2012 was a rollercoaster ride for Moffat County. The community celebrated many wonderful events and stories, and also endured frustrations and mourned tragedy.
The following is a list of the top 10 stories from the Craig Daily Press in 2012 as chosen by its staff. Some stories are grouped together — like court cases or health care stories — while other entries consist of a single feature story.
1. Romney campaigns in Craig
On May 29, Mitt Romney became the first presidential candidate ever to campaign in Craig. His campaign bus stopped in front of Alice Pleasant Park in the 500 block of Yampa Avenue, where the then-presumptive Republican nominee for president spoke to an enthusiastic crowd — which included uniformed miners who came via bus directly from the mine — about issues ranging from energy development to job creation to education. Though Romney didn’t win November’s election, his stop in Craig helped him win over 75 percent of the votes in Moffat County.
“(President Obama) says he’s for ‘all of the above’ when it comes to energy, you’ve heard that. And yet he’s made it harder to get coal out of the ground, he’s made it harder to get natural gas out of the ground, he’s made it harder to get oil out of the ground.”
— Mitt Romney during his May campaign stop in Craig
“He said words that spoke to me that he does not want to see the industry burdened with regulations. Trapper, for all of the years I worked out there, was a very environmentally responsible company and I am sure the same can be said for Colowyo. All of that land out by Hayden was former coal mines and it has been reclaimed in better condition than before the mines started.”
— Craig Mayor Terry Carwile about Mitt Romney’s campaign stop in Craig
2. Arrests and trials in Moffat County
2012 was a trying, but also a fascinating year for law enforcement officers and the Moffat County court system. Though it ended with an alleged murder in December — the trial of that case is still forthcoming — the court headlines in 2012 were dominated by the worst child pornography case in Moffat County history and quite possibly the first ever criminal conviction in the State of Colorado of a rancher suspected of cattle rustling.
“I’m glad the case was brought to the courts and there was a conviction. I’m glad this case has brought some awareness to the ranching community that we are watching and this will not be tolerated. If there is another case like this we’ll work it, we’ll investigate it and we’ll make sure it gets to the D.A.’s office.”
— Gary Nichols, livestock investigator with the Moffat County Sheriff’s Office, about the trial of Monty Luke Pilgrim
“When I consider the length of the sentence compared to allowing you to remain at large, it’s really not a question. There is no defense to the possession and distribution of these images, and you admitted to both.”
— Chief Judge Michael O’Hara prior to the sentencing of Christopher Genova
3. Health care developments
The state of health of the Moffat County community, or lack there of, was a recurring theme in 2012. It began in April with a Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment report ranking Moffat County residents among some of the unhealthiest in the state. But as the year progressed the focus shifted from Moffat County’s residents to its caregivers, including the loss of one health care provider to a federal probe and an investigation into high doctor turnover rates at The Memorial Hospital in Craig.
“It’s a contentious issue. We all want people to lead healthier lives, but at what cost? How do we justify taking away a person’s right to make their own decisions?”
— Former Moffat County Commissioner Tom Gray about Moffat County residents being ranked among the unhealthiest in the state
“My guess is nationwide doctors are just more mobile than they have historically been. And there’s always the human nature of different doctors and different administrators.”
— Dr. David James, a physician for 30 years in Craig, about turnover at The Memorial Hospital
4. A summer of wildfires
After a dismal snow pack in 2011/2012 — and while many citizens around the state braced themselves for the worst drought on record — local, state and federal firefighters were prepping for what would surely be a busy wildfire season.
Though the destruction on the Front Range garnered an incredible amount of national attention — and for good reason — there was no shortage of action here in Moffat County.
And everyone in Moffat County, from its professional firefighters to its residents, responded to repeated threats with courage, collaboration and a spirit of camaraderie — none more so than June’s Sand Fire that burned an estimated 2,000 acres 10 miles west of Craig.
“This is no joke anymore, we’re not joking. Throwing cigarette butts or hot items from vehicles, which is what appears to have happened, are things we don’t do anymore.”
— Moffat County Sheriff Tim Jantz upon arriving on scene at the Sand Fire
“I decided to swing by the fire department to tell them I was available to help. Chris Nichols was already there and we made the decision to grab our bunker gear.”
— Doug Slaight, retired Craig Fire/Rescue firefighter, about his decision to man the fire station while the entire active force was fighting the Sand Fire
5. Museum madness
2012 was a fun year for Moffat County’s museums and museum-goers. Thanks to revenues generated by recent oil and natural gas activity the Museum of Northwest Colorado was able to procure original tear sheets from all 323 covers Norman Rockwell illustrated for the Saturday Evening Post.
And although the community was forced to bid a fond farewell to Clyde, the iconic elk, it was just as eager to welcome J.R., a six-point, two-year-old, to Wyman’s Living History Museum, which in June also added a Korean War-era to it’s collection.
“His covers really appealed to people. … Even if you couldn’t read, you were interested in them.”
— Mary Karen Solomon, chairwoman of the arts and science departments at Colorado Northwestern Community College’s Craig campus, about Norman Rockwell’s art for the cover of The Saturday Evening Post
6. Sports scene
Moffat County was represented by many student athletes in 2012, some who finished well and others who struggled in competition, though all represented with pride and class. The highlight on the field was the pair of state championships the MCHS boys track team brought home in May, one for the 4x800 relay and the other an individual title in the 800-meter run for Alfredo Lebron. Behind the scenes, the art of driving a Zamboni and resurfacing ice was captured in the November edition of Moffat Monthly.
“It’s just exceptional to get two titles in two days. You can’t ask for much more than that because it doesn’t happen very often.”
— MCHS track coach Todd Trapp about is team’s success at the 4A state track meet in May
7. Touched by tragedy
When the reverberations from a horrific event are felt around the country, it is common for communities to empathize with the victims. However in the aftermath of the Aurora movie theater shooting in July, the Moffat County community found out that one of its own was inside theater 9 when the shooting started.
Jacque Archuleta, who along with four of her friends survived, recounted a chilling tale of what took place that fateful night.
“I remember sitting on the floor bracing myself for impact, thinking, ‘This is it.’ You’re just waiting for that bullet to come hit you. It was, ‘Well, this is how I’m going to die.’”
— Jacque Archuleta, a Craig native and Englewood resident, about being in theater 9 on July 20 in Aurora during one of the worst shootings in U.S. history
8. Cancer caregiver
When Craig resident Kia Fisher was 15 and living in New Jersey, she found herself in the position of having to care for her cancer stricken mother, Janice. Over the next 11 years, Kia had to grow up fast as Janice’s primary caregiver, a role she filled until Janice passed away.
“Basically at the age of 16, when I was learning how to drive, I was taking my mom to and from chemotherapy, surgeries. I was cooking, cleaning. I was the parent basically. To learn to drive is stressful enough, but when you’re driving with a parent who’s receiving chemotherapy, it makes the situation a little different.”
— Craig resident Kia Fisher about becoming the primary caregiver for her cancer-stricken mother when she was only 15 years old
9. Adopting Sofie
Baggs, Wyo., couple Angeli and Todd Skalberg didn’t think they were going to have a fifth child. However after being urged to adopt their children — and after Angeli prayed that God would show her the right path — the family decided to add a seventh member by adopting a baby girl from Africa.
“I’ve always loved Africa, even as a child. But never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d be going there to bring home my baby girl. I thought I’d be there taking pictures of giraffes.”
— Angeli Skalberg about the surprising decision she and her family made to adopt
10. From Abbey Road to Pennsylvania Avenue
A presidential inauguration is a historic moment few people get the opportunity to see live, and in person. But the Moffat County community took notice when four Moffat County High School students began a fundraising campaign to travel to the 57th presidential inauguration later this month.
Drawing inspiration from The Beatles, the MCHS students said the motivation behind their trip to Washington, D.C. was to share their successes and ideas in student government with students from all around the country.
“I want to share with other people the programs we’ve implemented here, like the seatbelt program. If every school picked that up all across the United States it would be huge, it would be awesome.”
— Caitlin Harjes