Happy Friday, Boulder. Here’s the news.

The Police Oversight Panel voted this week to suspend much of its work after city council removed one of its members. Instead of doing what it was formed to do — review internal investigations into officer misconduct — the panel will focus on revising the 2020 ordinance that led to its creation. One potential goal is to prevent the sort of code of complaints over issues of bias that led to the removal of one of its members.

Separately, some city councilmembers are raising questions about the sudden rise in code of conduct complaints. So far this year, more have been filed by Boulder residents than in all of the last decade combined.

Also, Jenna Sampson covers the frustration of local mountain bikers at a newly proposed route at Heil Ranch. Enthusiasts are voicing their disappointment at a too-short trail with too many switchbacks, though the route was designed to protect rare grasses and rarer eagles.

Have a great weekend. And Happy Mother’s Day.

— Tim, reporter

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What to know today

  • The rain continues: A flood watch that went into effect yesterday morning continues into this afternoon as rain keeps falling. A short respite this weekend leads into another week with afternoon showers. If you’re one of the rare Coloradans with rain boots, I hope you’re relishing this opportunity to wear them.
    • This comes after Wednesday sported tornado warnings, large hail warnings and the risk of damaging winds.
  • Looking back on the pandemic: Boulder County’s declaration of a public health emergency ended yesterday. And as the pandemic winds down, it’s fair to say Boulder’s infrastructure handled it better than most. Still, 467 people in Boulder County died with Covid-19, according to the most recent data from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. That puts the county’s per capita death rate from the disease at about 142 per 100,000 people, below most other counties in Colorado and the second-lowest in the Front Range, behind Douglas County.
    • That said, it’s unclear how consistently data has been reported across counties, so specific numbers should be taken with salt. And risk is still present from the disease, especially for older adults and those with compromised immune systems.
  • Fort Chambers marker removed: Boulder city officials have removed an historical marker from open space that flagged the location of Fort Chambers — the fort where many Boulderites trained before the Sand Creek Massacre in 1864. The marker was erected by Boulder community members in 1959 and referred to the massacre as an “Indian Uprising.” The marker will be temporarily stored while officials discuss with tribal representatives how best to manage the Fort Chambers/Poor Farm property and its history.
    • Not all agree with this choice. When BRL interviewed Fred Mosqueda, an elder with the Cheyenne-Arapaho tribes, he said, “The marker now there that shows where Fort Chambers was at, was put there [by the City of Boulder] in the 1960s. It still says ‘uprising.’ Now, I’ve told [the city], you can leave the marker there, because it shows your thinking in 1960. It shows that in 1960 the people of Boulder still believed all the lies that Evans and Chivington instigated so they could destroy the Cheyenne-Arapaho tribes.”
  • Mud closures: Rain, when combined with dirt, causes mud, or something like that. Whatever the exact scientific process, many trails on the south edge of town are closed from it. To see where you can still get outside in the drizzle, check out the city’s interactive map.
  • New rec center in the works? The future of Boulder’s three aging recreation centers is under consideration, and significant investment will be required to maintain them. Boulder Parks and Recreation Department is working with the Facilities and Fleet Department to plan for the indoor spaces and the recreation center buildings themselves.
    • As buildings age, they become increasingly costly to maintain, and eventually the costs escalate significantly. The three rec centers are all approaching or past the “inflection point” in their lifecycle, where a decision must be made on continued maintenance or significant renovation. The city is exploring financial solutions to fund future renovation. Whether they’re successful in this exploration will determine the next steps for the rec centers in 2024 and beyond.
    • In the meantime, residents are encouraged to fill out the city’s questionnaire on the topic, available in both English and Spanish. The issues will be discussed with city council on May 25.

Go Deeper…

Code of conduct complaints suddenly rise in Boulder, prompting councilmember concern

By John Herrick

May 12, 2023

So far this year, more code of conduct complaints have been filed by Boulder residents than in all of the last decade combined, according to city records. Some of these complaints raise complicated ethical questions while others are about procedural, permitting or even personal issues. Regardless of the nature of the complaints, there have been so many filed this year that some councilmembers worry the legal process, seldom used in the past, is being used for political reasons. 

Continue reading…

Boulder’s Police Oversight Panel halts work after member’s removal by city council

By John Herrick

May 12, 2023

Boulder’s Police Oversight Panel has temporarily stopped watchdogging internal investigations into officer misconduct, halting one of the city’s primary ways of ensuring police officer accountability through civilian oversight.

Continue reading…

New trail section proposed for Heil Ranch mobilizes Boulder bikers to push for redesign — and seize rare opportunity

By Jenna Sampson

May 12, 2023

The bike-friendly singletrack area, Heil Ranch, will get a new trail section after the Cal-Wood Fire forced a closure more than two years ago. During the closure, a pair of golden eagles moved their nest closer to the Wapiti trail than is allowed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Since then, a detour has taken users on a steep, eroded and generally less desirable access road to avoid the nest. 

Now, to the excitement of hikers and bikers, Boulder County is ready to establish a permanent replacement. But the proposed design for the new trail, which was released late last month, has dampened that enthusiasm. The reaction from the cycling community to the Heil Ranch redesign, which is not a major trail, highlights how much pent-up demand there is for bike-friendly singletracks in Boulder — and how infrequent this kind of opportunity is.

Continue reading…

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Get involved

👩‍🎓 City internship: The City of Boulder is offering a nine-week paid summer internship for rising high school juniors and seniors. The internship is an opportunity to explore careers in local government, providing hands-on experiences in public service, leadership, and public administration. The city encourages applicants from all backgrounds to apply and will accept online applications until the positions are filled. Two interns will work between 10 and 15 hours a week from June to August at a rate of $20 per hour.

For ideas on what to do, check out BRL’s Local Events page.


Tim Drugan is the climate and environment reporter for Boulder Reporting Lab, covering wildfires, water and other climate-related issues for Boulder with a focus on explanatory and solutions journalism. He also is the lead writer of BRL Today, our morning newsletter. Tim grew up in New Hampshire and graduated from UNH with a degree in English/Journalism. Email: tim@boulderreportinglab.org.