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BLM releases draft travel management plan for eastern Moffat County

The Little Snake Field Office in Northwest Colorado is taking a comprehensive, multi-year look at the roads and trails it manages to address current and future needs.

The Bureau of Land Management recently released a draft environmental assessment that analyzes alternatives for managing more than 1,900 miles of roads and trails on 370,000 acres of BLM-administered lands in Moffat County. 

This environmental assessment analyzes a range of alternatives for managing roads and trails on BLM lands between Maybell and Craig north to the Wyoming border. This area, referred to as Travel Management Area 2, includes parts of the Powder Wash, Big Gulch, Seven Mile, and Great Divide areas. 

"Public involvement continues to be a key piece of this process," said Little Snake Field Manager Bruce Sillitoe. "Our goal is a more efficient travel network, and public participation is essential."

Maps and additional information are available at go.usa.gov/xP73M

Comments may be emailed to lsfoweb@blm.gov or mailed to Outdoor Recreation Planner, 455 Emerson Street, Craig, CO 81625.  Comments will be most helpful if received by April 3.  

Before including address, phone number, email address or any other personal identifying information, commenters should be aware that the entire comment, including personal identifying information, may be made publicly available at any time. While individuals may request the BLM withhold personal identifying information from public view, the BLM cannot guarantee it will be able to do so.

Parrothead donation will see Denver Nuggets’ Skyline Drumline provide drums to Moffat County High School

The Northwest Colorado Chapter of the Parrotheads presents the Moffat County School District Board of Education with a $3,500 donation toward the purchase of the Skyline Drumline.

Laying down a beat has become especially challenging for Moffat County High School drummers using equipment that in some cases may be more than 30 years old.

The percussion students are set to get a major league boost when the director of music for the high school and middle school, Erik Memmott, purchases the Skyline Drumline — made famous for performances during Denver Nuggets basketball — later this year.

Originally, Memmott said he was “daunted by the numbers.”

Then he started talking with Rob Schenck, captain of the Northwest Colorado Chapter of the Parrotheads and learned that group would be willing to help raise funds.

“When we first approached Dr. Ulrich, we were offering to fully cover the cost of a lower quality set. To Dave’s credit, he immediately offered $4,000 from the school district and that will allow us to purchase a very special high-end set,” Schenck said.

With more money to work with, Memmott set about finding a drumline — a section of percussion instruments usually played as part of a musical marching ensemble.

Through the school district partnership with the Denver Nuggets, Memmott learned that the professional drummers who appear at Nuggets games were willing to sell.

“We are purchasing their exact drumline. Those drums on TV will become Moffat County High School drums,” he told members of the Moffat County Board of Education during a check presentation held at their meeting, Thursday, Feb. 21. “It's an incredible opportunity.”

He’s hopeful that Skyline Drumline and the Denver Nuggets will “bring in the new set with a bit of flair” by visiting Craig.

“Tonight our biggest contribution yet, of $3,500 will go to the high school and Craig Middle School to purchase a much-needed drumline,” said Julie Sperl, member of Northwest Colorado Chapter of the Parrotheads and teacher. “10 years ago NCCPH formed as a philanthropic organization devoted to our community, art, recreation, and music- especially in the schools.”

The Northwest Colorado Chapter of the Parrotheads present to the Moffat County School Board of Education, $3,500 donation towards the purchase of the Skyline Drumline.

They have given scholarships for lessons and camps to several students, supported the Craig Concert Association by providing funds to pay the students that run the sound and lights, provided a class set of ukuleles for Sunset, a xylophone for Sandrock, new strings for ukuleles at Ridgeview, and provided and repaired instruments for students at CMS.

“We are not just about music, we are also about your art programs,” Schenck said. “If you know a teacher that needs money for something we are here to do that.”

The district was also awarded a $100,000 school safety grant to install new door locks at Sandrock Elementary School and the high school, and new digital radios to replace the UHF system used by bus drivers and maintenance teams.

The radios were so bad that John Wall said from the Yampa Building staff were unable to contact Ridgeview. Using a test system Ulrich said that Jarrod Ogden, transportation, maintenance director of facilities and maintenance, was able to conduct a fire drill at a Craig school while he was in Maybell.

“The radios are so much better this will increase safety and issues our busses might have in the field,” said school board President Jo Ann Baxter.

The school board also approved it consent agenda, increased to $68,000 a letter of credit the district is required to keep as part of a self-funded insurance plan.

They also empowered Ulrich to enter into a contract with consultants for the purpose of developing a facilities master plan and to enter into negotiations for the transfer of the Yampa Building to the county under Memorial Regional Health management.

Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or snelson@CraigDailyPress.com.

Local officials trying to fetch city a new bark park

Dog lovers in Craig may soon have a place to meet other puppy parents as local officials move closer to finalizing plans for a dog park in the city.

Officials with the city of Craig, Moffat County School District, and the Humane Society of Moffat County have been putting their heads together and have at least one site already in mind.

"We currently have one dog park location in place," said Steven Hilley, president of the Moffat County Humane Society.

According to David Ulrich, superintendent of MCSD, officials with the city of Craig and MCSD are in negotiations for a slice of school property to be leased to the city for a new dog park.

"MCSD and the city are currently exploring the possibility of a dog park," Ulrich said in an email. "If successful, MCSD would lease 1.9 acres of the southeast corner of the high school property to the city.  The city and the local Humane Society will work to determine how to pay for fencing and any other improvements."

According to previous reporting in the Craig Press, the local Humane Society has been working to secure grant funding for a dog park since as early as 2016. Once officials determine a concrete location, Hilley said, the new park will be funded by the Humane Society.

"The funding for the dog park would come from funds out of the operating budget from the Humane Society of Moffat County and other donations," Hilley said.

Jarrod Ogden, current city councilman, mayoral candidate, and director of maintenance at MCSD, said the school district has offered to keep the property mowed during the warmer months. He added Craig residents regularly express interest in having a dog park.

"Consistently, Craig residents have indicated a desire to have a dog park in town," Ogden said.

Hilley said any dog park in Craig will likely include complete fencing around the park; a wide, double entry gate with a waiting area for the dog and human to enter; separate areas for small and large dogs; a dog waste plan that includes bag dispensers and trash cans; and a seating area for dog owners.

Hilley said other amenities being considered as funds become available are a water fountains for pets and humans, parking and bike racks, shaded areas, signage with park hours, dog park rules, opportunities for volunteering posted at the entrance, and visual attractiveness for street appeal, such as landscaping or sculpture art.

As far as total cost, officials do not yet have a final tally.

"We are unsure at this time what the total cost will be," Hilley said.

Ulrich said the school district's partnership with the city for a dog park is a good way of bringing community development to Craig.

"This partnership is a perfect example of how public entities can leverage resources to engage in community development," Ulrich said.

Contact Clay Thorp at 970-875-1795 or cthorp@CraigDailyPress.com.

Moffat County gearing up for summer tourism

For the first time in its storied history, Moffat County will participate in National Tourism Week in preparation for its first official Moffat County Tourism Week May 4 through May 11.

"National Tourism Week has been celebrated in many communities nearby and on a state level — just never in Moffat County," said Tammie Thompson-Booker, board member of the Moffat County Tourism Association.

According to local tourism officials, many of the MCTA events for this year's “Experience Colorado's Great Northwest Summer Kick-of” are similar to last year's individual events and include the following:

• Where the Hell is Maybell bike ride — a 30-mile trek beginning in Craig that showcases the beauty of Moffat County.

• Downtown Craig Spring Expo —hosted by the Downtown Business Association, the Spring Expo will feature vendors of all sorts. For more information, call Kandee Dilldine at 970-824-2151 or DeAnne Blackwell at 970-824-7957.

• 50th anniversary Dirt Hog Golf Tournament —Hosted by the Yampa Valley Golf Association, this event will feature a golf tournament to celebrate the association's 50th anniversary.

• Rocky Mountain Kubota Home and Garden Expo brought to you by Rocky Mountain Kubota and Craig Press — This business expo is still in the planning stages but will allow businesses and nonprofits to showcase their products and services.

• Sandwash Basin Blessing of the Land by Ute tribe members — The Wild Horse Warriors invited some Ute tribe members to bless Sandwash Basin.

• BLM-led geology tour.

• Yampa River tourism educational float.

• Yampa Bench interpretive opportunity in Dinosaur National Monument.

Shannon Moore, MCTA chair, said Moffat County's tourism week will showcase the county to the world.

"This is a week full of events for locals and visitors, alike, to experience what our county has to offer," Moore said. "Tourism is the first rung of the economic development ladder, and we're working to embrace and showcase what we have to offer the tourism world."

Other events will occur later in May and this summer, including the Grand Old West Days Memorial Day weekend May 23 through 27 at the Moffat County Fairgrounds, Whittle the Wood Rendezvous June 12 through 15 at Loudy-Simpson Park, the John Wesley Powell Expedition 150th Anniversary Celebration June 17 through 18 at Echo Park in Dinosaur National Monument, and the Moffat County Balloon Festival Aug. 3 and 4 at Loudy Simpson Park.

According to MCTA Director Tom Kleinschnitz, the Moffat County Arts Council will also add a combination food pop-up and arts event the group has named “Arts, Apps and Ales.” Kleinschnitz said he certainly doesn't want to leave any other possible event ideas out of the mix.

"Visit Moffat County would like to promote all events that will be happening during our very special "Experience Colorado's Great Northwest Summer Kick-off," Kleinschnitz said.

Those interested in other potential events this summer are invited to contact Kleinschnitz at TomK@MoffatCounty.net or 970-824-2335.

Contact Clay Thorp at 970-875-1795 or cthorp@craigdailypress.com.

Craig police donate two historic firearms to Museum of Northwest Colorado

As Director Dan Davidson finished signing his federal paperwork Friday, Feb. 15, the Museum of Northwest Colorado officially acquired two new additions to its already extensive firearms collection.

The weapons — a bolt-action Gewehr 88 rifle and a modified Stevens 12-gauge pump-action shotgun — were given to the museum courtesy of the Craig Police Department, which had the rifle locked and lonely in evidence and the shotgun collecting dust in the police armory.

"I just hate to have them sit there when the museum can have them on display," said CPD Capt. Bill Leonard.

The Craig Police Department donated two firearms to the Museum of Northwest Colorado on Thursday, Feb. 14.

Leonard signed the weapons over to the museum on Valentine's Day, Thursday, Feb. 14. The Craig Press was able to accompany Davidson to pick up the firearms the following day at PJ Nichols' Northwest Pawn. Nichols waived their usual $40 firearm transfer fee as a donation to the museum.

Guns of all types line the walls and display cases of Northwest Pawn. Nichols said he's been building, dealing in, and researching firearms his whole life.

As he laid the rifle on a glass countertop, Nichols explained the Chinese markings and what looks to be a swastika engraved on the barrel.

"What looks to be a swastika is actually not a swastika," Nichols said Friday. "But the gun was built in Germany. So what you're looking at is an 88 Gewehr. It predated the Mausers. Mauser, in fact, never built any of them. Their production was 1888 until 1899. This particular series of 88 Gewehr, in 1907, they sold a bunch to China. They sold them to several countries, to India, China, Russia, all over. You can still find them out there today.

“The Gewehr was in German service from 1888 until 1901. Then, they brought them back out again in World War II, 1944 to 1945, because they were scraping up anything they could shoot with."

Leonard said the rifle has been in evidence for many years, but he wouldn't elaborate on how it came to be in Craig police custody.

"Because of the circumstances, we'll just say it was recovered," Leonard said, adding the rifle's owners never came to collect it.

Nichols said the rifle was in rough shape and might not fire or have much monetary value, but the historical value is certainly there.

"That's a cool museum piece," Nichols said. "It's not necessarily relative to cowboy history in this area, but it's an important piece of gun history, even if it is kinda obscure."

The old Stevens

As for the Stevens, a model 820B, Leonard said it has been in the CPD armory for decades.

"That's been in the police department armory for longer than I've been here — probably 30-something years," Leonard said.

The shotgun likely had its barrel modified — shortened — to accommodate use in and out of police vehicles. Leonard said federal law prevents CPD from using modified weapons such as the donated shotgun.

"We were cleaning out the racks and whatnot, and that one had been converted to police use, which the ATF used to allow, but they don't allow that anymore," Leonard said.

The Craig Police Department donated two firearms to the Museum of Northwest Colorado on Thursday, Feb. 14.

The shotgun came into the police armory one of two ways, according to Leonard. It could have been purchased new or confiscated and later converted for police use.

"It was probably one of two things," Leonard said. "It was either originally bought for police use or back in the day several years ago when they didn't require that we dispose or donate them, we could convert them to law enforcement use. So the police department could have converted it to law enforcement use."

Nichols said the Stevens shotgun was probably produced between 1912 and the 1940s.

"This one is actually prior to serial numbers," Nichols said of the shotgun.

Contact Clay Thorp at 970-875-1790 or cthorp@CraigDailyPress.com.

Moffat County commissioners plan pro rodeo’s return in Craig this summer

Editors note: This report has been edited to reflect Moffat County’s fair board funds fair operations.  

Some of pro rodeo’s baddest bulls and their roughest riders will be returning to Craig this summer, if county commissioners give the go-ahead.

On Tuesday, Feb. 19, the Moffat County Board of County Commissioners plans to approve a contractor agreement that would bring a Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association and Women's Professional Cowboys Association rodeo event to the Moffat County Fairgrounds Aug. 8.

According to the contract, included in the BOCC’s Tuesday agenda, $13,000 would be paid to the Triple V Rodeo Company, LLC for an all-inclusive event that would feature a "patriotic opening," bullfighters, a barrel man specialty act, music, and more.

"Triple V. Rodeo Company, LLC, will run the rodeo event in a safe manner and will supervise and manage everything to do with the rodeo at the Moffat County Fair on Aug. 8, 2019, in accordance with PRCA/WPRA guidelines," the contract reads.

According to the Tuesday’s BOCC agenda, Moffat County will also provide several services during the rodeo, including "six men knowledgeable about the sport of rodeo to assist with chutes and arena help"; two tons of hay; 10 bags of grain; six motel rooms for the visiting announcer, musicians, judges, and contractors; two quality horses for Miss Rodeo America and Miss Rodeo Colorado; ambulance and EMT standbys; judges; and sanction fees set by PRCA/WPRA.

Lastly, the county will provide $2,000 to help purse each event, including bareback, saddle bronc, bull riding, tie-down roping, steer wrestling, team roping, and barrel racing — a total of $14,000.

Commissioner Don Cook said Moffat County’s fair board has provided the rodeo’s funding for a long time.

“They’ve done this for years and years,” Cook said.

BOCC also plans to approve a professional services agreement between the city of Craig, Moffat County, and Armstrong Consultants, Inc. for the improvement of the Craig-Moffat County Airport.

According to the agreement, the project may include:

• Pavement maintenance on runways, taxiways, and aprons

• Rehabilitation of runway 7/25, including its taxiways and aprons

• Replacement/installation of runway lighting and visual aids

• Relocation of an access road

• Non-FAA funded airport planning, engineering, environmental, and miscellaneous airport consulting services, as required

The agreement for airport services would be for a duration of five years, and payments would be made to Armstrong Consultants based on Armstrong's submitted monthly statements for services completed.

Other BOCC business on Tuesday's agenda include:

• Volunteer appointments to the airport and land use boards

• A public hearing regarding the vacation of a piece of Main Beam Road

• A public hearing on an application for a new minor subdivision

• Bid recommendations for magnesium chloride and cattle guards

• Bid recommendations for a BOCC fleet vehicle

• A presentation of nomination letter for Donald Broom to the Juvenile Services Planning Commission

• A proclamation for May 4 through May 11 to officially be Moffat County Tourism Week

Contact Clay Thorp at 970-875-1795 or cthorp@craigdailypress.com.

National Guard plans to clean up decades-old unexploded ordnance at Moffat County’s Bears Ears shooting range

Some two years after finding an unexploded hand grenade at Bears Ears Sportsman Club north of Craig, the U.S. Army National Guard is seeking to finish its cleanup of any possible unexploded ordinance this summer.

According to a legal notice published in the Craig Press Wednesday, Feb. 13, the National Guard is inviting the public to review its plans to remediate any munitions and explosives of concern at the shooting range along Moffat County Road 7.

"It's been a couple years since we were up there," said Joseph B. Rhodes, a National Guard restoration specialist. "There's eight acres left to do, and that's the plan, and then we'll be done."

Rhodes said crews did find an active hand grenade in 2016, but it was only a training device.

"There were a lot of non-dangerous pieces and parts," Rhodes said of the 2016 search. "I think we found one that could be considered explosive. But understand, these aren't actual grenades. These are practice grenades. They are explosive, but they have a very small explosive content and then a kind of white powder that goes off when they hit the ground, so you can see them, but they don't do any damage."

Any possible unexploded ordnance at Bear's Ears is likely the remnants of post-World War II training, said Craig Rummel, president of the Bears Ears Sportsman Club.

"In the ’50s and ’60s, the range out there owned by the BLM was a National Guard shooting range," Rummel said. "Here and another place out in Sand Wash (Basin) that they used as a shooting range. They used small arms, and they used grenades, mortars, some of the smaller stuff. So, the Army National Guard is going around cleaning up these sights all around the country."

Rummel's sportsman club has held the Bears Ears shooting range lease since 1978, and it is open to the public, hence the need for a safe range.

"If we're setting new targets out, they just want to make sure we're safe," Rummel said.

If residents were to find possible unexploded ordnance at the range, Rhodes said they should leave it alone.

"We'd like to always caution people," Rhodes said. "If you see something that's unusual, don't mess with it. Back up and find someone responsible to look at it and see what it is. If there is something truly dangerous, then the sheriff's department will figure out how to get rid of it."

Moffat County Sheriff K.C. Hume said his office doesn't have explosives technicians, but he can get them here if needed.

"We would call the appropriate response authority," Hume said, adding a team would likely come from Fort Carson to deal with possible unexploded military ordnance.

Hume said at least one resident brought possible unexploded ordnance into the sheriff's office.

"That's something we want to tell folks not to do, because we really don't want it at the sheriff's office, either," Hume said.

If all goes as planned, Rhodes said cleanup should begin this summer.

"It depends on the bureaucratic process," Rhodes said. "We've got to get through this 30 days of public comment and depending on what those comments are, look at the plan and adjust it and then we actually go and do the work."

Rhodes said the government shutdown had virtually no effect on his work of cleaning up former U.S. Department of Defense training sites like the one outside Craig.

"The DOD was funded, and that's where this money comes from," Rhodes said.

Contact Clay Thorp at 970-875-1795 or cthorp@CraigDailyPress.com.

No middling effort Friday as Moffat County girls hoops punishes Panthers

With back-to-back Fridays spent competing against teams with a Panther moniker, at least one Moffat County High School basketball squad is feeling like the cat that ate the canary this time around.

MCHS split while on the road in Granby against the Middle Park Panthers, as the Lady Bulldogs earned a 52-23 win and boys a 68-59 defeat.

MoCo girls began on the right foot with a 12-6 first quarter before blowing up in the second period to make it a 30-12 half.

Lady Dogs kept their opponents to single digits in each quarter, ending the third ahead 44-17 before slowing down somewhat in the final stretch in the off night for Middle Park — standing at second place in the 2A/3A Frontier League — who move to 12-4 overall while MCHS girls improve to 13-4.

Halle Hamilton led MoCo with 16 points.

Moffat boys were stymied at the start by the Panthers, who leapt to a 24-13 lead to begin the evening and kept it going at 36-24 at halftime.

A solid second half by the Dogs didn’t quite translate to a comeback as Middle Park kept on the right side of the margin between the the two teams.

More than half the Bulldog points came from a combined effort by Colby Beaver and Jerod Chacon with 15 points each, Chacon hitting a trio of three-pointers throughout the game.

The non-conference loss put MCHS boys at 5-12.

Bulldog basketball teams will be up against fellow 3A Western Slope League hoopsters Roaring Fork starting at 11 a.m. Saturday. The final home game of the regular season will also be Senior Night.


Craig youth hockey earns wins, losses as seasons wind down

The season is nearly done for some levels of Craig Youth Hockey Association, while it’s just heating up for others.

With multiple games for the 12 and under Peewees, 16U Bantams and 18U Midgets, the weekend was a hectic one for Craig teams.

The Peewee Cougars were matched up against some of the toughest competition in the Continental Divide Youth Hockey League, seeing both the White and Blue squads of the West Elk Wolverines in Gunnison.

Up against the the White group first Saturday , Craig took a 4-2 loss with goals by Wyatt Schell unassisted and Logan Durham off the aid of Grant Sis. Caden Bugay earned 61 saves in the net across both games.

In Sunday’s doubleheader against the Blue side, Logan Durham took two goals and an assist with Patrick Neton in the 7-3 loss that began the day. Logan earned a hat trick in the next game, an 8-3 defeat, with Hayden Urroz gaining one assist.

In goal, Bugay had 28 saves and Schell 19.

For the Bantams, who also played Saturday in Gunnison, Clay Durham, Carter Behrman and Brant Gutierrez each had one goal, with two assists by Gutierrez and one by Garrett Anson during a 7-3 defeat. The group followed up with a second game with the Wolverines, an 11-3 loss, with two goals by Durham and one by Behrman, who also had one assist with another two for Gutierrez.

Goalie Dylan Herndon earned 62 saves in the doubleheader.

Back home, the Midget Bulldog team had its first home games in more than a month, picking up a 13-7 win against Arapahoe in which Moffat County gained further good footing in the Colorado Recreational Hockey League.

Colton Lodato and AJ Barber each scored a hat trick, while Clay Durham and Wyatt Boatright back on the ice after a December injury, scored twice.

“I think we had almost everybody score at least once or at least one assist,” coach Tim Knez said. “I think we had five in the first period and worked more on passing after that. Then it was more like one goal for us, one for them. Probably the most solid two periods of hockey I’ve seen them play”

A non-competitive scrimmage followed the official league game, as the Dogs tied 8-8 with Arapahoe.

Bulldogs will be back on the Front Range this weekend with games against Arvada and Lafayette, followed by a President’s Day weekend tournament, the Mile High Meltdown, where they will see many CRHL opponents.

The 10U Squirts will play their final matches of the year this weekend in Telluride in a four-game series, while Bantams end the season Feb. 23 in Grand Junction.

Peewees will end their schedule at home in a Saturday set against Grand Junction with games at 9 and 11:15 a.m. at Moffat County Ice Arena.

Craig group wants to build new recreation center

A group dedicated to bringing a new recreation center to Craig is looking for donations to buy empty business space and put an accompanying recreational taxing district on the ballot.

According to a Facebook post from the Northwest Colorado Recreation Foundation, because the group is still waiting on its 501(c)3 application, it can't yet guarantee donations will be tax-deductible. The group is seeking to raise an initial $24,000 to help pay attorneys to draw the custom boundaries of the district and get the issue on the ballot.

"We need $24,000 to put this on the ballot," said Elise Sullivan, who also represents District B on the Moffat County School Board, during a public meeting Jan. 30 at City Hall. "That's $15,000 for the attorney and $9,000 to put it on the ballot. Tonight, we are asking for your faith and your trust."

Sullivan's pitch to the public included news that the group is working on purchasing one of Craig's largest empty former big box stores.

"We really would like to purchase the Kmart building," Sullivan said.

Sullivan thinks the group can do it with $5 million in donations from the largest area employers, including Tri-State Generation and Transmission, ColoWyo Mine, and Twentymile Mine. Once the building is purchased and the district is drawn, Sullivan said the foundation would donate the building to the newly-created recreation district, with construction ideally beginning in 2020 for a 2021 completion date.

The sheer size of the old Kmart building — some 98,000 square feet, Sullivan said — would facilitate all types of services and amenities for the Craig and Moffat County communities including the following:

• Space for an indoor track, gym, and fields for multiple sports.

• Competition-size pool, lifeguard training, a shallow play area, and a lazy river for exercise or recreation.

• Dedicated senior center with workout rooms and meeting spaces.

• Community kitchen.

• A child care center and a teen space in conjunction with the Boys & Girls Club.

Many residents asked questions of the foundation Jan. 30. Some were senior citizens concerned that past cuts to city and county services means they might not have a permanent senior center at the new recreation center. Others wanted to make sure a pool was the centerpiece of any new recreation center.

"We feel the pool is the most important part, also," said foundation member Kandee Dilldine.

Until the foundation's nonprofit status is solidified, Dilldine and Sullivan said they plan to work with their attorney and a local construction company to make sure they're utilizing any grant money to help fund construction.

But, she added there isn't much time until the November election, when the foundation hopes to be on the ballot.

"I think this a really unique opportunity in a small window of time," Sullivan said.

Contact Clay Thorp at 970-875-1795 or at cthorp@craigdailypress.com.