Archive for the ‘In the news’ Category

By now you know about how the City of Greeley’s current pipeline project is threatening local natural and historic resources. And because of the way water law is historically structured, there’s not much Larimer county elected officials or residents can effectively say about that.

But that could change tomorrow night, Monday, Nov. 2. The County Commissioners are meeting to discuss amending the county code so that large pipelines that threaten local resources will need to go through a much more rigorous permit process from OUR county government when going through our county.

It’s the same process utilities like electrical power plants, nuclear plants, electric lines, already follow.

Mary Humstone writes,

Currently pipelines, such as the City of Greeley’s 60″ water transmission pipeline, only have to clear a “location and extent” review process at the planning commission level. This means that projects planned and implemented by an agency outside of Larimer County can destroy historic resources, destroy natural areas, and condemn private property through eminent domain without any public comment and without their projects being reviewed by elected officials in our county. The current system gives the public no effective say in these projects.

Humstone and her neighbors have already spent tens of thousands trying to preserve historic resources on their property because of decisions made in the next county.

If you think local government should be more involved when local property is threatened, Humstone invites you to show up at the meeting tomorrow night to show your support. Being there does matter.

You can be sure the City of Greeley’s Water Department will be there to fight it. In force.

What: County Commissioners’ hearing to adopt 1041 powers for water and sewer transmission pipelines.

When: Monday, November 2 at 6:30 pm

Where: First floor hearing room. 200 W. Oak

Read more: Get the technical details here. (Yes, this is the kind of tedious part, but it’s how regular people like you make a difference!)


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Beet Street, an enterprise formed to bring tourist dollars to downtown Fort Collins, recently announced a “Homegrown Fort Collins” event for late September.  It has something to do with eating local. And by that they mean eating at local restaurants, or eating from local farms, or drinking local beer.  But among its partners for the event it lists  a Greeley public radio station and a Texas organic grocery chain.

Why not KRFC, the Fort Collins community radio station? And why not the Fort Collins Food Co-op–our first natural foods market and now one of downtown’s oldest businesses?

I’m sure Beet Street has its reasons. KRFC and the Co-op are community-run outfits that probably can’t manage the scale of commitment or contribution that the NPR affliliate and Whole Foods can. And let me add that I applaud Beet Street for these efforts at doing more to celebrate who we are rather than who someone thinks we ought to be. To say nothing of its generous underwriting at KRFC. Cheers Beet Street.

But at the same time, I worry that “local” will soon become as meaningless as “green” as national corporations get on the bandwagon and somehow co-opt another grassroots movement. Especially the local food movement.

In this new landscape, will there even be a place anymore for the Fort Collins Food Co-op?

To answer that, you have to know where the Co-op came from, and why it ever mattered. It’s a story that starts with one of our earliest grassroots organizations, the Point.

The Point

In 1970, Bear Gebhardt started The Point in Fort Collins because he didn’t want to go to Vietnam. It was a choice the Federal judge gave him when he blew off his draft notice–2-5 years in jail or community service.

The Point, says Gebhardt, was his community service. And he stayed with it for 9 years.

It started as a nonprofit to provide drug counseling for teens. “Heroin was getting popular on the coasts, and everyone was worried about it coming to Fort Collins,” he says. Working loosely from early Dr. Andrew Weil writings, The Point encouraged kids to be more reflective. “We would say, ‘look, you’re obviously searching for something…” he says, and then trails off. “We did it all rather clumsily.”

But that didn’t stop him from trying. Over time, the Point housed several community efforts from its old brick mansion at Mulberry and Remington:

A small legal service opened, because drug use is a legal issue.

And a medical clinic, because drug use is a also health issue. The clinic offered prenatal and well-baby care as well.

It was all rather open, from what I can tell.

“I don’t recall that financial need had to be demonstrated as a condition of receiving services,” says John Gascoyne, now host of KRFC’s Imagine Action. “I had some minor medical service performed one night and swept the upper floor of The Point offices as payment. ”

Ya, and it just got more and more hippie from there.

They collected newspapers and hauled them to Denver for recycling–because no recycling existed in Fort Collins.  And they got the City to put up these thumb signs,  along College Avenue,  where you could solicit a shared ride during the first gas crisis. Hitchhiking with the City’s blessing.

Some of these programs fell flat (hitchhiking signs) and others blossomed (legal and medical services were picked up by bigger nonprofits and governments).

Begatting the Food Co-op

Activists were naturally drawn to The Point, forming what Gebhardt calls a tribe. A brown rice-loving tribe, apparently. Because they soon noticed that while  weed and alcohol were abundant in Fort Collins, you couldn’t buy a sack of unmilled rice anywhere.

So, in the Winter of 1971, 30 of them each kicked in a dollar and sent a driver to Erie to buy the first bag. Within a year, an active buying club took up more and more floor space at the Point. It soon outgrew its closet. Then one room and then two. Gebhardt says they thought about moving operations into the garage behind The Point, but the Health Department thought otherwise. The tribe would need to start a proper store.

And so it did. In 1974, the club incorporated and opened a shop at the old West Side Market at 700 W. Mountain. It proved a good location and the business made money. In fact, it soon outgrew the building.

Next, the Food Co-op moved to the current building on 250 E. Mountain in 1978. But things didn’t go so well there. Honestly, the Food Co-op seems to have mostly struggled ever since.


Do we still need the Food Co-op?

Over the years, the Food Co-op tried to draw in more customers, more seniors, more students. It struggled to address its inadequate parking.  Even keeping track of money proved challenging. And most recently, it’s had to compete with bigger and better organized organic commercial markets, like Whole Foods, Sunflower, Vitamin Cottage.

To make matters worse, it built a reputation as being unconcerned with shoppers. Members couldn’t agree on a management structure; staff with unwashed hair hardly looked up from their magazines as you shopped; food rotted in the produce bins. Maybe that didn’t used to matter. But with the Seattle coffee house lights, generous parking, and perky helpers of Whole Foods just down the street, the Co-op came to symbolize everything outdated and stuck about hippies.

So why not just shut it down?

Here’s why.  Here’s my 5 reasons why the Food Co-op still matters:

1. The Co-op is doing its damnedest to turn around right now. It’s cleaned up nicely. With an impressive new manager, the produce, layout, and the help is now pleasant and fresh.

2. It’s focused on buying local in a way no organic supermarket can. “We can buy from a farm that’s only an acre large,” says Chad Chriestenson, Co-op outreach and education. “The bigger markets can’t.”

3. It’s flexible enough to partner with other downtown businesses. While I was in the back room, management talked about splitting a shipment of apple cider with another small store. Soon after, Co-op manager, Lynn Chriestenson, held up a pile of checks she’d written and said, “I’ll only mail about a fourth of these.” Another fourth she’ll walk around town, paying downtown businesses with whom the Co-op has established partnerships. “The rest I’ll pay out at the Farmer’s Market this weekend.”

4. It’s ours, it’s local, and we have a history.

5. Meanwhile, Whole Foods is having a Wal-Mart effect on small towns all over America, says Every Kitchen Table. Once vibrant community-supported agriculture and food co-ops are buckling  everywhere, and the smallest farmers are losing out.

And maybe we’re losing out too.  I’m not sure. But I think it’s time to try the Food Co-op again and see if we can make it work–before “local” in Fort Collins is little more than a loosly defined label at a just-like-the-next-town-over strip mall organo-market.


Credits and post script

The idea for this story came from Allison Fink last February. Thanks Allison!

Bear Gebhardt still lives in Fort Collins. After he left The Point, he became a stock broker. He’s author of the book Enlightened Smokers Guide to Quitting and lists his current profession as “Monk” on his Facebook page.


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  • The Strang Grain Elevator
  • The Hottel House
  • The First National Bank @ Mountain & College
  • Unity Church at College & Mulberry
  • The Episcopalian Church @ Oak & College
  • The downtown war memorial
  • Franklin school
  • 1st Methodist Church on College

Anyone who’s lived in Fort Collins for a lifetime can tell you what these buildings have in common. They are among a long list of largely beloved structures that were torn down, replaced with not so lovable structures.

In large part, they’re why the city now funds historic preservation planning, in the form of two paid staff positions.

Historic preservation planners oversee regulations, to help prevent destruction of landmark buildings for short-term profit.

But they also provide incentives, like grant writing and interest-free loans,  to those who want to invest in restoration. Most recently, the Paramount Cottage Camp. But here’s a sample of buildings that are restored today because work from our planners:

  • Linden Hotel
  • Armstrong Hotel
  • Northern Hotel
  • Silver Grill building
  • Avery House
  • Street car barn
  • First Baptist Church
  • Countless private residences.

The city now is talking about cutting one of the preservation positions. People who know about such things tell me that it means we’ll still have plenty of regulation, but no time for incentives.

They say the “carrot” piece of the program, which will be lost, actually pays for itself in the form of grants from state and other outside organizations.

This could be a big blow to Fort Collins historic preservation. You can only regulate demolition for so long, before buildings become too run down to save.

Some  preservationists showed up tonight at City Council to ask for reconsideration. There are also opportunities for community input into the budget planning over the next few weeks.

If you care about such things,  show up. Speak, or just be present. It will mean a lot to those who oversee the historic integrity of Fort Collins.

(Photo http://history.fcgov.com)

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“Colorado, America’s Uranium Basket,”  must have seemed like a fresh article idea in 1952 when Colorado Wonderland sent it to the presses. Wonderland was a tourism magazine that had long kept to trout fishing, hunting, and skiing. But they needed something special for the 1952 Vacation Issue.


The new twist was, I think, that you could add a tour of Colorado uranium country to your Rocky Mountain holiday. Or maybe try your own hand at it. The story included details about government subsidies available to miners and a general feeling that everybody profits from uranium mining.

You know, even schools and parks benefitted, briefly, as some mines gave away their tailings as  fill dirt.

Well, I don’t want to be a buzz kill. So, if you want to know how this all worked out,  go here.  Or here. But I think you should just stay on the Lost Fort Collins blog, and look at hopeful pictures from a budding industry.  It’s not too late for a weekend summer road trip (or a Silkwood shower).


Caption: “Beginning of this atomic mushroom cloud is” …uranium from Colorado!

uranium water

Caption: “Blair Burwell…dips his hand into a tank where uranium oxide is being removed from carnotite by acid.”

uranium egg

Caption: “This egg is extremely high in uranium content–and therefore extremely radioactive.”

See also

http://www.nunnglow.com for modern affairs in America’s Uranium Basket.

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Maggie Kunze’s farkled bus is about 3 feet over the line.  That is, the property line over which the people next door  want to build a privacy fence. And according to Kunze, they want to build the fence  so nobody will have to look at her bus anymore.

Maggie's bus

Maggie's Joy Bus

But Kunze says the bus isn’t going to budge.  She says it sits in  a driveway the two properties have legally shared since 1924.

Besides, she says, if the owners next door, investors who live in another city, would talk with her, she could suggest several solutions for screening the bus that don’t include fencing her in.

Kunze  lives in a 1900 shotgun house whose  once generous lot was carved up in the 1920s, leaving  her only a 10-foot-wide panhandle  of a backyard. The shared driveway doubles the width of that part of her property.

The bus has been there for years, but property owners next door want to hide it now, says Kunze, because they’ve been  unsuccessful at selling their property for the past year. They think Kunze’s farkle art may be part of the problem.

Farkling is the process of taking ordinary objects and making them “fun” and “sparkle.”  Like this:

farkle 1

Farkled mirror and bust

And like this …

Farkle carport

Farkled carport

And like this …

Farkle William Shatner shrine

Farkled William Shatner shrine

Kunze’s house on North Washington is farkled inside and out (she’s a must see on your yard art tour…along with North Wood street, but that’s another post).

While many people enjoy her art, Kunze says she understands that farkle isn’t for everybody.

But she’s still not moving the bus.

So, the neighbors started the fence anyway, planting all the fence posts except for the one that would go directly under the bus’ radiator. They might have resorted to towing the bus off  the property, but Kunze got a lawyer.


So what happens next?

The fence-building neighbors have turned down mediation. So,  everybody goes to  court– August 20th.

And, as you might guess, if that fence is ever built, Kunze plans to farkle it.

farkling manniquin butts

Farkling manniquin butts


Big thanks to well-connected  Kate Forgach (whose Tattle Tales blog covers all Fort Collins arts doings) for alerting me to this one!

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A few weeks ago, the Lost Fort Collins blog published a story about the conflict around a Greeley water pipeline that’s slated to trench through Fort Collins .

Greeley pulls water from the Poudre and the Colorado rivers upstream of Fort Collins, treats it in Bellvue (also upstream), and then pipes it underground, 30 miles downstream of Fort Collins. This will be its 3rd line from the facility.

But the route for this pipe threatens some of our local historic and natural resources, say Bellvue residents. Plus, it could impact water levels flowing through Fort Collins, which matters a lot to local people and animals who swim, tube, fish, bike, and picnic on the river.

The controversy has been in all the press, but there are a few things you likely missed:

Fort Collins City Council to hear about it

Councilmember David Roy is urging landowners on the affected historic properties to  speak at the Tuesday (July 7, 6-6:30) Council meeting. This appears a good time to come tell City Council what you think. The pipeline is out of Council’s jurisdiction, I think, but they’re always good friends to have when managing relations with other towns.

What’s Greeley have to say for itself?

It says the pipeline is a great idea and not so bad.  Read Greeley’s  side of the story here: http://greeleygov.com/Water/pipeline.aspx.

What does the pipeline look like?

From http://www.rslate.com/pipeline

From http://www.rslate.com/pipeline

Although portions are still not approved, the pipeline has already made it to Robert Slate’s house east of town. He writes, “I just can not convey the frustration and aggravation that the pipeline experience caused me.”  That’s because of damage to his neighborhood’s roads (financed and maintained by the homeowners) and damage to natural areas. He even says top soil was displaced and sold! See his web site at http://www.rslate.com/pipeline.

Where are the naked river people?

Save the poudre

Save the poudre

Save the Poudre and others are fighting hard to stop the Glade Reservoir from drowning  our river.  Several people have asked, “So why haven’t they said anything about Greeley’s  new 5-foot-wide straw sucking it down?”

They have–sort of.  They issued this press release a month ago.  It’s not on their web site and wasn’t widely reported (In fact, I would have missed it completely if it weren’t for Troy Coverdale at KFKA 1310).

The short version of the press release says “We’re monitoring the situation.”

But I think what it really says is: “We’re not willing to piss off Greeley because it’s  backing us on this Glade Reservoir thing. Let’s hope the Army Corp of Engineers does the right thing.”

Fort Collins, CO – Over the last several years, many residents of Larimer County have been concerned about Greeley’s new Bellvue Pipe and have contacted the Save The Poudre Coalition asking for information about the Pipe’s impacts on the Poudre River. In documents released to the Coalition this week, the City of Greeley detailed the impacts the Pipe would have on the Poudre. In summary, thousands of acre feet of water will be diverted into the Pipe upstream of their historical diversion point, and if the Seaman Reservoir project occurs, thousands of more acre feet of new Poudre water will be diverted into the Pipe. Thus, the Bellvue Pipe wil cause new depletions from the Poudre River.

The Save The Poudre Coalition also learned this week that because of the Pipe and other proposed new dams/reservoirs, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has launched a  “cumulative effects study” of all of the projects and their negative impacts on the Poudre River including the NISP/Glade Reservoir project, the Halligan Reservoir project, the Seaman Reservoir project, and the Bellvue Pipe project.

“We are very concerned about the cumulative effects of all of these projects on the Poudre,” said Gary Wockner of the Save The Poudre Coalition. “Taken together, all of these projects are designed in part or in whole to drown, divert, dry up, or destroy the Poudre River. We applaud the Army Corps of Engineers for launching a cumulative effects study. We will follow the study closely.”

On June 4th, the Save The Poudre Coalition sent a letter to the Army Corps asking for more information about the Bellvue Pipe permitting process, and for more information about the cumulative effects study. Of specific concern are memos between the Army Corp and Greeley, in which the Army Corp has stated that it will not allow Greeley to divert “new water” into the Pipe until the cumulative effects study is completed, and has warned Greeley to build the Pipe “at your own risk” because Greeley might not get a permit from the Army Corps to divert new water into it. The Greeley Pipe is a $40 million project paid for by the citizens of Greeley.

“We support and thank the Army Corps of Engineers for not allowing new diversions into the Pipe to occur,” said Gary Wockner. “And we support the Corps’ efforts to make sure Greeley does not increasingly deplete the Poudre before the cumulative effects study is completed. We also thank Greeley for providing information to the Coalition and for working with us to study the Pipe’s impacts.”

The Save The Poudre Coalition has taken a very strong stance against the NISP/Glade Reservoir project, and has proposed a Healthy Rivers Alternative to the project that will allow NISP participants to get more water without destroying the Poudre River. The Coalition has not yet taken a position on the Halligan, Seaman, and Bellvue Pipe projects, but is monitoring the projects closely.

“The public needs to know that the Poudre River is at ground zero for a tidal wave of destructive water projects,” said Wockner. “The Save The Poudre Coalition is monitoring all of the projects very closely. Our goal is to try and work with all of the parties involved for the best possible outcome that protects this beautiful river for future generations.

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[May 2007] The City of Fort Collins, in its monthly insert that comes with the electric bill, says we should try to downsize our garbage service. So, I traded in my 66-gallon can for tags. You pay $1.25 for a tag, then attach it to each bag of garbage you set out.

This system rewards the citizen-consumer for minimizing garbage outflow.

Only, I lost my tags before I ever used even one. I still have to pay for them, but they’re gone. I think I threw them in my recycling bin that got carried off last week.

So I got the idea I would live without garbage service for as long as I could stand. I recycle cardboard, paper, most plastics. I compost any foods that don’t contain fat.

That leaves little bits of plastic wrap, the bag the brown sugar came in, orange juice cartons, dog hair, used tissues. Or about 1 small plastic grocery bag of garbage every 2 days.

Makes you extra sensitive to things that create garbage in the  home.

  • The damn phone book I never asked for that wound up on my front porch! Is that recyclable? I’m not sure, but I have to deal with it and its protective plastic bag.
  • The triple-plastic packaging on my ostensibly earth-friendly, vegetarian-fed, free-range chicken-produced, brown eggs.
  • Dog poop.

    So I rationalized that since I technically PAID for my garbage to be carried off, there would be no harm in leaving little grocery bags of garbage in trash bins around town…as long as the bins weren’t full anyway.

    I left the phone-book bag filled with trash at KFC. In exchange KFC gave me a large bag of plastic with my food. I left that at Stacey’s house.

    I left one bag in the dumpster at work.

    I left one bag in the alley trash can of the people with the really noisy puppies in an outdoor kennel that woke me up every morning this summer when I was sleeping with my windows open, while the owners slept with closed windows and whole house air conditioning.

    I left one bag in the construction bin I plan to revisit later to salvage wood for my chicken coop.

    Tonight when I went looking for places to leave little bits of garbage, I took my 10-year-old boy. We threw snowballs, scouted out new places to ditch garbage, and even gave the dog some exercise.

    The City of Fort Collins might be proud that I’ve made conservation a family activity.

    [Lost Fort Collins is still on vacation. This is another reprint from a 2007 blog.]

    Have you seen the new (2009) gallery on Pine? Much better ideas for throw aways than mine. Seek it out!

    Have you seen the new (2009) gallery on Pine? Much better ideas for throw aways than mine. Seek it out!

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