Despite a pandemic, residents in the foothills persevered through the good and the bad, the fun and the intense. Here is a look at some of the stories that made the news in the Canyon Courier during 2021.
Among the highlights of 2021 was the return of the many festivals and celebrations that the foothills are used to after a year when most events were canceled.
The summer was filled with everything from the July 4 music festival and the Evergreen Rodeo and Parade to the Elevation Celebration in Conifer, Canyonfest in Kittredge and Bailey Day — and with all of the events in between, there was something to do every weekend from Memorial Day to October.
It was nice, as the Evergreen Parade theme in 2021 said, to be back in the saddle again.
Bike park gets yays, nays
Full Send Bike Ranch, a proposal to put freeride mountain bike park on Shadow Mountain Drive two miles from Highway 73 in Conifer, hosted its community meeting in January.
The developers believe the bike park will be an amenity to the Conifer area by bringing more people to local businesses and providing additional trails for mountain bikers. Neighbors, on the other hand, have formed a nonprofit to raise money to fight the proposal.
Because the proposed development would be on 250 acres of land owned by the State Land Board, the developers have a separate approval process. The developers must submit a complete proposal to the Jefferson County Planning Commission, which has 30 days to meet and make a decision. The Land Board will abide by the commission’s decision.
The developers propose a day-use bike park with a chairlift, the only one of its kind in Colorado. It would be open generally from April to October, with a lodge that would provide a registration area, bike rentals, same-day bike repairs and a bar/lounge.
Those opposed are most concerned about traffic on Shadow Mountain Drive, which is a two-lane road not built for excessive traffic, the additional workload for emergency medical services, wildlife that migrate through the area and more.
To play or not to play in Bear Creek
The summer of 2021 brought some controversy in Kittredge after a new property owner who said she owned both sides of Bear Creek worked to stop people from trespassing. Bear Creek at Kittredge Park has been a popular spot for families to play in the water for decades, and the new owner was concerned about liability issues if someone were injured.
Jeffco Open Space, which owns the Kittredge Park land, and the Evergreen Park & Recreation District, which manages the park, plus the Kittredge Civic Association conducted meetings with area residents and asked for civility while the property-line issue could be sorted out.
In November, an EPRD official said the property owner was having a property survey completed and was considering erecting a fence to designate her property.
Two state championships
Evergreen High School’s sports teams spent a good deal of time at state tournaments in 2021.
In March, the girls swim team made a three-peat, winning the state championship three years in a row and five times in eight years. Girls lacrosse also won the 4A state championship, while girls soccer and boys lacrosse were runners-up.
In addition, the Evergreen poms team placed second at state and fifth in the National Dance Alliance national competition for small varsity poms squads.
School building makeovers
Jeffco schools in the foothills have been getting makeovers — with some work already complete and other work in process — thanks to a mill levy passed by voters in 2018.
Parmalee Elementary and Evergreen Middle School, for example, are getting classroom additions, while Wilmot Elementary and Conifer High School got new gymnasiums. A new Marshdale Elementary School is under construction, expected to be completed in August 2022.
Other schools received security upgrades, improvements to classrooms and more.
In addition, Evergreen Country Day School opened its gymnasium/performing arts center, and Rocky Mountain Academy of Evergreen has started construction on The Den, its gym/performing arts center.
New station for EFR moves forward
Evergreen Fire/Rescue is moving forward with building a new Station 1 on the site of the former Evergreen Mountain Market.
The department has hired F&D International to design the building, and the district hopes to start construction by 2023. Fire officials say they need the new building to replace the district’s oldest fire station on Highway 73 just south of downtown Evergreen because Jefferson County intends to widen Highway 73 in 2023, which will make the area in front of the station too small for engines. In addition, newer fire engines, which are taller than older models, will not fit through the doors of the current building.
Some Evergreen residents have asked EFR to slow down its efforts to build a new station in favor of spending more money on wildfire mitigation.
Inter-Canyon puts station construction on hold
Evergreen is not the only fire department planning to build new fire stations. Inter-Canyon Fire Protection District wants to rebuild its Stations 1 and 3, though it will hold off a year.
The district has had plans drawn up for the two stations — Station 1 is the oldest in the district and Station 3 is the department’s flagship station on U.S. 285 — but it is having trouble getting bids. Construction firms are saying they’re still catching up from the work they weren’t able to complete during the pandemic.
The department has decided to postpone hiring a contractor to do the work, saying it will revisit the issue in the first quarter of 2022.
To consolidate or not
Four fire departments along the U.S. 285 corridor are moving forward with discussions to consolidate.
A consultant recommended in December that Inter-Canyon, Indian Hills, Elk Creek and North Fork fire departments become one department spanning 400 square miles. However, it will take a few years before the four departments are ready to ask voters to approve such a change.
The impetus for the discussion is the national trend of dwindling volunteers who want to train to be firefighters. As volunteerism is declining, calls are increasing.
The fire districts, which have roots as volunteer departments, can’t afford all-paid firefighting staffs. While the four chiefs agree they are not in a crisis with staffing, they need to address the issue sooner rather than later.
In addition, there’s cost savings when the four departments work together to train, buy equipment and share staff.
The four fire chiefs plus representatives from the four elected boards are meeting to discuss the logistics of consolidation because there are a lot of issues to discuss.
Development continues to be a sore spot for area residents, many opposing large development in Evergreen and Conifer.
• Residents are upset about a proposal to build a hotel, retail and restaurants in El Rancho, a proposal that is still being reviewed by Jeffco Planning & Zoning. The developer has offered to move Foothills Fire Station 1 and the Alpine Rescue Team to new buildings, so he has more room for development.
• The Wild Game in Bergen Park also filed a rezoning request to put up to 250 residential units on seven acres. That request has not been heard by the Planning Commission.
• A developer’s plan to put 188 homes behind the Conifer Safeway is still in litigation because he has sued Elk Creek Fire. The developer wants the court to force the fire department to approve an agreement to allow the developer, Foothills Housing 1, to buy the department a ladder truck and to pay for part of the salaries for three firefighters.
Elk Creek Fire Chief Jacob Ware had sent Jeffco Planning and Zoning a letter saying it didn’t have the equipment or personnel to provide fire service to the development.
Police chief in, out
The Town of Morrison hired a new police chief in July after a year-long search and the new chief, Misty Siderfin, resigned after four months. In her Oct. 7 letter of resignation, Siderfin stated that she is “unable to continue within this role due to the limited resources, lack of financial stability and budgeting for the Police Department, demands for the police department to support its own budget, lack of transparency, and extremely low numbers of quality applicants for the current vacancies.”
The Town Board has decided that it wants to continue with a community police force, rather than using the Jeffco Sheriff’s Office to provide law enforcement. Until the town can hire a new police chief who can hire a new police force, Jeffco is providing law enforcement.
Evergreen Lake trail construction in the offing
The Evergreen Park & Recreation District is ready to start construction of the Evergreen Lake North Trail in summer 2022.
2021 has been a year of moving forward with plans, getting approvals and getting all of the stakeholders on board, so construction can start. EPRD is ready to advertise for a construction firm to build a trail along Evergreen Parkway and a trail along the lakeshore.
The district has $4.3 million in grants to pay for the project, and the deadlines to spend the money are looming.
While four months of detours will make travel through downtown Evergreen tricky, downtown business owners say the trails, once completed, will be an asset to Evergreen.
To pay or not to pay to park
The Town of Morrison has started charging for parking on its downtown streets in an effort to allow more tourists to find places to park, especially in the summer.
Business owners had complained that people had been parking in the downtown area and then taking long bike rides, making it difficult for those wanting to frequent shops and restaurants to access the town.
The town operated a trial parking program through Interstate Parking of Colorado beginning in mid-June. Despite some comments from businesses, residents and visitors unhappy with the program, the Town Board in December decided to continue with the program for two more years.
From mid-June through October, the town made about $41,000 in revenue.
MEC Collective proposed
Two families have proposed building a privately owned recreation center on Settlers Drive at U.S. 285. To be called the MEC — Morrison, Evergreen, Conifer — Collective, the owners foresee an ice rink, indoor turf field and an indoor tennis/multisport area, plus rooms for fitness and yoga classes, a snack bar and more.
Meetings in April and May had neighbors concerned about program pricing, parking, and noise and lights at night, but most importantly about traffic along US. 285 and in the neighboring subdivision.
The proposal still must go before the Jeffco Planning Commission.