Hey, Boulder — who’s ready for the weekend? 🙋‍♀️ But first: journalism.

Summer reporting fellow Henry Larson brings you stories of three former teen activists in Boulder who joined — and ultimately left — the youth-led gun reform movement sparked by the Parkland school shooting in 2018. After learning that Boulder wasn’t represented in the leadership of last month’s March For Our Lives Rally in Denver, he sat down with past organizers to find out why. The piece offers a glimpse at the burden put on young people to fix a system broken before they were born, and explores how gun violence here at home has reverberated throughout the lives of kids.

We’ve also got the numbers (and resources) on elder abuse in Boulder County, the latest on a new timed reservation system for cars at Eldorado Canyon State Park, today’s elevated flash flood threats and more.

See you back here bright and early on Monday. ✌️

– Jezy, managing editor

Gun reform youth activists — including Boulder locals Rachel Hill (bottom right) and Emi Ambory (second from right, top) — pose for a photo during a benefit concert for gun violence prevention at Denver’s Levitt Pavilion in 2018. Read more on why some area organizers have left the movement in today’s top story. Courtesy: Emi Ambory

Quickly

🌧️ Heavy rain ahead: Expect highs in the low-90s today with strong afternoon storms likely. More p.m. rain could be in the forecast for Saturday, before drying out on Sunday with highs near 95.

🌊 Flash flood threat in burn areas: NWS has issued a flash food watch for nearby burn areas today, including Calwood, Cameron Peak, East Troublesome and Williams Fork. Learn more about the increased risk of flash flooding and debris flow in burn areas (and how to stay safe) here.

👀 See something, say something: After a “serious crash” at the intersection of 14th and Pine streets, the Boulder Police Department is asking witnesses to provide details related to the incident. The collision between operators of a car and motorcycle happened at approximately 9:20 p.m. on Tuesday, July 12, leaving the motorcycle rider in “stable but serious condition.” Anyone with any information on the crash is asked to call Officer D. Bergh at 720-648-0546 (reference case 22-6603).

🚗 State park vehicle entry reservations: Beginning Saturday, July 23, Eldorado Canyon State Park will begin requiring timed reservations for vehicle entry on weekends and holidays through Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s IPAWS sales system. “This is the first Colorado state park to implement a timed entry system,” according to a news release from the department. Reservations are not required for those arriving on foot or via the free shuttle service.

🏳️‍🌈 Clela Rorex Day: Boulder County has proclaimed July 23, 2022 Clela Rorex Day, “in honor of an exceptional Boulder County resident and advocate for human rights and equality.” In 1974, Rorex issued the first same-sex marriage license in the United States to two men from Colorado Springs. The 78-year-old Longmont resident died last month on June 19. Read our profile on the trailblazing former county clerk here.

🚌 Reminder Fare-free RTD: Want to save some cash while mitigating Colorado’s high-ozone season? During the month of August, RTD is offering free rides across its entire system as part of the Zero Fare for Better Air initiative. The statewide program, spurred by Colorado Senate Bill 22-180, is a partnership with the Colorado Energy Office “designed to reduce ground level ozone by increasing use of public transit.”

➡️ Council debates return to city hall: Boulder City Council is one of the last local governments in the nation to return to in-person meetings since the pandemic prompted many to go virtual, according to Assistant City Manager Pam Davis. During a city council discussion on Thursday night, members appeared somewhat split on when to return. Some feared getting sick. Others said they were ready to return to city hall, even if it meant limiting capacity or requiring masks. “Psychologically, I think there is value to us debating and being in the same place. And I think some of that has been lost,” said Councilmember Rachel Friend, who supports returning to in-person meetings. “I think we are in a phase of Covid where we are trying to figure out how to live with it … and trying to keep ourselves safe.”

Top Stories

‘What am I doing this for?’: Amid another grim season of mass shootings, three former youth gun reform activists from Boulder reflect on why they left the movement

By Henry Larson

After a mass shooting left 19 children and two teachers dead in a Texas elementary school classroom on May 24, gun violence prevention advocates across the country began their familiar work of organizing rallies and protests to demand changes to gun laws.

A little over a month later, an alleged gunman fired more than 70 rounds into a crowd of spectators during a 4th of July parade in suburban Chicago, killing seven.

Between those two gruesome events, organizers who were previously affiliated with the now-defunct Colorado chapter of March For Our Lives, a youth-focused activism group founded in the wake of the 2018 shooting at a Parkland, Florida high school, began organizing a Denver rally to coincide with other demonstrations happening around the country on June 11.

While the scourge of gun violence came home to Boulder last year, when 10 people were shot dead at the Table Mesa King Soopers on March 22, the city wasn’t represented among those who organized last month’s demonstration less than 30 miles south. Before the state chapter disbanded in 2021, March For Our Lives Colorado typically had several members from Boulder County, but no Boulder residents were on the team that organized the June 11 rally, according to the rally’s lead organizer, Brady Roland, a senior at Arvada West High School.

As mass shootings continue as a grim fixture of American life, Boulder Reporting Lab spoke with three local young people who have moved on from gun violence prevention activism to understand their experiences and why they stepped away from advocacy work.

Elder Abuse in Boulder County: What are the warning signs to look for — and what resources are available to help?

By Benjy Sachs

Boulder’s recent designation as a “Lifelong City” underscores the fact that many Boulderites can live out their post-retirement years here comfortably and fully. But regardless of the community they call home, older Americans are vulnerable to abuse, neglect and exploitation in ways that other adult age groups are not.

When it comes to combating elder abuse, Boulder County Chief Deputy District Attorney Christian Gardner-Wood says there are two major pillars: strong community ties and social cohesion. 

And the first step toward achieving that, Gardner-Wood said during last month’s webinar hosted by the District Attorney’s Office on Elder Abuse Awareness Day, is knowing what to look for.

In recent years, the number of complaints of abuse of older adults has increased in Boulder County, county officials say. Nationally, one in 10 adults 65 or older are abused each year, according to data presented during the county’s webinar.

Since 2018, case referrals to Boulder County Adult Protective Services (APS) have increased by 29%, based on the county’s projection for anticipated referrals in 2022. Case referrals stem from allegations of abuse, which can be made by a mandatory reporter, such as a social worker or bank employee, or anyone else who is concerned about an older adult.

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BRL Picks

🎸 Leftapalooza: Head to Left Hand Brewing Company in Longmont on Saturday, July 16, for a tribute band competition supporting local nonprofits. Enjoy offerings from food vendors — and plenty of great beer, of course — as cover bands fight for the top title, a cash prize and the right to return as next year’s headliner. Admission is $15 for individuals, or you and your friends can spring for a private 10-person hut (including two free beers per guest) for $350. Tickets here.

🌌 Out of this world: Want to see images from “the most powerful and complex space telescope ever built and launched into space”? The Fiske Planetarium hosts an out-of-this-world viewing of images from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope with Professor John Bally of the CU Boulder Department of Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences. The first two events on July 16 and 23 are sold out, but a third date has been added for Saturday, July 30.

🧱 Pearl Street Arts Festival: The four-decade downtown tradition returns to the Pearl Street Mall this weekend, July 15–17, for another celebration of all things art. Featuring more than 90 artists, the Open Studios Mobile Art Lab and plenty of opportunities to explore local galleries, the three-day blowout is a can’t-miss for art lovers of all stripes. Hours and more info here.

Covid-19 Updates: July 15, 2022

  • 153 daily new cases (7-day avg.) ⬆️Up 32% over preceding 7-day avg.
  • 18 patients hospitalized with Covid (7-day avg.) Down from a high of 21 last week.
  • 48% 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

📖 As BVSD’s enrollment shrinks, the district recruits committee members to study the problem: “Generally, declining enrollment has been concentrated at the elementary level, though middle schools are starting to see fewer students … District officials have said the ‘sweet spot’ for elementary schools is about 450 students, enough to support three classes at each grade level and provide a comprehensive school experience. The majority of the district’s elementary schools now have two classes at most grade levels. A few only have one for most grades. Based on the state’s official enrollment count in October, six of the district’s neighborhood elementary schools enroll fewer than 300 students. Three are in Boulder: Flatirons enrolls 182 students, Heatherwood enrolls 253 and Mesa enrolls 247.” [Daily Camera

📖 How Boulder engineers helped make new NASA telescope images possible: “The images offer a glimpse into the farthest humanity has ever seen in both time and distance, with some light believed to be from 13.8 billion years ago. The release was an emotional one for employees at Ball Aerospace in Boulder. ‘People were clapping and sharing memories and thoughts, and asking, ‘When can I get these printed to put them on my wall?’ Dr. Sarah Lipscy said.” [KDVR]

ICYMI from BRL

👮 Boulder City Council seeks changes to police department’s partnership with the FBI. During a town hall hosted by the Boulder Police Department, the police chief urged residents supportive of the existing agreement to get involved in city council meetings as it finalizes its Master Plan.

💸 ‘Fair wage fees’ are replacing traditional tips at some Boulder restaurants. Is it a more equitable payment model for restaurant workers? Some dining establishments have adopted a new form of gratuity designed to help offset the city’s high cost of living for food service employees and retain workers.

Can Boulder really get to 100% renewable electricity by 2030? Community advisory panel and utility Xcel Energy may have differing ideas about the path forwardThe panel formed to help the city navigate its partnership with Xcel after voters rejected municipalization in 2020. One potential point of contention is the use of Renewable Energy Credits to meet Boulder’s goals.

🔥 Night is no longer a respite from wildfire as the Marshall Fire showed, ‘portending things to come.’ What can be done to prepare for the next blaze? ‘We expect that continued night-time warming owing to anthropogenic climate change will promote more intense, longer-lasting and larger fires,’ according to a study published by CU’s Earth Lab.

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– The BRL Team

Jezy J. Gray

Jezy Gray was the former managing editor of Boulder Reporting Lab. In addition to years of writing on the culture, politics and history of my home state of Oklahoma, he was the final editor-in-chief of the Tulsa Voice, a local bi-weekly newspaper where I led a small but mighty team of journalists to regional and national honors in feature writing, diversity reporting, LGBTQ+ coverage and more.