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President Trump signs Great American Outdoors Act into law

President Donald Trump on Tuesday signed the Great American Outdoors Act into law, providing full funding to the Land and Water Conservation Fund — a program his administration previously wanted to pare back.

The law was championed by Colorado’s U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner and Montana’s U.S. Sen. Steve Daines, both of whom are Republicans facing difficult reelection battles in November.

Gardner thanked Trump for “making it happen.” Trump thanked Gardner for championing the legislation during the at the White House ceremony.

“Congratulations,” Trump said to Gardner and Daines. “Great job.”

Despite the president’s previous stance toward the Land and Water Conservation Fund — his recent budget proposal called for its funding to be dramatically reduced — he compared himself on Tuesday to President Theodore Roosevelt, who founded the U.S. Forest Service and created several national parks.

Also during Tuesday’s ceremony Trump referred to Bears Ears National Monument in Utah, which he drastically shrunk in December 2017. The monument was created by former President Barack Obama.

In addition to funding the Land and Water Conservation Fund at $900 million annually, the money it was originally allocated from royalties collected on offshore oil and gas drilling, the bill also begins to tackle the National Park Service’s maintenance backlog with a $9.5 billion infusion over five years.

Democrats have lauded the measure’s passage, though criticized the bill as an election-year gift to Gardner.

Gardner has been running campaign ads touting his work on the legislation.

Environmental groups have also celebrated the legislation, though tepidly.

“This is a win for the people that spoke up, reached out, and whose overwhelming outcry to save our parks and fund our public lands forced politically vulnerable officials into action,” Jayson O’Neill, director of the Western Values Project, said in a written statement.

O’Neill’s group is often highly critical of Republicans and the Trump administration on environmental issues. He said that the bill becoming law “can’t wash away the dirty reality of a public lands record that is unequivocally the worst in history.”

The Sierra Club on Tuesday endorsed Gardner’s 2020 opponent, Democrat John Hickenlooper, in a move that appeared to be aimed to coincide with the bill signing. Colorado Democrats, meanwhile, blasted Gardner’s broader environmental record as the legislation became law.

Gardner calls the Great American Outdoors Act one of the greatest public lands achievements in decades.

“Our nation’s leaders came together during these trying times in a bipartisan fashion to provide jobs for the American people, economic stimulus to communities in need, and protections that will ensure we can enjoy the great American outdoors the way they were meant to be enjoyed,” Gardner said in a statement.

Fully funding the Land and Water Conservation Fund has been a goal of some federal lawmakers — on both sides of the aisle — for years. The logjam broke in March when Trump agreed to back the proposal at the urging of Gardner and Daines.

Gardner is a Trump ally and the two are supporting each other’s reelection bids.

The Great American Outdoors Act moved swiftly through Congress in June and July with broad bipartisan support. However the three other Republican members of Colorado’s congressional delegation — U.S. Reps. Ken Buck, Doug Lamborn and Scott Tipton — voted against the bill.

Also at Tuesday’s bill signing were Interior Secretary David Bernhardt and Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter. Despite work by Democrats on the legislation it didn’t appear any of the party’s lawmakers were part of the signing.

Moffat County School District rolls out bond survey to community

Moffat County School District’s Board of Education rolled out another online survey Tuesday, asking parents, staff and community members to weigh in on a potential bond measure on the November ballot.

Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak in Colorado, the Board of Education began the preliminary process of placing a bond measure on the ballot for generational repairs to the school facilities. 

Now, the Board of Education is asking for feedback from staff, parents, and community members as to their thoughts on placing a bond measure on this year’s ballot.  

The survey comes just a few days after Board of Education member JNL Linsacum asked the board to consider sending out a survey to the community to see where Moffat County stands on the bond issue before moving forward with a decision one way or the other.

Some of the questions on the survey include the following:

  • How important is it that we make generational fixes to our school district facilities so that they can be used for another 25-30 years?
  • How important do you feel it is to capitalize on the current assessed values of our largest taxing entities (example: Trapper Mine, Tri-State G&T, ColoWyo Mine)?
  • Would you be in support of Moffat County School District placing a bond measure on the 2020 ballot for generational repairs to our school facilities?

The survey is 6-7 questions and is open through Wednesday, August 12. Take the survey here.

Bockelman Column: In case you were wondering…

Hello, all. What’s been happening while I’ve been gone?

Oh. Right…

Well, regarding the last several months, faithful readers may be curious why my byline hasn’t appeared in a single Craig Press story since mid-March.

Some people may know the basics of my absence, others may have assumed there was an extraterrestrial abduction involved, and still others may have been too busy dealing with recent weirdness in their own lives to worry about mine.

If I can be like any overly indulgent writer, I think I can sum it up with a simplistic analogy: my Jenga tower finally collapsed.

I know, that’s hardly any kind of description, but it will become more apparent as we go.

Getting ready for work on March 17, I went through my usual routine of wake up, shower, etc. with one big exception.

I flopped back onto my bed and then couldn’t get back up for hours.

Part of it was general weariness thanks to nary a wink of sleep the night before. With myriad stresses running through my brain, there was no chance of worthwhile slumber.

And yes, I realize we all have those stretches where you can’t turn off your anxiety, but what does one do when this nerve-induced insomnia becomes the unavoidable norm?

I don’t claim to have a harder life than anyone else. Writing for a small-town paper, you can either make a lot of friends or a lot of enemies, and I’ve been lucky enough that I get far more positive feedback than negative.

If anything, the relative ease of my day-to-day has made my mind so fragile that the slightest challenge or change is utterly overwhelming.

In the past two years, you’d think I’d be able to adapt to whatever came my way, given that every few months, things would completely shift, whether it was in job responsibilities, the number of people in my circle, or the pressure to make all content 100% flawless.

That last one was coming from myself more than anybody.

If I can get back to my belabored metaphor, the little wooden Jenga structure kept going higher while at the same time getting shakier as lower blocks were pulled out and recycled on a new level. It felt like every time something new went into my brain, something else in the support system got a little weaker.

In retrospect, I don’t know how well I was coping with every new setback or adjustment, mainly because each one simply led to another. Case in point: the same day I learned the news of my late editor passing away, a few hours later came a car crash on my way home from Denver.

Separately, neither of these were any fun to cope with, but when a pattern of mishaps keeps occurring, you can’t help but feel like there’s a bullseye painted between your shoulder blades.

Going back to March 17, aside from the usual woes that were amplified to deafening decibel levels (at least in my mind) it was around this time that this lovely new nuisance was rearing its head.

Anyone else hear about this COVID-19?

The wobbly wooden tower that was already threatening to fall apart had no chance when that cinder block came crashing down on it.

“Nervous breakdown” is a term that probably means different things to different people based on their psychological expertise, but I don’t think Freud would begrudge me using that cliché to describe how I was feeling that day.

The goal of getting through the day that was more and more daunting every time I awoke was no longer even feasible.

My only thought: I can’t do this.

Eventually I was able to break out of my mental pity party and found out I could take a leave of absence from the job, arguably a step up from how that damn virus has put the hurt on other people in the work world.

A respite from daily communication, expectations and the rest of the laundry list I thought was making me miserable was pleasant at first. However, a mental health vacation only has an effect if you’re truly dealing with your problems.

And, believe it or not, I was doing all I could to not help myself.

Without the distraction of work to take up my time, introspection became a full-time job and more than a few days in the weeks following my breakdown resulted in some very dark nights.

I put off getting therapy longer than I should have, (especially since it might have been effective over a decade ago) yet slowly but surely I started making progress.

Amid that healing was a reluctant camping trip with friends that somehow became an unofficial vision quest, but that’s a whole side story in this saga.

I also won’t bore you with the hastily started and abruptly paused novel and screenplay that both reside on my laptop…

All the while, the thought in the back of my head was that no matter how much better I might feel with my life, it was going to come to a crashing halt once I returned to the grind.

If there’s one kryptonite for writers, it’s a deadline, and I managed to impose not one but two on myself.

I can’t complain about my coworkers putting pressure on me since they didn’t complain once during my absence, and the few people who knew the details surrounding my sudden sabbatical haven’t made any demands of me to “get back to normal.”

If there’s a silver lining to the massive inconvenience that is coronavirus, it’s the realization that clinging to whatever routine you have, whatever comfort zone you’ve formed for yourself, whatever way you define “normal” is inevitably going to be shaken up if not shattered altogether.

And, so, Craig Press patrons, I’m bowing out of the job I’ve held the past seven years. My involvement with Moffat County’s beloved newspaper actually goes back twice that time since I’ve been writing in one capacity or another since 2006.

Now may hardly seem the best time to try and figure out a new life, but I also can’t cling to the familiar in the hopes that things will sort themselves out and I’ll somehow stumble upon mental clarity.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not burning this bridge entirely. You may still see my name attached to articles. Honestly, I haven’t thought too far into the future because I can’t imagine anybody’s plans are concrete as life keeps tearing into whatever foundation you thought you had like a jackhammer of disappointment.

Admittedly not my best bit of imagery, but I’ll go back to a familiar one to wrap things up with some advice.

Don’t let anyone turn a solid tower of blocks into a shaky structure with no base.

Eh, that’s not great either. But give me a break.

I’m still rebuilding.

Portion of Loudy-Simpson Park closed to the public Monday-Friday for next few weeks

Citing the ongoing construction projects featuring the boat ramp and power upgrades at Loudy-Simpson Park, the back portion of the park – featuring the soccer fields, playgrounds and boat ramp – will be closed to the public Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. through mid-September, according to Moffat County Facilities Director Lennie Gillam.

The closure started Monday, Aug. 3.

“With a lot of the road work going in and out of our event area, what we’ve found is that there is going to be a lot of heavy truck traffic going through the back half of the park throughout the day, so we’ve decided to close that portion of the park to the public for the time being,” Gillam said. “This should help ease congestion and make it safer for the public and the workers.

“We’re not closing the park completely; we’re just closing it during those peak hours of work,” Gillam said.

Gillam added that residents can still walk their dogs through that portion of the park, but dogs must be on a leash to avoid accidents.

“Just be conscientious when you’re out there,” Gillam said. “Keep your dogs on a leash; that’s all we’re asking.”

Additionally, the lake front could be worked on in the next few weeks as part of the power upgrade project, so the lake front could be closed to the public, Gillam added. If and when that happens, Gillam says he’ll announce that to the public in a timely fashion.

COUNTY LOOKING AT PURCHASE OF NEW SENIOR BUS

After receiving some $675k in CARES Act funding, Moffat County is looking at purchasing a new senior transportation bus with wheelchair access to better suit seniors in the community.

According to Moffat County Commissioner Ray Beck, the county is looking at purchasing a $65k 2019 Starcraft 22-foot, 12-passenger bus with four wheelchair tiedowns.

Beck said that Moffat County Director of Development Services Roy Tipton found a bus for sale in the state of Indiana that meets what the county is looking for. The purchase of the new bus allows the county to replace the current senior transport bus, which was purchased in 2010.

The current bus will then be rotated to Dinosaur where they’ll be able to transport seniors around in that community as well as in Vernal.

Beck added that the official approval for the purchasing of the bus will happen at a later county commissioners meeting.

Community car parade scheduled for The Haven Wednesday

Northwest Colorado Health is hosting a car parade today at 5:30 p.m. to show support for the residents and staff at The Haven (300 S. Shelton Ln, Hayden).

Participants are asked to stay in their cars and decorate the outside of their vehicles with messages of support. The parade will line up behind the Northwest Colorado Health vehicles off Hawthorne Street, and will proceed through the parking lot of The Haven and out and around on Shelton Lane in a continuous loop. 

All community members are invited to participate to show support for the residents who are isolated due to COVID-19.

Gifts will not be able to be accepted in person, but donations can be made to support The Haven at northwestcoloradohealth.org/donate. For questions, please contact Kyleigh Lawler at 814-360-8212. 

‘It’s certainly been challenging’: Scott Pankow reflects on first two months as MCSD Superintendent

It’s been a whirlwind two months on the job for Moffat County School District Superintendent Scott Pankow, one that no amount of education or experience could prepare him for.

He’s taking it all in stride though as he adjusts to a new job in a new community.

“You know, it’s been great so far,” Pankow said from his office at the district’s administrative building. “It’s certainly been challenging, no doubt, with what we’re up against, but I’ve met a lot of wonderful people in the community who’ve been very welcoming.”

It’s not surprising to hear the new superintendent mention the nice community members he’s met in his short time here, nor is it surprising to hear that his educational values align with the direction the district is heading.

The real challenge ahead for Pankow is twofold: ensuring the safety and security of students and staff in the midst of a global pandemic, and a potential bond issue for the district in hopes of getting another generation out of the current buildings.

That’s some job opening to step into, huh?

“I’ve said this to some board members…I could not imagine being a first-year superintendent – not just here – anywhere in this time,” Pankow said. “Having experience really helped me step into this role and adjust on the fly. I just could not imagine having no experience and trying to navigate this.

“I’ve had some colleagues across the state ask me how I’m doing this, and I’ve said to them ‘thank you for asking and recognizing how difficult this is’ because it is very difficult,” Pankow added. “You’re trying to build relationships and really understand the idiosyncrasies of the district and what’s going on while also trying to hear the needs of the public. But at the same time we’re trying to get a project out. It’s been tough, but I’m very proud of the work the staff has done to this point.”

Despite the challenges Pankow has faced early into his tenure as superintendent, the challenges haven’t discouraged him from putting his vision into place for the district.

Entering his 11th year as a superintendent following a decade in Ouray, Pankow knows it won’t be a normal school year, but believing that education is the core of minds that created our society, Pankow is going to try and drive education forward in Moffat County while hoping to shape and educate the next generation of workers in Moffat County.

“I think the kids in the school district can play a big part in the shifting economic picture,” Pankow said. “When I meet with people, they are so proud to be part of this community. We know mining and the power plant are going way, so it’s really up to us as a school district to really prepare that next generation of workers and the economic development of that.

“That’s something I really worked on at other districts, building those relationships and partnerships with local business and business communities, figuring out what type of workers they needed and really building the kids that want to stay here and build a foundation here locally.”

Building up that next generation of workers will take some time – and some normalcy within the schools moving forward. For now, Pankow has to worry about a potential bond issue for the district, and needs to make sure he’s up to date on the latest changes from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment when it comes to in-person learning this school year.

It’s a challenging year that lies ahead for Pankow as the Superintendent, but one he’s excited to take on for Moffat County.

Obituary: Katherine E. Peroulis

Katherine E.

Peroulis

October 7, 1928 – July 8, 2020

Katherine E. Peroulis (Kate) was born on October 7th, 1928 in Grand Junction, Colorado to Louis J. and Hariklia Roufoulas Eliopulos. She was the youngest of 6 children: Gus, John, Demetra (Jane), Theodora (died as an infant), Artie, and Kate (Kallopie). She lived with her family in Grand Junction until 1935. They then moved to Collbran where they lived until the summer of 1941. The family then moved back to Grand Junction. She met the love of her life, John Peroulis, in the summer of 1951. The two were married January 20th, 1952, and moved to Craig, Colorado, where they called home for the rest of their lives. There, they raised four sons: Harry J., Louis J., Stanley J., and N. Tony.

Kate passed away on July 8th, 2020 in Craig. She was preceded in death by her mother and father, brothers Gus and John, sister Artie, and husband John. She is survived by her sister Jane, sons Harry (Carrie), Louis, Stanley (Karen), N. Tony (Eva), grandchildren John Robert, Bobber, Cassie, Katelyn, J. Stelios, John T., Elias, Kannadis, and great grandchildren Givanni, Aris, Lennox, and Tessa, and numerous nieces and nephews.

She truly had a love for her family, tremendous faith, heritage, community, and friends, and will be missed by all. May her memory be eternal.

Obituary: Joseph Robert Herrera

Joseph Robert

Herrera

June 10, 1981 – July 24, 2020

Joseph Herrera, 39, a soul taken too soon died on July 24, 2020 at Heritage Park Care Center in Carbondale CO. He was born to Jimmy Herrera SR and Christine Herrera (deceased) in Craig CO.

Joe was born with muscular dystrophy. Even tho, through this, he was able to play sports as a young boy, including special olympics throughout his adult life and won several medals. He most recently became an all-star cheerleader with his sister’s program the Grand Valley All-Stars Special Needs team and competed in Denver.

Joe, had worked several jobs at McDonalds, Safeway, Walmart and more. In additional to working part time, he had several hobbies including bowling, video games, pool and he loved playing his guitar for others. His favorite all time love was singing as an Elvis Impersonator.

Joe loved his family and friends, and he was loved by many others.

He is survived by his father Jimmy (Vickie) Herrera SR,Rifle CO, Christine (Steve) Dingman, Glenwood Springs CO Jimmy (Tracy) Herrera Jr. Glenwood Springs CO, and several nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles and cousins.

Our Joe will be sorely missed and will be in our hearts forever.

Photos: 2020 4-H Dog Show at the Moffat County Fair

More than 20 4-H kids competed in the 2020 4-H Dog Show inside the Livestock Barn at the Moffat County Fairgrounds Tuesday morning on Day 5 of the 2020 Moffat County Fair.

The show started with the Senior Showmanship Division, featuring four dogs. Later in the morning, the intermediate – 4-H member in the sixth, seventh, or eighth grade on January 1 of the current year – and junior – any 4-H exhibitor who is in the third, fourth, or fifth grade on January 1 of the current year divisions competed inside the livestock barn.

The dogs and the handlers were judged on specific criteria:

  • Balance: overall appropriate proportions in size
  • Weight
  • Size
  • Eyes: color, size, shape
  • Ears: shape, length, position
  • Head: shape
  • Muzzle: shape, length
  • Whiskers: thickness
  • Teeth: kind of bite (e.g. level or scissors bites)
  • Tail: how it arches and sets (e.g. how high or low)
  • Shoulders: bone, muscle
  • Legs: muscles, stance, proportionality
  • Coat: texture, length
  • Color: accepted breed colors

The judge for the show also used their hands to inspect the dog’s body, including its bones and muscles. In addition to assessing physical characteristics like these, the judge assessed the dog’s gait and attitude.

Photos: Veterans Charity Ride delivers PPE to Memorial Regional Health

A group of veterans rode into Craig Tuesday afternoon on Indian motorcycles to deliver individual Personal Protective Equipment kits to first responders and medical staff at Memorial Regional Health and VFW Post 4265.

Veterans Charity Ride (VCR), started by veterans for veterans, is a non-profit organization that delivers Motorcycle Therapy and additional life changing, life-saving holistic programs specifically designed to assist wounded and amputee combat veterans with their needs and the issues they deal with on a daily basis, according to the organization’s website.

The veterans are on a trip to Sturgis for the legendary Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. The group of veterans started their ride in Moab, Utah on July 29, where the group cruised through the mountainous roads of Utah, before coming to a quick stop in Craig.