Good morning, Boulder! 🌄 Let’s get right to it.
First up, John Herrick reports on a request by city officials for more money to clear homeless encampments. Then climate reporter Tim Drugan takes you on a tour of two mine reclamation projects with Boulder Watershed Collective Director Maya MacHamer, offering an up-close account of how the legacy of mining waste still affects water sources in Boulder County.
Plus a green light for ADUs in the Marshall Fire burn area, an influx of grant cash for arts projects in the city, this week’s Colorado Brazil Fest at the Boulder Bandshell and a whole lot more.
– Jezy, managing editor
🌤️ Partly sunny and warm: Expect highs around 85 today under a mix of clouds and sunshine, with a possible thunderstorm or two in the afternoon. Temps will tick up into the upper-80s and low-90s throughout the rest of the week.
🏘️ Green light for ADUs: The Board of County Commissioners voted on Aug. 4 to approve a Land Use Code amendment that would allow for the construction of Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) in the Marshall Fire burn area. “During outreach and engagement efforts related to rebuilding after the Marshall Fire, community members expressed a desire to see Accessory Dwellings become more easily and more widely permitted for fire survivors who need to make timely rebuilding and financing decisions,” according to a county news release. “Accessory Dwellings can provide additional housing options, which allow for flexibility in rebuilding and more affordable housing options long-term.”
🚧 Roadwork underway: Beginning today, the City of Boulder will be conducting emergency pothole repairs on various roads around town after damaged cause by recent rains. The city estimates the work will take at least a week. More info here.
💰 Arts funding: The City of Boulder has offered an update on the year’s dispersals of grant money for the arts. “The Arts Commission has awarded 88 grants so far in 2022, with plans to award more, for a total of $925,000,” according to a news release. “In addition, the grants program will award another $915,000 dedicated from American Rescue Plan Act funds. These grants will address industry-specific, COVID-19-related workforce impacts through targeted grants to arts organizations.”
🎟️ Culture Pass: Speaking of the arts — Thanks to a Colorado State Library grant, Boulder Public Library cardholders can enjoy free access to the state’s cultural destinations through the library’s new Culture Pass service. The digital reservation system offers no-charge entry to art, cultural, and historical attractions throughout Colorado. Details here.
🏳️🌈 Rainbow Connections: Want to help ease social isolation for older LGBTQ residents? The Boulder County Area Agency on Aging is seeking volunteers to meet on a weekly basis with LGBTQ residents ages 60+ to help provide meaningful connection and camaraderie. Apply here.
🍂 Fall recreation guide: With autumn not far around the corner, the Boulder Parks and Recreation Department has released its official fall recreation guide, featuring hundreds of classes and programs “for people of all ages and abilities.” Registration is now open as of Tuesday, Aug. 2. Sign up here.
By John Herrick
City officials told the Boulder City Council on Thursday, Aug. 4, that they plan to request additional money to clear homeless encampments, potentially extending a pilot program that has fueled a heated debate over how the city deals with unhoused people.
The notice of the request for additional resources was made during a city staff presentation on the pilot program – known as Safe and Managed Public Spaces – which Boulder City Council approved in April 2021. The program is focused on clearing encampments from public spaces and not on providing homeless services.
The pilot program was approved with a $1.8 million annual budget. It initially included $1 million for six police officers; $300,000 for the Utilities Department to help collect belongings and dispose of trash; $372,000 for downtown ambassadors to patrol the Pearl Street Mall; and $124,000 for the Parks and Recreation Department to create an urban park ranger program.
City officials told council they now want to extend and expand the program as part of the 2023 city budget.
Specifically, Joe Taddeucci, director of the Utilities Department, said he would like to double the budget for taking down encampments to about $700,000. Taddeucci said the money would help his crews oversee a larger area of the city. City officials said they are removing encampments about two times per week.
How does mine waste affect water sources in Boulder County? A look at reclamation efforts in the Fourmile watershed offers a glimpse.
By Tim Drugan
Maya MacHamer picked me up in a rattling 2011 Subaru Outback on a late July morning. The sun overhead already promised brutality. Co-founder and director of the Boulder Watershed Collective, MacHamer drove her car, with me in it, down roads that explained its rattle, and made the fact that it still ran remarkable.
MacHamer began working in Fourmile Canyon in 2015 to aid in the recovery of a watershed that had a wildfire in 2010 followed by a flood in 2013. Upon assessing the landscape, mines revealed themselves as the most pressing problem to downstream water sources.
“We never meant to do anything with mines,” she said. “We fell into it because we had to.”
So a big focus for the Boulder Watershed Collective is mine reclamation: undoing the negative effects of mining on the surrounding landscape. Heavy metals abound in the many piles of mine waste (rock pulled from the mine to get to valuables further down) and mine tailings (leftovers of rock processed to extract valuable metals from ore), and those heavy metals assimilate into water sources unless otherwise addressed.
MacHamer agreed to take me on a tour of a mine reclamation her team had completed, and one yet to be done, in the Fourmile watershed. Accessed from Sunshine Canyon, we drove to the worksites past congestion at the base of Mount Sanitas, following the same route some miners must have taken over 100 years ago.
While we drove, MacHamer explained that mines and their waste had mostly receded from the public’s psyche before the Fourmile Canyon Fire in 2010 — the landscape having covered its wounds with vegetation and put yawning man-made caves to use as habitats for bats and other dark-dwellers.
“I don’t think there was an awareness of the negative environmental impacts or the safety issues,” she said.
But the Fourmile Fire burned vegetation that held waste piles in place, allowing heavy metals to begin leaking into nearby waterways. The landscape has not recovered as it should in the 12 years since the fire, according to MacHamer. Few trees grow in the burned area except some ponderosa pines on waste piles: It seems they like more acidic soil. What the area needs, she speculated, is several consecutive wet springs for seeds to take hold, which it has not enjoyed.
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🇧🇷 Colorado Brazil Fest: Boulder Samba School presents Colorado Brazil Fest at the Boulder Bandshell, Aug. 11–14. Head to central park throughout the four-day blowout to celebrate the rich heritage of Brazilian music, dance, and culture. Festivities include an Afro-Brazilian dance class, live bossa nova music, Carnaval Night and more. Full schedule here.
📖 Author talk: Don’t miss Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Colson Whitehead — author of The Underground Railroad, Zone One, Sag Harbor and more — for a virtual conversation about his latest novel Harlem Shuffle, presented by Boulder Bookstore and Books & Books/Miami on Tuesday, Aug. 9. Tickets here.
🧶 Boulder Community Knitting: Grab your yarn and needles and head to the Meadows Branch Library at 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 10, for a monthly free meet-up hosted by Boulder Community Knitting. Supporting local charities like Clinica and Sister Carmen, the group offers opportunities to connect with your local community while growing your needlework skills at the same time. Learn more here.
Covid-19 Updates: Aug. 8, 2022
- 118 daily new cases (7-day avg.) ⬇Down 22% over preceding 7-day avg.
- 13 patients hospitalized with Covid (7-day avg.) Same as high of 13 last week.
- 30% percent of ICU is occupied. ⬇Down from avg. of 67% since July 2020.
- Note: Stazio Ball Fields in Boulder is now the only free community testing site in Boulder County. It’s open 7 days a week, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
What We’re Reading
📖 After 11 people rescued from I-70 flooding, state will conduct investigation: “State project officials for the $1.3 billion rebuild of Interstate 70 through northeast Denver say they will investigate after severe flooding Sunday night in an under-construction section required the rescue of motorists.” The flooding closed I-70 for hours on Aug. 7. It reopened about 10 p.m. [Denver Post]
📖 Safety concerns at Palisade Plunge: “The opening of the Palisade Plunge trail was a huge street party in the little town of Palisade last summer, with appearances by Gov. Jared Polis and U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland. Countless magazine articles were written about the trail, and there was talk — probably more than ever — about Mesa County becoming a worldwide mountain biking destination. But a year later, there are also calls for caution, following the heart-related death of a rider on the Plunge. Even the trail’s biggest supporters are looking at how the 32-mile odyssey can be improved.” [CPR]
ICYMI from BRL
♻️ Colorado’s largest compost manufacturer says there’s too much contamination in its organics stream. What does that mean for the future of Boulder’s curbside program? A new policy from local hauler Western Disposal, which has raised questions about the future viability of its composting services, is cracking down on non-compostable items in residential bins.
🏛️ Newly vacated seat at Colorado Capitol sends ripples through the Boulder City Council. Two elected city officials — Boulder Mayor Aaron Brockett and Councilmember Junie Joseph — swiftly jumped into what could be a crowded race to represent the city at the Colorado Capitol. A group of 68 Democratic party members will decide on Aug. 15 who will represent City of Boulder residents at the state House, according to party officials.
🗳️ Ashley Stolzmann’s victory in the hotly contested race for Boulder County commissioner has officially been certified. Here’s what you need to know about the powerful elected position and why it matters. Responsible for setting the county’s $550 million budget, the three-person Board of County Commissioners is arguably the most consequential local governing body — but its crucial role remains a mystery for many residents
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