Hello, and happy Friday morning!

With this challenging year nearly over, we’re wrapping up our 2021 coverage with a story about another ending: that of the Isabelle Farm Store at Thomas Open Space in Lafayette.

Anthony Albidrez, our stellar photojournalism intern this fall, has the story and photos. Hat tip to BRL reader Charles Burnell, who wrote to us wondering with concern if the rumors circling about Isabelle Farm were true. Have you heard a rumor you want us to investigate? Let us know. 

And don’t miss today’s Covid update, plus the ACLU’s response following our story on shelter capacity. John Herrick reports. 

Lastly: This is our final newsletter of the year. We’ll be back in your inbox on Monday, Jan. 3.

In the meantime, we want to thank you so much for being a BRL reader 🙏 — we look forward to bringing you more news and original reporting in 2022. We’ve been blown away by the support in our first five weeks of publishing. We hope you find our journalism worth supporting. Your year-end contribution will go right back into our reporting, and will allow us to do more of it and make our plans next year a reality.

Have a happy, healthy and safe holiday season! 

– Stacy, publisher

Boulder emergency crews work to put out a grass fire on the University of Colorado Boulder’s East Campus on Dec. 23. The fire burned roughly 6.5 acres before it was contained at 3 p.m. Thursday. Credit: Anthony Albidrez

Top Stories

End of an era: Isabelle Farm says goodbye to Thomas Open Space in Lafayette

After a decade in business, the farming operation and retail space at Thomas Open Space in Lafayette will no longer operate on the 14 acres of farmland owned by the city. What’s next for the farm and the city’s open space organic agriculture project? Read the full story

ACLU calls on Boulder to suspend public camping ban during winter months in response to recent capacity turnaways at the shelter

The Thursday letter to city officials from the ACLU of Colorado came after our data analysis this week showed that the city’s largest shelter has had to turn away dozens of people so far this year due to capacity issues. The city is considering adding new shelter beds this winter, but said staffing and other challenges make it difficult to expand capacity. Read the full story

Quickly

⏱️ Rain likely in Boulder later today. High near 50. Mountain alert: Heavy snow and difficult travel.
⏱️ Boulder County’s free Covid testing sites will have modified hours for the upcoming holiday: 8 a.m.–noon on Friday. *Closed on Saturday.*
⏱️ New parking fees take effect Jan. 1. On-street paid parking will increase by 25 cents to $1.50. Visit the city’s parking webpage for more info.
⏱️ From the CU Provost: Omicron is not altering the university’s 2022 plans. Spring semester will start Monday, Jan. 10. The vast majority of classes will be in person.
⏱️ Starting Wednesday, Jan. 5, the Anemone Loop Trail will be closed from 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. during the week to complete trail work west of downtown Boulder. It will stay open on weekends.
⏱️ “One out of every four pills circulating in Colorado may contain enough fentanyl to kill an adult,” county health officials warned this week. They’re encouraging people to carry Narcan, which reverses overdoses and is available for free at local pharmacies.
⏱️ The city has selected local artist Angela Beloian to paint the artistic crosswalks on 9th and Balsam and 9th and Cedar. Painting will begin in spring.
⏱️ Ordering in this holiday break? A reminder that the city is fully subsidizing Nosh Boulder, a restaurant-owned food delivery service, through February.

Covid-19 in Boulder County: Dec. 24, 2021

  • 115 daily new cases (7-day avg.) 🔺Up 14% over preceding 7-day avg.
  • 63 patients hospitalized with Covid (7-day avg.) 🔺Up from avg. of 39 since July 2020.
  • 66% percent of ICU is occupiedDown from avg. of 72% since July 2020.
  • Data: Here’s how and where we’re tracking all of the above.

Latest Covid news

  • East Coast Omicron trends likely coming to Boulder. Dr. Rachel Herlihy, the state epidemiologist, confirmed this week the variant is spreading fast. Positivity rates and cases are surging, she said, and the strain has been detected in all 21 of the state’s participating wastewater detection systems. Mountain resort towns and the Denver area are driving the case increase for now. Over the next couple days, “it is quite possible that we are going to follow the trends that we’ve been seeing” on the East Coast, Herlihy said. Boulder County health officials similarly said local cases have “risen dramatically over the past two days.”
  • ‘Significant’ decline in hospitalizations. While cases have jumped, Covid hospitalizations statewide have dropped since their early December peak from the Delta wave. “We’re really grateful that we’re seeing this as we prepare for what may be coming with Omicron,” said Scott Bookman of the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment (CDPHE).
  • BRL booster tracker. About one-third of Boulder County residents ages 16 and older have received a booster shot, according to our analysis of state data from Dec. 14, the most recently available figures.
  • Pediatric vaccine campaign. Starting in late December, CDPHE will launch a $1 million advertising campaign aimed at encouraging parents to get their kids vaccinated during the school break, Chalkbeat Colorado reports. About 30% of kids ages 5-11 statewide have received a first dose.
  • Omicron-specific inoculation? “If it turns out that Omicron is the new variant that actually things settle into, well then of course we will probably need an Omicron-specific vaccine,” said Peter Marks, the Food and Drug Administration’s top vaccine regulator. “On the other hand, if this is just a variant that’s passing through and we get [a new variant] in a month or two, we won’t need that.”

BRL Picks

🎅 Bah humbug! Get your holiday spirit right with a musical adaptation of Charles Dickens’ classic A Christmas Carol at Jesters Dinner Theater in Longmont on Sunday, Dec. 26. Tickets for the 20+ year tradition start at $45 for dinner and a show, or $25 for the play only. Grab yours here.
🏓 Paddle up. Looking to mix up your holiday traditions? Swing by the South Boulder Recreation Center at 1360 Gillaspie Dr. on Christmas morning for a drop-in game of Pickleball. The paddeball sport combines elements of tennis, badminton and ping-pong. All experience levels welcome.
😂 Funny people. Laugh off the post-holiday blues with the Boulder Comedy Show on Dec. 26 at the Rayback Collective (2775 Valmont Rd.) Seating for the live comedy event is first-come, first-served. Doors open 30 minutes before the 7 p.m. showtime. $20 general admission.
🍾 Party time. Ready to ring in the New Year in Boulder? The Boulder Convention & Visitors Bureau has got you covered, with a handy round-up of NYE events around town — from a masquerade ball at DV8 Distillery to live music at the Boulder Theater, and points in between.
🎀 Grief and gratitude. Boulder residents and visitors are invited to express their mourning and their love as part of the Community Grief and Gratitude Project. Commemorate your deepest feelings from the past year by tying a ribbon to the railing of the Boulder Creek Civic Area Pedestrian Bridge between Dec. 26 and Jan. 7.

What We’re Reading

  • City council member wants answers on Jessica Aldama. On October 11, 33-year-old Aldama and her newborn daughter were found dead by Boulder police at an encampment for unhoused residents, and some answers surrounding her death have recently come to light. “In light of recently released coroner’s reports, presumable conclusion of any criminal investigations, and revelation by a member of the press that Ms. Aldama received a tent/camping ticket a few weeks before her death: I am writing to request that the City Manager provide an additional update to the City Council regarding the deaths of Ms. Aldama and her daughter,” Rachel Friend wrote on Dec. 23 in a City Council Hotline post. Her request follows ongoing coverage by reporter Shay Castle. [Hotline post]
  • No companies applied to drill on county lands in 2021. Further, there are no permits pending, and there is no indication of any new oil and gas development plans, Boulder County reported this week in its 2021 oil and gas update. “40 wells were plugged and abandoned in 2021, 25 on county open space or lands with county conservation easement protections, leaving Boulder County with just over 200 active wells,” it wrote. “All of these are older vertical wells that do not employ modern horizontal drilling techniques,” also known as fracking. The county also reported purchasing its own infrared camera for inspecting and monitoring air quality impacts at oil and gas facilities. [Boulder County]

ICYMI from BRL

🏠 As winter arrives, Boulder’s largest shelter hits capacity. John Herrick digs into the data to understand why more people have been turned away at the door in the last week than in all of last winter.
🏭 What’s Boulder’s beef with the Xcel Energy settlement agreement? Longtime climate and water writer Allen Best of Big Pivots explains what’s in it, and what’s next.

About Us

Hi. We’re Boulder’s new nonprofit newsroom. Our mission is to help you get more informed about the issues you care about and more connected to the city you love. To do this, we provide high-quality, original journalism on the most pressing issues plus curated community information — all paywall-free. Learn more about us here and here.

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– The BRL Team

Stacy Feldman

Stacy Feldman is the founder and publisher of Boulder Reporting Lab. She previously co-founded and was executive editor of Inside Climate News, a Pulitzer Prize-winning nonprofit newsroom covering the climate emergency. She was a 2020-21 Ted Scripps Fellow in Environmental Journalism at the University of Colorado Boulder, where she developed the concept for BRL.