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City of Craig to receive $300K grant from EPA for cleanup, revitalization

The City of Craig will receive a $300,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency to advance the cleanup and revitalization of property at priority sites downtown.

The city is one of 151 communities nationwide selected to receive 154 grant awards, which totaled $66.5 million in EPA Brownfields funding through the agency’s Multipurpose, Assessment and Cleanup Grant programs.

The grant will be awarded once all legal and administrative requirements are fulfilled.

The funding will support underserved and economically disadvantaged communities across the country, allowing them to assess and clean up contaminated and abandoned industrial and commercial properties.

“The City of Craig has identified several key sites where redevelopment will provide great benefits to the community,” said Mark A. Smith, EPA Region 8 director of the Land, Chemicals, and Redevelopment Division. “The EPA grant will help identify any existing contamination, facilitate cleanup, and create new economic opportunity in the downtown area.”

Around 50% of the selected recipients will be receiving EPA Brownfields grants for the first time, and more than 85% are located in or serving small communities.

The city will use the grant funds to inventory and prioritize sites and conduct environmental site assessments at up to 14 properties. The funds will also be used for cleanup and reuse planning and community outreach activities.

Assessment activities will target priority sites in downtown Craig at the intersection of Victory Way and Yampa Avenue, including the Craig Depot and Rail district, former oil services, auto repair and dry cleaner sites, the former K-Mart and Craig Memorial Hospital and a vacant commercial building in the 500 block of Yampa Avenue.

“The City of Craig is very pleased to have received an award of $300,000 from EPA’s Brownfield Community Wide Assessment grant program,” said Mayor Jarrod Ogden. “The grant will help us to leverage many of our unique attributes and assets in order to support positive and healthy growth.

This grant also supports the passion we have to assist those who call Craig home as we look to repurpose building stock in order to create an environment that is ripe for innovation.”

Ogden added that the city acknowledged the EPA’s intention for the grant to support economic development and environmental cleanup by addressing known contamination sources and using this effort as a catalyst for reuse and redevelopment of properties in key areas of the community.

“We are very thankful for EPA’s consideration of this award and look forward to the results of the project,” he said.

Contaminants of concern at these sites include petroleum, hydrocarbons and volatile organic compounds. The city intends to reuse these properties and develop critical transportation, utilities and water infrastructure in downtown Craig extending west along Victory Way.

By investing in pedestrian infrastructure, the city also aims to increase walkability in the downtown area, reduce transportation costs and attract a skilled workforce to new business opportunities.

Since the Brownfields program was created in 1995, the EPA has provided nearly $1.76 billion in grants to assess and clean up contaminated properties and return them to productive reuse. Communities participating in the program have been able to attract more than $34.4 billion in cleanup and redevelopment funding after receiving the grant.

This has led to over 175,500 jobs in cleanup, construction and redevelopment.

Girl power: Moffat County competitors vie for honor of Outstanding Female Athlete

On May 17, Moffat County High School acknowledges some of its best and brightest student-athletes for the Class of 2021 with the Lewis “Dude” Dent Memorial Award ceremony.

The namesake of the top accolade for sporty students is Lewis Dent, a 1939 Craig High School graduate well known for his proficiency in multiple sports, including football, basketball and track. An athlete at Colorado State University — then Colorado A&M — he went on to enlist in the United States’ military effort in World War II, and was killed in action in 1944.

An award bearing Dent’s name has been part of MCHS sports since 1957, later followed by Outstanding Female Athlete in 1977, both celebrating well-rounded pupils who have demonstrated excellence in the classroom and in athletic competition.

The Craig Press will showcase this year’s nominees leading up to the award ceremony.

Alayna Behrman took up track her freshman year. Andy Bockelman / for the Craig Press

Alayna Behrman — Cross country, track and field

There’s been a lot of steps during Alayna Behrman’s high school athletic career.

Footsteps, specifically.

Behrman has been a fixture of both cross country and track and field, spending plenty of time running, whether in long intervals across varied terrain or in short bursts before leaping into a sand pit.

She took up track her freshman year, specializing in events like the hurdles and triple jump, and by the next fall she was on a new path by joining the long-distance team. The new sport helped push her along once the track season came around again, as she was a state alternate in the triple jump and after narrowly making the cut for the big event, she leapt from a ranking of 18th to No. 10.

Behrman noted that she especially likes the prospect of steady improvement in both sports.

“I like the challenge; not every meet is going to be your best meet, but you just have to push through and work harder for next time,” she said.

Her junior season may have been her personal best in XC, joining the varsity girls squad at both regionals and the state championships, which she repeated as a senior, despite a significant gap in spring 2020 as the COVID pandemic canceled the track season.

“We lost a lot by losing our junior season, but hopefully this season will make up for it,” she said of her senior season, which, thanks to significant rescheduling, will extend past graduation.

Aside from achieving the role of salutatorian for the Class of 2021, Behrman’s perseverance paid off as she committed earlier this year to the track and cross country programs at Kansas Wesleyan University, where she will major in biology.

“I wasn’t even going to do track my freshman year, but my friends told me to, and it was well worth it because now I have four more years of it,” she said.

Kelsey McDiffett has attended 10 state events across three sports in her four years at Moffat County High School. Andy Bockelman / for the Craig Press

Kelsey McDiffett — Cross country, swimming, track and field

Few athletes have seen more state-level competitions than Kelsey McDiffett.

After attending 10 state events across three sports in her four years at MCHS, she has plentiful varsity letters and even more fond experiences.

“There’s a lot of memories, and it’s been fun, but it went by fast,” she said.

McDiffett ran cross country from freshman year on, part of the regional group and state team each time, growing from being on the cusp of the top 5 female harriers to being leader of the pack as a junior and senior, placing in the top 10 at regional meets both times, as well as the top 40 in state on each occasion.

In track, she went the distance all the way to state in 4×800-meter relays as both a freshman and sophomore, placing eighth each time.

However, it was another sport that held her focus the most.

“Swimming is my favorite because I had to work a lot more to get to state since we didn’t have a pool,” she said. “I guess I could have just done basketball, but I wanted to stick with it.”

Hours of dedication in the MoCo pool her freshman year amounted to state qualification in the 100-yard breaststroke, 200 individual medley and 200 freestyle relay.

“It was really exciting just because no one thought we’d be going at all,” she said.

The school board was forced to close the facility. Even so, swimmers have spent the past few seasons using the Meeker rec center as their home base, and McDiffett noted that the increased travel time served as another way to bond.

She was back in the same individual events at state the following two years as well as relays, and though it came down to the wire in her pandemic-impacted senior season, she was part of the 400 free relay earlier this year along with Ellina Jones, Alexa Neton and Hailey Knowles.

Taking on soccer to round out her senior year rather than track, McDiffett said she’ll likely be participating in fewer sports at the college level while she studies nursing at University of Colorado-Colorado Springs.

While she needed less motivation for swimming, she noted that it was her teammates who made sports like cross country and track all the better.

“Running a lot of miles every day isn’t very fun, but with the right company it’s not bad,” she said.

Emaleigh Papierski was named All-Conference First Team, All-State Honorable Mention by Colorado High School Activities Association and All-State by Colorado Coaches of Girls Sports. Andy Bockelman / for the Craig Press

Emaleigh Papierski — Cross country, basketball, track and field

There’s been more than a few struggles in Emaleigh Papierski’s athletic career, but there’s been just as many successes along the way.

Papierski has been competing at the highest level each fall, winter and spring ever since her freshman year at MCHS, a crucial component of the cross country, basketball and track and field teams.

Her XC run included appearances at regionals and state both her freshman and junior years, forgoing the sport her sophomore season to train for basketball and as a senior due to a summertime injury.

However, she suited up for varsity hoops all four years, including a freshman season that included highlights like the Lady Bulldogs’ most recent 3A Western Slope League title and a postseason push that got them as far as the 2018 state semifinals.

The girls basketball team made it into the playoffs each of the past four seasons under three different coaches, though Papierski has been on the roster all the while and her final season may have been her best individually as she led in total points (195), rebounds (94) and tied in steals (43), helping her to pick up the Most Valuable Player award.

“This season I played every game like it was my last, because COVID made me realize how lucky we were to get that season. I played, had some fun and got blessed enough to get that,” she said.

Papierski was also named All-Conference First Team, All-State Honorable Mention by Colorado High School Activities Association and All-State by Colorado Coaches of Girls Sports. CCGS typically hosts an All-State game specifically for graduating seniors, though the organization was forced to cancel this year’s event, much to Papierski’s disappointment.

“I was looking forward to wearing my uniform one more time,” she said.

She added that her teammates and coaches made the basketball season special.

“Our energy was really strong in every practice and that just made the year go by really fast because we were a really close group,” she said.

Though she liked the idea of competing in college basketball, Papierski committed to track at University of Colorado-Colorado Springs a sport in which she earned her biggest achievement.

As a freshman and sophomore, she was part of the maximum amount of state track and field events — including sprints, relays and long jump — though her highlight was as the anchor in the 4×200 relay in 2019, gaining the gold alongside Halle Hamilton, Emma Jones and Stephenie Swindler.

While the foursome had their hopes of a repeat championship dashed in 2020 amid the coronavirus pandemic, Papierski, Hamilton and Jones are anticipating the possibility of one last big win this June.

Obituary: Paul A. Kawcak

Paul A. Kawcak

May 14, 1928 – November 21, 2020

Graveside services for Paul Kawcak will be held at 11:00 a.m., Friday, May 14, 2021 at Craig Cemetery.

Obituary: Olive Dean Blake

Olive Dean Blake

August 15, 1930 – May 6, 2021

Olive Blake, of Hayden, died Thursday, May 6, 2021 at Yampa Valley Medical Center. A celebration of life will be held at 1:00 p.m., Saturday, May 15, 2021 at The Hayden Congregational Church. Memorial donations may be made to The Wounded Warrior Project in care of Grant Mortuary.

Obituary: Mary Jeanne Durham

Mary Jeanne


January 11, 1932 – May 7, 2021

M. Jeanne Durham, of Craig, died Friday, May 7 2021 at her home. A celebration of life will be held at a later date.

‘It cripples our industry:’ Moffat County’s ag producers push back against PAUSE initiative

The PAUSE initiative is slated to go to voters in 2022. Ag producers, veterinarians, animal breeders and more are concerned about the potential consequences of the act. Getty images

Melody Villard doesn’t know whether to accuse the organizers of the PAUSE initiative of incompetence or resoluteness. Either way, if voters approved it, she believes the state’s agricultural industry as we know it would collapse.

“It’s either well thought out to cripple an industry,” Villard said, “or it’s not well thought out at all, and it cripples our industry.”

Villard is a Moffat County Commissioner, but she says “our” because she runs Villard Ranch, a Craig sheep operation that’s been in her family for a century. The ag industry is so rankled by ballot Initiative 16 that a coalition of livestock and farming groups protested before the state’s Title Board, stating that the name was a political catchphrase. The name, Protect Animals from Unnecessary Suffering and Exploitation (PAUSE), seems cute if you say the abbreviated version out loud, but producers such as Villard call it an attack against the ag industry as well as private pet breeders.

The initiative adds livestock and fish to the state’s cruelty law, redefines what constitutes a sexual act with an animal and requires that slaughtering of livestock only occurs after the animal has lived a quarter of its lifespan.

All that would change the way livestock and breeders operate their businesses, to the point that it would probably run them and all the supportive industries such as feed and fencing out of business, Villard said.

“There are so many small ripple effects that would make this a huge problem,” she said. “It would kill the industry in Colorado. It’s all so tied together.”

Villard raises lambs for consumption. They are born in May, and she sells most of them to a livestock operator in October. Those are butchered a few months later. The initiative would force Villard to keep her animals for two or even three more years than she does now. That would wipe out her grazing land and strain her water resources for what she calls an arbitrary lifespan. The meat also would be flavorless, fatty and tough.

The organizers listed on the PAUSE website didn’t return calls for comment. The website says the initiative would “extend basic decency to farm animals.” The initiative, the site states, would define cruelty to farm animals, and it says organizers were inspired after seeing a chicken farm with starving and severely abused animals. The initiative gathered nearly 125,000 signatures to get on the November 2022 ballot.

But those definitions listed above have practically every agricultural organization against it, including the Colorado Livestock Association and a coalition that calls itself Coloradans for Animal Care. They are joined by Gov. Jared Polis’ office, the Colorado Veterinary Medical Association and the Colorado Federation of Dog Clubs and Owners. Moffat County Commissioners also approved a resolution against it, as have many other county commissions across the state.

The vet association and the federation are concerned about traditional animal husbandry practices being challenged by the initiative, including artificial insemination and simple practices such as spaying and neutering. The website says fixing an animal would not be affected by the initiative, although it would prevent castration.

Dog breeders use insemination when it’s difficult to find a mate in the area and to avoid using the same genetic bloodlines (using siblings for example) and preserve endangered species, said Linda Hart, the legislative director for the Colorado Federation of Dog Clubs and Owners.

“This initiative gives them free rein to define what is cruel and what is not cruel,” Hart said. “It puts it out of the hands of the experts. Breeders and people who deal with the animals on a daily basis have set up basic standards of care for those animals.”

Most breeders won’t tolerate abuse of their animals because it’s not good business, Hart said.

‘“Otherwise they wouldn’t be in it,” she said. “If you don’t care for them they don’t thrive, and if they don’t thrive you spend extra money and you don’t do well with your animals. They don’t show well. People watch that and know that. We self patrol ourselves.”

Moffat County baseball sweeps Coal Ridge in stellar season opener

Bulldog Josh McCourt winds up a pitch against Coal Ridge on Saturday. Andy Bockelman / for the Craig Press

With a shutout victory behind them and holding a 4-2 lead late in their second game Saturday, Moffat County High School baseball players were feeling confident to say the least.

And, when senior Krece Papierski blasted one over the left-center field fence, that excitement only grew all the more as Bulldogs faced the promise of a great season.

MCHS swept the Coal Ridge Titans with 9-0 and 7-4 wins in the doubleheader that served as their season opener at the Craig Middle School field.

The Titans already had one big W under their belt, annihilating Grand Valley 26-0 via mercy rule in a May 5 game.

Still, Coal Ridge found a different level of competition when they came to Craig, as the Dogs truly came to play.

It was slow progress as the first run of the season didn’t come until the fourth inning, yet a rally in the fifth saw seven runs.

Junior Derrick Squires pitched the full first game, earning 11 strikeouts, walking only one batter, and nearly achieving a no-hitter as the Titans earned one single.

“He’s a lefty who came here from Laramie two years ago, and then we didn’t get to play last year,” said head coach Brian Jennings, adding that he had multiple transfer students join the team shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the 2020 season. “Now we’re finally getting to see what they can do.”

Every member of the Bulldog lineup got on base at least once, whether through their bat — including four doubles out of their seven total hits — or via other methods, as Coal Ridge pitchers racked up seven walks and beaned four Bulldog batters.

“They really just put balls in play and made things happen,” Jennings said of team’s offense.

Heading into the second game of the day, the energy shifted a bit, as did the weather, moving from sunny yet cloudy to fully gray. The Titans crossed the plate twice in the first inning, but as a light rain picked up, so did the Dogs’ determination.

“Baseball is such a momentum sport, and when you go down 2-0, it’s very easy to roll over and die,” he said. “We were more fired up than ever to get back and start fighting again.”

After getting on base after being hit by a pitch, Papierski took advantage of fielding errors to steal second, third and home to get MoCo their first run of the game.

Junior Carson Miller took the brunt of bad pitches in the second game, beaned three times, but he couldn’t complain when he barreled his way off third base, with the first steal of home a head-first slide over the plate to tie it at 2-2 in the third inning.

And, senior Greg Spears was right behind to take the lead moments later.

“It says a lot about this team’s character and how they play this game,” Jennings said of the sudden turnaround.

Junior Ryan Peck started the second game on the mound, throwing for four innings and picking up five strikeouts before being replaced by senior Josh McCourt, who picked up one K despite giving up two runs in the sixth inning.

Still, at that point, it was Moffat County’s game to lose, given Papierski’s homer in the fifth.

After being beaned on three occasions during the two games, a low-and-outside pitch was a welcome change for the Bulldog slugger, and he didn’t hesitate to swing away, driving in Squires, McCourt and himself for three RBIs.

“I was just playing my game, man,” Papierski said. “Taking it play by play.”

Jennings said he wasn’t at all surprised with Papierski’s round-tripper, knowing he had the power but only needed the right window.

“We’ve been watching all these guys do that these last two months of practice. They know what they’re capable of,” he said.

Before going back in the dugout, Papierski also took the opportunity to pound a ceremonial hammer on the ground, a new tradition for the team to celebrate home runs.

As the team’s regular catcher, he credited the string of pitchers with getting the job done defensively.

“We’re all one big family, and we all really have a great connection,” he said. “We’re gonna do something special this season. We’re all fired up to be together on the field again.”

Senior Hunter Smilanich closed the game, ending the day with a grounder right to the mound that he whipped to Peck, who had replaced him at first base.

“Hunter’s great in all places, but I think that role right there at the end of the game to come in and throw hard,” Jennings said. “As long as he puts fastballs over the plate, he’ll be alright.”

All told, the statistical tally was 17 strikeouts for MoCo pitchers between the two games, while Bulldog batters and baserunners compiled 14 hits, 14 stolen bases, and 13 RBIs.

The 2-0 start is one Jennings expects will energize the team as they make their way through the schedule, including Tuesday in Rifle and Thursday at Meeker, both of which will be JV and varsity games, with another varsity doubleheader set for May 15 in Aspen.

“Any day you can win two games, you gotta be happy,” he said.

Community Agriculture Alliance: Yampa River Fund supports Maybell multibenefit project in 2021 grant round

The Yampa River Fund steering committee recently awarded $200,000 to six projects during its 2021 grant cycle. As designed, the YRF funded projects that enhance river flows, restore riparian and instream habitat, and improve infrastructure for a healthier river. One of the projects, permitting for the Maybell Diversion Restoration Project, is an excellent example of how the YRF supports multibenefit projects that help water users while benefiting river health and recreation as well. When completed, the Maybell Diversion Project will result in significant positive impact to the Maybell agricultural community, endangered and native fish habitat, and recreation interests. What makes the Maybell project a great fit for the YRF is it stands to create a positive impact in all river users, the economy and the environment for decades to come.

The project is moving forward through a partnership between The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and Maybell Irrigation District (MID). The goal is to reconstruct the historic Maybell diversion and modernize the headgates in the lower Yampa River. TNC, MID, Friends of the Yampa and other partners are committed to increasing water users’ control of irrigation water while improving aquatic habitat by removing impediments to flow as well as facilitating boat and fish passage at the Maybell diversion. Safer and reliable water infrastructure will bring increased economic benefits to the communities in the lower Yampa basin. In addition, this project supports recovery of four endangered fish while meeting agricultural irrigation needs and increasing ecological connectivity, water security and resilience to climate change.

Located in the designated critical habitat reach of the Yampa, downstream of Juniper Canyon, the MID currently withdraws water through two broken and antiquated headgates into the Maybell Ditch. Built in 1896, the ditch is approximately 18 miles long and is one of the largest diverters on the Yampa River. Though the diversion infrastructure historically served the users well, it is impacted by critically low flows during times of drought and water scarcity.

Stakeholders and community members view the project as critical to remedying chronic low-flow and obstacles to boat and fish passage in the lower Yampa. The project received funding in 2019 from the Colorado Water Conservation Board and the Yampa-White-Green Basin Roundtable to finalize engineering designs, specifications and permitting for construction to begin in 2022. TNC and partners are in the process of fundraising and working with the Maybell community to schedule construction and develop a path forward.

You can learn more about the Maybell Diversion Project at Nature.org/en-us/about-us/where-we-work/united-states/colorado/stories-in-colorado/maybell-water-diversion-project. In addition, you can learn more about the Yampa River Fund and other funded projects at YampaRiverFund.org.

Andy Baur is the manager of the Yampa River Fund.

Letter to the editor: Now is not the time for new taxes

Wouldn’t it be nice if all the tax gulping entities spent out valuable tax dollars on efficiency consultants before they immediately hired propaganda consultants to push through their tax hike agendas? If unbiased, outside efficiency experts were hired with the goal of cutting internal waste; most tax hike initiatives would probably not be required.

In this time of economic uncertainty those people asking for even more tax burdens to be placed upon the backs of Craig/Moffat County taxpayers, must be delirious. If the proposed initiatives are so worthy, let a group of private investors get them started; that is the American way. Basically, the taxpayers can always distinguish bad ideas: they usually require taxpayer support to even get started or exist. Some taxpayers are still being lulled into complacency, so the tax guzzlers are quickly making their moves, thinking, “there’s still a chance.”

I suggest that all of is taxpayers tell those big spenders to “go-fly-a kite” while we wait and see how all the ominous future events, that will certainly affect our national and local economics, shake out. Consider this: all the newly proposed tax hikes can easily be postponed. There is simply no need for us taxpayers to act recklessly with our votes during these crucial times. Come on taxpayers, stand up against the slick tax-hike propaganda “consultants,” even just once. Get ready: first came their bright sales pitches; the next waves will be their bombardment of ambiguous stats, warnings, and threats.

Jim Ellenberger


Writers on the Range: Housing prices in the West are over the moon

One hundred and fifteen thousand dollars. That’s what it takes for a down payment to buy an average-priced home in Durango. Then, an aspiring homeowner must fork out another $2,900 each month, which is more than two-thirds of their household’s paychecks if they make the median income for the metro area.

That’s because the average home in Durango, a town of 17,000 in the southwestern part of the state, is going for nearly $600,000. That’s way out of reach for professors at the local college, Fort Lewis, even if two of them making the median faculty salary were to go in on a house together.

If college professors can’t afford homes, then what kind of a local worker who has no outside source of income can? Certainly not public school teachers, firefighters, cops or journalists. Service workers? Forget about it.

Jonathan Thompson

As pandemic-spurred remote work is freeing folks from the office and cities, they are buying up remote work-centers, aka houses, in places far away from their cubicles. The result is real estate markets blowing up across the West, as well as the nation.

It will take $533,000 to buy an average-price home in Bend, Oregon, and $425,000 in Corvallis — a 23% jump from a couple of years ago. The pattern repeats just about everywhere, with 25% to 35% price increases in nearly every market: Tucson, Flagstaff, Tahoe, Salt Lake City, Durango.

You can’t escape by forgoing homeownership and renting, either. Rentals, if you can find them, are similarly expensive. Boise’s median rent shot up by 23% over the past year, with other midsized Western cities seeing similar leaps.

Many of these places have long been too pricey for the average worker, but a hopeful homeowner could always look farther afield, as home prices tended to drop in direct proportion to the distance from the town’s center. It’s the old “drive till you qualify” non-policy of affordable housing, leaned on by communities from Jackson to Aspen to Park City.

But now the Zoom Boom-fueled market fire is spreading beyond the “best places” into the once-affordable bastions of working class neighborhoods, the bedroom communities, rural ranchettes and even trailer parks.

In other words, you could drive all night and still not qualify unless you have cash coming in from a trust fund, you sold out of a more expensive market or you happened to hit it big with cryptocurrency.

Something is bound to break. When even drive-till-you-qualify breaks down, the non-Zoom workers have little choice but to crowd into substandard housing, move into tent-towns, or set up camp in the backseat in the Walmart parking lot. I know experienced teachers who have been forced into rooming with others in small apartments, like college students. It’s hardly surprising that so many businesses are having a hard time finding workers.

Perhaps the most maddening part of all this is that the Zoom Boom isn’t the half of it: The biggest real estate action is happening in the luxury markets. Aspen saw 90 sales over $10 million last year, and the average home price shot up to more than $11 million. Jackson, Wyoming’s, median sale price last year was $2.5 million, and it continues to climb.

This is happening during a time when more than a half-million people have died in the United States due to complications from COVID-19, and the U.S. economy has shed millions of jobs. Los Angeles County’s unhoused population is approaching 70,000, and even quaint small towns are seeing growing numbers of unhoused people. Wyoming, which Jackson Hole real estate firms tout as a “tax haven with a view,” is facing a budget crunch, forcing more than $40 million in cuts at the University of Wyoming.

There are solutions: Tax the wealthy — and the high-dollar real estate transactions — and put the revenue into building affordable housing.

Call it what you want: socialism, redistribution of wealth, compassion or just a tweak in the system to keep the economy from collapsing and violent revolution from occurring.

Or maybe call it what it is: A return to a time when we took care of one another, and no one felt the need to amass billions of dollars of wealth at the expense of the working class or the people who keep America running.

Jonathan Thompson is the editor of LandDesk.org and a regular contributor to Writers on the Range, WritersOnTheRange.org, an independent nonprofit dedicated to spurring lively conversation about the West.