again because I realize it’s a process, not a fight.
I believe that the Trustees will be making a big mistake if they allow this FLAP process to continue- a mistake because it puts their integrity at risk knowing all of the facts on the front line and behind the scenes that have come to light after lots of first hand conversations and research. It’s not difficult to schedule a meeting with any of the trustees, they are willing to sit or call and talk, but it unsettled me a bit as I heard more than one trustee declare that the process would ‘move forward’, because that’s what was ‘best for Estes Park’. Remarkably, their comments were made before they had even seen the limited public comment that was delivered to them last Friday. Wow, for my representative to tell me that they knew better than the people that elected them was discouraging to say the least. Those statements have further encouraged me to keep raising awareness and letting people make their own decisions about this issue, because we all have a lot at stake, no matter where your business is, no matter if you live in Estes, our common bond is an affection for this community.
The opportunity to contribute to the website, to have candid conversations and to participate in this process has been a difficult privilege, but it is a privilege to express thoughts and have those conversations. After all is said, Thursday we’ll have a better idea of where this all stands, and I’m still going to be handing out Taffy at the Quota Club Taste of Estes, I’m still going to run into you at the grocery store, I’m still going to be passionate about Estes Park- so I’ll keep it civil and hope to keep my friends and hope to encourage others to say what they think.
Do you have something to say? Share it with your name on it and I’ll bet good money that it shows up on EstesTruth.org. Those anonymous complaints or generalizations about the whole website being wrong don’t hold merit, but the specific issues get vetted and updated (there have been 3 that I know of). It was good to see Frank Lancaster submit a correction the other day- within minutes it was reviewed and updated to be more accurate. It’s a process of working together, with respect.
So I’ll see you at the Taste of Estes, I know I will be enjoying the Taffy Shop story, and not talking about the FLAP process, for one night at least.
Signed, Mark Igel
“I hope the board will not be bullied into a decision based on a small group with a loud voice,” (Mayor) Pinkham said.
April 14, 2015
Oh boy. That's a quote from today's Trail Gazette, whos editors are giddy and apparently working overtime to get anything that might possibly help the FLAP project advance, online and into the eyes of readers. They're not making money selling papers- but they are loving the page visits!
A recall would be a great paper-seller, and it would be an excellent exercise in American politics as the trustees answer questions about this process, that will be quite uncomfortable. Here's why: From it's inception, the FLAP process has been fraught with problems, parking garage drawings as part of the discussion, then not. Public comment heralded as a major component of the process, then not shared with the trustees (over 160 comments were collected by the CFL agency that were not shared with the trustees). A NEPA study that was to be complete in April, dragging out past an April 16th deadline that CFL imposed on the Town, so the complete NEPA study results are not a part of the decision. Language in the application itself that has come under scrutiny for its accuracy, and finally, trustees announcing to their constituents, before and after receiving public comment that they would be 'pushing this project through' when they voted (audio recording). Town administrator announcing that this project was not subject to a public vote (March 25th public meeting recording).
Does it feel like the public comment has mattered so far? Nope. That's probably why the Mayor thinks this is a small group of bullies- he hasn't been given accurate information by the folks around him, again.
Oh, Bullies are more like the folks that show up and try to intimidate or threaten others, perhaps in their stores and on the sidewalk along Elkhorn, in front of others and on security tapes. Take a poll and see which trustee intimidated a young female business owner this afternoon. It's embarrassing for him, and the Town- but more on that later. She's still getting legal advice. We heard about it here, then checked out the details for ourselves. Someone's got some explaining to do, and we are disappointed that it's come to this. We're working overtime to present facts, well informed opinions and when we discuss this issue, we're still neighbors after the conversation ends. No need to be mean. If the facts are not on your side, are you on the right side?
April 13, 2015
It's official, there will be an organizational meeting to discuss a potential trustee recall depending on the results of the Wednesday night meeting.
The meeting is a go unless the trustees vote not to continue the FLAP project, thereby ending the project at Wednesday nights Special Meeting of the Town Board, being held at the Special Events Center at the fairgrounds. (you should attend)
It has become clear through the Trustees and Town Administrators own words that the process is 'deeply flawed' (audio recording from 2 public meetings, and emails from open record requests), although they are not taking action to protect the best interests of Estes Park from the impact of this process, and would be making an irreversible decision to move forward with the Federal Land Access Project, in spite of abundant data that will dismantle the integrity of the application. The trustees failure to recognize a fatally flawed process that has corrupted their ability to make an informed decision, and, their failure to represent the majority of the public sentiment in this issue are the preliminary basis for the recall.
Driven by the volume of emails and petition signatories against this project, as well as the remarkable number of normally silent residents that are speaking out on this issue we will outline the procedural requirements for a recall, and assign tasks to efficiently hold a recall election before the LOOP project is able to begin construction.recall
Update: The meeting scheduled has been changed. Please contact us if you're interested in attending to discuss this issue at an alternate place and time. Unfortunately a couple of bad apples created an unnecessary situation for the business that offered to host the original meeting, so we'll avoid those issues by moving. Watch this site for more information on this effort.
April 14, 2015
Rocky Mountain National Park:
We're Full! We're very busy up here!
Town of Estes Park: Don't Worry! We're building a road to make access faster for 40% more vehicles!
make sense to us either. Have no fear, the Town "leaders" will explain
why we must build more capacity even though RMNP is planning to manage
the impact of too many visitors in parts of
national park because they are overcrowded. In the Memorandum of
Agreement between CDOT, Town and RMNP, Superintendent Baker remarked
that "We (Park Service) only need to participate in the following 2
roles: 1) Review and sign the project agreement, and 2) Review and
comment on environmental documents. We are declining to participate in
the other 'product/service/role' items listed in the agreement. It is
with this understanding that I have signed the agreement". Those
other unimportant items include things like "ensure that completed
plans, specifications and estimates are consistent with the intended
outcome", and "provide support for the development of environmental
documents", as well as 5 other items. (Read the memo by scrolling down
on this page)
We don't make this stuff up! See the Channel 7 story here. You'll also see it on 9 News and in the Reporter Herald.
4/13: Update- Promptly after this news story aired across Colorado and even in our own little Trail Gazette, someone must have made some phone calls which caused Kyle Patterson, the kind & intelligent RMNP spokesperson (and we're not being sarcastic, she's nice) to issue a media release to correct the news stories, saying: "It appears there is some significant misinformation about a recent interview that was conducted pertaining to Rocky Mountain National Park. Unfortunately, when the information from the original article was condensed in other news outlets, the information was taken out of context. We do not have plans to close areas of Rocky Mountain National Park."
So, we wonder if the Park wants us to increase vehicle capacity through Estes Park to their entrance gates? They didn't say.
Public comments submitted before
March 25th are not being considered by the Town Trustees for the April
15th meeting. We told you so!
Public comments from March 25th through April 9th are the only comments Trustees were officially provided in their board packets to prepare for the meeting on Wednesday, when they decide the fate of Estes Park. Is $200,000 a lot of money to put the brakes on this out of control juggernaut? Nope. Because that number will grow to $500,000 at the end of the NEPA process if we decide it's not a good idea then, not withstanding the ongoing public outcry about this broken process. WOW! Admit mistakes have been made, pay the bill and move onto planning, the money to make a plan is already in place! We could start the meetings next week, let's get to it! (PS, we're all for a PUBLIC PLAN, not a secret plan)
It's too late to submit your
comments to the Trustees via the Town email system, or via the official
website, it has been too late for days. You must bring your heartfelt
comments to the meeting on Wednesday, or, submit them to us here.
We will provide comments to the Trustees in their original form with a
deadline to you of 10am Monday- so we can deliver them Monday afternoon-
there's WAY more information here than they already have, and we want
to give them a couple of days at least to review the info we will
provide, and not summarized, editorialized or sterilized.
April 10, 2015
Did you hear? There IS a plan for downtown (we just don't know about it)
Riverside will be the 'new downtown', with the one way Eastbound Hwy 36 running along the rivers edge. Elkhorn Ave will become the 'old downtown' with one way Westbound 36 running through it. Everything in the middle will become the heart of downtown and the tax base will go up as new businesses fill in the gaps and the Town will be happy and the people of Estes Park will be happy and we should TRUST THE LEADERS to take us in the right direction, right? They were right about the Riverwalk, right? (there was some public concern about developing the Riverwalk). The Bike Race turned out great, right? (There was some public concern about bringing the bike race to town and um, big mistake). Maybe the Town Leaders aren't always right...
So about this Riverside (aka Hwy 36 Eastbound) becoming Downtown.... Frank said 'development follows transportation', and he's right. Truth is finally out, THE FLAP is being pushed so damn hard because it will dictate the direction of the downtown future of Estes Park and the townspeople will ask what just happened? Of course, the Town has been working with the TG to release timely, persuasive information that you didn't even know was happening, quietly changing your opinion of what Downtown means.... Now that you know the real plan for the downtown expansion, re-read the article they wrote that makes a very clear point about what the definition of downtown is? You'll laugh at yourself if you didn't catch it the first time around- here's an excerpt to illustrate:
Q: Will the downtown loop require that traffic goes one-way through the downtown corridor heading west on U.S. Highway 36 to Rocky Mountain National Park?
A: It would depend on one's definition of “downtown.” For anyone who considers “downtown” to be strictly Elkhorn Avenue between Riverside Drive and Moraine Avenue and Moraine Avenue between Elkhorn Avenue and Crags Drive, then this is true. If the one-way couplet is built, traffic would become one-way westbound on Elkhorn Avenue from Riverside Drive to Moraine Avenue, and on Moraine Avenue to Crags Drive. Eastbound traffic would travel one-way through downtown to the south, from Crags Drive to Elkhorn Avenue, on a new road roughly aligned with East and West Riverside Drives. Two-way traffic will remain in place on Elkhorn Avenue east of Riverside Drive, and Elkhorn Avenue west of Moraine Avenue through the remainder of the “downtown” area.
note property owners on Riverside facing the FAIR ACQUISITION in the
Right of Way process if this goes through: your property will be worth
much more as a retail space than a piece of state highway.
we plan this BEFORE WE BUILD anything? Yup. Usually, planning precedes
construction. In Estes Park, we will build it then craft a plan
(supported by a grant) that supports the development we've already done.
If it was up to us, we would fire the person that tricked us into that
situation. Hey, we ARE the boss! the taxpayers are in charge. (right???)
Today's the Day! After 3pm today, our Town Trustees will finally be handed the elusive public comment that has been "carefully collected" by the Central Federal Lands Highway Division (aka The Feds) which in their custody that information has been "properly organized and considered" during the process.... Except the people WE thought we were writing to- our elected representatives- haven't had the information to consider during all of this, until now just 5 days before they make the big vote. Hopefully they don't have any family activities planned this weekend, because there are probably a lot of messages to go through.
Ponder this question: Is the Final Decision on the 15th? Or will the Town argue that the Final Decision is later, when the NEPA study comes back and the Town MIGHT take a vote on whether to proceed or not? That's an important question that our attorney would like the answer to you see, because the date of the Final Decision is when the clock starts on the narrow window to file an Initiative action, which is when you or I- Joe and Jane Citizen- could file a petition to call for a public vote on this critical public issue... It's complicated, right? It gets worse, read closely:
Can We The People vote on it? Maybe not. The Colorado Supreme Court has ruled that you can't call for an Initiative on Administrative Matters. Which means, if the Town can define this FLAP decision as an administrative matter, they can BLOCK a public vote. That's ultimately up to a judge, but we've seen the crafty ways of Town Attorney Greg White, and we guess that he could give reassuring advice that will make the Town staff feel pretty safe from the long arm of the ballot. Thanks to the folks coming out of the woodwork to us with offers of attorneys, consultants and money to finance the rescue of Estes Park's character in this FLAP flap, Counselor White may get a run for his money (ironically our tax money will be used to defend the Town from us). Not everyone sees it as a black and white case of Administrative Matters... Don't fret Trustees, you can further cloud the process by voting on Wednesday to 'Continue with the NEPA study', to save $200,000 today and drag this whole process out, making the date of the Final Decision difficult to define. Another vote on this FLAP business is not required, because the Trustees already voted for the entire project to proceed, and once the vote happens on the 15th, it's a done deal. A Done Deal? Surely they will deny THAT! "We could vote again after the NEPA study" they will say. Sure, they could vote on it, but they don't have to, and that's why the Final Decision date is in question. Once the window to file an Initiative passes, it is truly out of our hands. Is the vote on Wednesday night important? Damn right! Will the Town Staff and other paid consultants down play it as a formality in the process of 'seeing how things go?', watch it happen on Wednesday. It's pretty important that you make your voice heard before Wednesday night.
Our prediction: 2 trustees vote against moving forward with the FLAP (Koenig and Phipps), and 4 trustees vote for it (Norris, Erickson, Holcomb and Nelson). Well that's how we feel, they said, 'at this point in time', even though they haven't officially received any public comment because it's been over at the Feds office being collected and organized, but then we're just back to the problem with this whole process.
Could this have been any MORE messed up? Administrator Lancaster, Trustee Holcomb, Mayor Pinkham, Trustee Koenig and Trustee Phipps have already commented on how poorly this process has run, that from the very inception when Public Works Director Zurn showed up with Parking Garage drawings, and the Alternatives were discussed even though they would not ultimately be real options, when the public commentary was held in a safe location out of sight for months and months by the Feds, when records requests were turfed around and delayed long enough that their release will probably be coincidentally at the same time as the release to the Trustees, 5 days before the vote.... (There are more messy details that will just make people angry, but you get he point). Come on Trustees! You trust the Feds to keep running this process? As messy as it's been, you're even considering continuing working with this group? If this was your personal business and you could make your own decisions, would you keep moving forward? We wouldn't either. Then why are you even considering allowing the NEPA process to continue? They call it cutting bait. Accept a small loss to rescue a more valuable prize- and that is the Character of Estes Park.
Listen to your inside voice, not what Frank Lancaster and Greg White tell you is the best decision, please. That's the voice we elected.
April 10, 2015
Congestion solutions have arrived! (???)
The Barnes Dance is back- Kind of. Well, just sort of. The Town has told us for the last several weeks as well as being reported in the Trail Gazette that that the 'all walk' (Barnes Dance) crossing signals will be put to use this summer, thanks to public input (pressure). They always use the word 'trial run' when they say that because it is really a little itsy bitsy trial, not all summer. Maybe not even more than a couple of weekends. A couple of weekends? Mayor Pinkham has been asking for this for years, he said. CDOT just hasn't been very cooperative, they have stiff rules and all. Even the Town's consultants are advocating for the Barnes Dance crossing cycles as a way to improve safety and efficiency of the intersections int he absence of Traffic Cops.What about Traffic Cops? Well, Trustee Holcomb said they are part of the plan for this summer. Done deal. Administrator Lancaster didn't commit, and we haven't heard anything from the Police Department about any extra hiring to cover actual traffic control. Hopefully we're not looking at another year of Seasonal CSO's walking laps downtown chatting with each other while Jaywalkers hold up turning vehicles, and marking a few tires and taking service calls while the NUMBER ONE COMPLAINT (according to Visit Estes Park) goes on behind their backs- congestion. At least they look good in those snappy blue uniforms. Time will have to tell because the town leaders have obviously not discussed making improvements in this area, but it's not too late.
April 10, 2015
The Trail Gazette requested counter point articles to Jim Pickerings soap box article last issue- here's the submission that was selected to run:
The Loss of our Community's Character- by Mark Igel
March 25th, a group of business owners decided to raise awareness of the FLAP funded LOOP proposal, because of the large number of locals and residents who were completely unaware of the project that would turn Estes Park into a Bypass Town.
United in their message "NO ACTION on the LOOP", those business owners made signs for their windows which created opportunities to talk with locals and visitors about the project . They discovered that support was even greater than they expected, to preserve the character of Estes Park and avoid one way streets and bypass roads at all costs.
Town officials and some pro FLAP supporters have mis-characterized the NO ACTION awareness effort as a stance against any change- and that is a serious mis understanding of what the group is standing up for.
"NO ACTION on the LOOP" calls for the FLAP grant to stop where it is, preventing one-way streets and a bypass to strip away Estes Park's hard earned reputation as a small town community; to bring business owners and the Town together to create a plan for the heart of Estes Park; and to implement proven local strategies as early as this summer to dramatically reduce, if not eliminate congestion from the streets.
Saying NO ACTION on the LOOP is more accurately a Call for Action. The money is not really 'free' money- it really is $17 million dollars of taxpayer funds, and the cost of further division in a tight knit community that has been negatively affected by the effort to push the LOOP project through at all costs. Those costs have been mounting: public comment not shared with the Town from the early public meetings and open houses & surprise announcements about not allowing options that were offered- but most notably- completely ignoring the most important aspect of this discussion: The Character of Estes Park, Colorado.
Ask any town that has tried one way streets, or bypassed their downtown district- it kills businesses and creates a bypass mentality that will repulse visitors. Loyal visitors who return year after year for generations because they enjoy window shopping from their cars, knowing the sneak routes around downtown and feeling a sense of ownership in a familiar community. Whether you were born here, or like I did over 20 years ago, moved to Estes Park because of the way it felt when we first drove past the lake and experienced a small town during the summer along with a lot of other people with smiles on their faces, passing under towering trees and abundant flower beds alongside the fragrant, slow moving streets. It's a feeling that cannot be built on demand, or advertised in a glossy brochure- and we are considering giving it up for a faster route to Rocky Mountain National Park?
On the website EstesTruth.org, several cities including
Sterling Colorado are studied while they struggle to bring back their downtown
cores after changing to one way streets. In many of the cities that are coming
back from the devastating decisions, they report that one way traffic has more
trouble navigating, drivers are more confused and frustrated, and businesses
along the route suffer due to all of those factors combined. Rebecca Ocken, executive
director of Vancouver's Downtown Association said "One-way streets should
not be allowed in prime downtown retail areas... we've proven that."
To make the change back to two way streets, many communities are facing enormous expenses performing traffic studies, infrastructure changes and then must wait and see if the traffic will return to their downtown areas. Fortunately it is reported that when two way streets return, businesses thrive and the community is revitalized. We would hope that a community on the brink of diving into one way streets would give more attention to the real life daily impact on residents, as we all learn new counter clockwise traffic patterns to get across the block, and our visitors shake their heads and ask 'What happened to Estes Park?".
In the course of the last 2 days, over 850 submissions flooded into the EstesTruth.org website, some signing the petition to protest the LOOP project, and many writing to plead for the preservation of the community, like these 2 examples:
" As visitors to Estes Park since 1982, we've decided there really wasn't much of a problem with traffic congestion at Elkhorn and Moraine--until the summer traffic police were cut. Having people crossing the street at the same time cars are moving is unsafe, and creates more congestion than it relieves."
"Please please please -- DO NOT change downtown Estes. I'd rather sit in traffic and look at the shops than have you "modernize" with loops, one way, etc etc. PLEASE DON'T RUIN what is a gorgeous place to enjoy!"
Those are 2 among many others and represent the sentiment that this change is potentially the biggest thing that our Town Board will decide for Estes Park, possibly for decades.
At their peak in the late 90's, seasonal police officers took to the Estes Park streets and eliminated congestion thanks to their real time traffic control. They were unexpected ambassadors answering questions, they handled errant jaywalkers with charm, and they kept traffic jams to a bare minimum. Today at a cost of approximately $8000 per officer for the summer, they should be one of several affordable tools to eliminate congestion each year, starting in 2015. If congestion was a priority, this type of local solution would be on the Town Board agenda for action, but it's not.The FLAP project will not solve flood concerns, it will not solve congestion, but it will take a fork in the road that is full of speculation, so we must learn from other communities that have already made the mistake of using one way streets while hoping for the best. It's a mistake that will cost our entire community more than just money- and money won't buy back the position we are already in.
April 9, 2015
National Park officials are taking steps to REDUCE TRAFFIC, not
increasing it by 40% as recently stated by Town officials. Here, the
Loveland Reporter Herald has picked up the story and reports "Park
officials have taken some steps to reduce crowding and are talking
about others." This might explain the Park's reluctance to fully
participate in the FLAP project, as reported in the story below about
the Memorandum of Agreement.
Read their story here
April 9, 2015 - 8am
An interesting email showed up in a LOT of local email boxes
yesterday, from Estes Valley Partners for Commerce. They are a business
owners group that effectively replaced the Chamber of Commerce in Estes
Park many years ago- they do a lot of good work for the businesses in
town and are generally well respected. Their email contained a "FACT
SHEET", that subtly lends support to the FLAP project moving forward,
and we'll tell you why. More interestingly, the distribution list
that this email was sent to surprised many business owners, who hadn't
received an email from this group 'since they could remember' and some
folks didn't know why they got it? So that begs the tough question- why
did the group reactivate all of their mailing lists on the FLAP issue
for this email, and why did they issue a FACT SHEET that was biased? The
email originated from firstname.lastname@example.org, so we would
guess that the president would have all of the details.
We'll dig into the concerning statements in the Q&A section later today. Unfortunately we're on the way to work at 9am and have to fit this project in during breaks and after hours. On the other hand, the folks working to promote the FLAP are just arriving at work, to continue advocating FOR the FLAP grant. Seems a little unfair, but that's life.
4/9 3pm Update: (Finally got to take a lunch break and found this in email) Adam Shake, president of the EVPC wrote in today (before we even had a chance to contact him, thanks Adam!):
Thank you for posting about the "interesting email". My name is Adam Shake and I'm the President of the Estes Valley Partners for Commerce. First, allow me to start by saying that we did not add any email addresses to our EVPC email list prior to sending out the email in question. If business owners have recently joined the Downtown Business Partners, Restaurant Partners or Estes Arts District (which are subgroups of the EVPC) then those emails would have been added to the list. This is the only reason I can see that anyone got an email from us for the first time. The EVPC and it's sub groups, regularly send out communications about once or twice a month in reference to a newsletter or information on upcoming events such as Business After Hours or Quarterly Dinners. Our email list includes two lists. The first is a list of just over 100 paying members and the second is a list of about 600 residents, officials, organizations and business owners who have expressed interest in receiving our emails. There is also a link at the bottom of each email we send, with the option to unsubscribe if the person receiving the email wishes to do so. The EVPC made a conscious decision to neither endorse nor oppose the loop project. Part of our mission has always been to help educate our membership and community on local issues as well as offer education through such agencies as the Larimer County Small Business Development Center. Please allow me to be clear. The Estes Valley Partners for Commerce is not taking a stand one way or the other on this issue. Even our board members have differing views on the subject. To say that our fact sheet leans toward the "pro" side of the issue is, I believe, disingenuous. We apologize if some don't agree with our our informational communication but we don't believe that means that we are either pro or con on this issue. Thank you very much. I would offer anyone with questions or comments to contact me directly at adam@neanderthalproductions or call my personal cell phone at 703-927-0592. Thank you again and I would like to request that you make my comments publicly available on your website. I believe that we are all passionate about our community and want what's best for everyone concerned.
True Dat! We all want whats best for Estes. We just seem to have different opinions of what is best for Estes. That's the disconnect, and that's why we should be PLANNING before taking steps like creating a one way loop and bypass road, don't you think? That was rhetorical, no need to write back in Adam. Thanks! We appreciate the opportunity to spread the good word.
Get used to saying that! ...to get to the post office from downtown, to get to 209 parking spaces from Eastbound traffic, to get to the downtown stores, to go anywhere on Fall River Road, to go across the block- "You'll have to loop around" will become a part of the local language, if Town Trustees decide to move forward on the FLAP project Wednesday night at 6pm. Please be there to give your opinion on this vote.
Town emails are 'LOST'
This morning, a business owner who had requested emails pertaining to the FLAP project was advised they were unable to be released because on Saturday (the day after after the request was made), there was a 'glitch in the (Google) system', according to Town Clerk Jackie Williamson- and all the emails were lost for the requested period.
For the record, Ms Williamson has been VERY cooperative and helpful with our requests to this point, so this seems odd.
515pm: The Plot Thickens
At the end of the day, our Town Clerk contacted the business owner by phone, after she was advised of this story being made public. Sounds like she was pretty angry, and said several things that are very important for the good folks of this community to hear, as they will put in context how messy this FLAP process has become. This is the impression of the business owner, who was on the phone with her, so it's not just gossip from the water cooler:
1. He is causing the Town 'damage' by sharing the facts of his record request with others on social media
2. The loss of emails is not the Town's responsibility, it is Google's, where the emails were stored.
3. She will no longer communicate with him and will refer all information requests to the Public Information Officer
4. He is very unsettled, having just been dressed down by the Town Clerk. As a business owner, we all understand his concern.
Jackie, if you read this and these are not the facts, contact us with the facts and we'll make updates- we're working overtime to keep accurate information available. Keep in mind that the US Supreme Court has supported a citizens right to free speech, with special attention to political free speech being one of the most important! Of course this is not an election, yet, but this FLAP project is all about public involvement in the process, and this page that you are reading, as an awareness campaign, is doing one thing only: EDUCATING people. If the facts are not in your favor, lets work out a reasonable solution and not call the community members that this Town Government was created to serve with angry accusations, please. You perhaps owe someone an apology because:
1. No matter who stores your records, the responsibility is upon you the Town Clerk to be the Custodian of those records. Whether it be Google, your own servers, or any other storage facility- YOU are the contact and custodian of them, the buck stops with you.
2. The business owner did not take to social media to damage or denigrate the Town. He related facts, and those facts were very uncomfortable to be exposed. First hand story, facts and his opinion. If anything, he is feeling a little bit uncomfortable now, and he sure didn't deserve an angry phone call.
3. The official policy for making records requests to the Town is through the Town Clerks office. If that policy has changed, please let us know, because there are some other documents that will bring more light to this issue that we would like to ask for.
4. Please read this with an open heart: This is a tough situation for everyone. The intent of this entire effort is to preserve the character of Estes Park, to preserve a small town way of life and it is very personal for a lot of people! This project is perceived as a serious threat to income and survival for many business owners, their employees and ultimately the community if Estes Park becomes a Bypass Town.... Yet the Town Staff keep pushing with all their might this FLAP/LOOP project and this awareness group keeps turning the light on issues that have been in the dark and IT IS GETTING UNCOMFORTABLE for everyone. So, know that this is not a personal attack on Jackie, or Frank or anyone in particular, but you all work for the Town and you all are part of the Town Hall Machine that is propagating this development process. Perhaps a Trustee would step in and say a few words? Maybe we just wait until next Wednesday and we pray that we'll have a discussion about what the heck is going on that is productive and everyone walks away satisfied, and able to contunue living and working together in a beautful small community. We think it's possible. Respect each others rights to speak, to listen and to have an opinion, and we should all get along just fine.
April 8th: PIO Saves The Day
This morning, Town PIO Kate Rusch sent a letter to the business owner mentioned above, and reassured him that the emails were not lost after all! We're not gonna paraphrase or summarize, and just show you what arrived in the mailbox:
Good Morning ___________________ ,
We apologize for any confusion about the Town's email archives. All emails are still safely stored within the system. A planned conversion of our email archiving system, which has been underway for about three weeks resulted in some old emails being removed from our individual user accounts on approximately April 4. We discovered this issue April 6 while working on your records request. Staff worked into the night April 6 to identify the email issue, and we are in the process of restoring any older emails which were removed from user accounts.
Town Clerk Williamson's intention was to relay that gathering emails pertinent to this particular open records request will require more staff time compared to our responses to your prior requests-- but still well within the time frame required by the Colorado Open Record Act. We apologize for the delay. Once this kink is worked out, the conversion will actually provide better search abilities and integration with our current mail system.
The Town retains email backups for one year. (Contracts, Requests for Proposals and other records requiring longer retention by the Colorado Municipal Records Retention schedule are retained per that schedule). However, any emails older than one year that are still avilable on the system will be provided per your request.
Please let me know if you have any further questions. The Clerk's office will be in touch with the information requested.
Public Information Officer
Town of Estes Park
There you go. Nothing to see here!