Scott Franz’s top stories of 2017
January 7, 2018
Diggin' downtown Steamboat
Construction fences and cone zones came down in downtown Steamboat Springs in 2017 to reveal new sidewalks, street lights and a promenade along Yampa Street.
The infrastructure projects were part of a multi-million investment the city made to make the busy downtown corridor safer for pedestrians and more attractive to visitors and private developers.
Significant improvements, including new sidewalks and intersection bump-outs, were also completed along Oak Street.
Deep Creek fire rages west of Steamboat
Northwest Colorado got a scare on Labor Day when a massive column of smoke appeared near Sleeping Giant and spooked residents from Hayden to downtown Steamboat Springs.
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The smoke belonged to the Deep Creek Fire, which started burning so close to ranches and homes on Routt County Road 52 that some residents were told to be ready to leave in a moments notice.
Thanks to an aggressive response from multiple fire agencies, the fire was contained before it could reach any nearby structures.
The blaze burned 4,161 acres before it was fully contained.
At the height of the firefighting efforts, there were upwards of 300 personnel fighting the blaze.
Is Steamboat being loved to death?
Some residents felt Steamboat was being loved to death in the summer of 2017, and they called on the city government to tone down some of the marketing that brings thousands of visitors to the Yampa Valley.
City Councilman Scott Ford said he noticed more honking in town than usual. Residents were also irked when they saw overflowing trash cans and litter spilling into a nearby sidewalk after a Triple Crown adult softball tournament.
“I know we get these comments every summer, but it has been markedly higher this summer,” Steamboat Councilman Jason Lacy said. “They feel like we’re losing our charm and character, and we’re overspent in the summertime.”
Rabbit Ears goes floppy
One of Northwest Colorado's most iconic and beloved landmarks got a new look in 2017 thanks to Mother Nature. Experts think erosion is to blame for Rabbit Ears losing a large chunk of one of its ears sometime last year.
The natural makeover prompted headlines around the state and served as a reminder that nothing, not even our most prominent landscapes, last forever.
Several Steamboat residents made the trek up north to Wyoming to get a taste of totality during the big total solar eclipse of 2017. In a field near Riverton, dozens of people, some of whom drove hundreds of miles to be there, witnessed one of the most surreal events of 2017.
Mountains turned pink in the middle of the day. Venus came out. "Oohs" and "ahhs" filled the air.
When we read Walter Magill's quote effusing praise on Howelsen Hill in a city press release early last year, we knew immediately the words didn't seem to come from the council president's mouth. So we caught the elected official in a fib when a simple Google search of his quote revealed much of it was actually recycled from an old press release the new city public information officer wrote.
Magill apologized for the practice and said he didn't want "fake quotes" being written for elected officials at the city in the future. Readers also weighed in, with many of them also calling for a quick end to the practice.
Several Routt County residents started campaigns for higher office in 2017. Diane Mitsch Bush, who served in Colorado's House of Representatives, launched a bid against Scott Tipton to represent Colorado in the U.S. House of Representatives.
She stepped down as state representative late last year to pursue the seat in Congress. She was replaced at the Colorado statehouse by Dylan Roberts, a Steamboat Springs native.
At the same time, Routt County Treasurer Brita Horn and District Attorney Brett Barkey both launched bids for the State Treasurer's Office. The two Routt County Republicans will face off in a primary this year.
After sitting vacant for several years, the largest development parcel available in downtown Steamboat Springs saw a spark when developers submitted plans for new duplexes along the Yampa River.
The duplexes are expected to be the first of several development proposals within the 4.7-acre site, which sits between Yampa Street and Lincoln Avenue from Third to Fifth streets.
Investors in the project say they still are working to land an operator for a boutique hotel as part of the development. Public hearings on the duplex proposal will start sometime early this year.
Police station approved
Finally, after a nearly six-year wait, the city of Steamboat Springs got plans for a new police station approved. The city and Routt County expect to break ground on the new, shared law enforcement facility next to the Routt County Jail in the spring.
Officials say the project will save taxpayer money by having the city and county work to build a facility together instead of separately. The new facility will house the Steamboat Springs Police Department along with the Routt County Sheriff's Office and emergency communications center.
Arnold Barn saved
A nearly 90-year-old barn that sat neglected at the corner of the Meadows Parking lot got new life in 2017 after community members rallied to save it from collapsing.
The barn, which housed dairy cows and livestock before the lifts stated spinning at Steamboat Ski Area, was the centerpiece of the Arnold family's dairy farm. Two boys who grew up on the farm in the 1930s and '40s lived to hear the news that the barn was going to be stabilized and saved before the snow started falling again.
And in late 2017, the City Council approved plans to move the barn up the hill and restore it.