~ An Open Letter to the Grand County Community ~

Grand County’s citizens, businesses, and visitors have all made significant sacrifices since the beginning of this pandemic to minimize disease spread and maintain a relatively low incidence of COVID-19 in our community. Thanks to those efforts, we have only seen 62 cases of COVID-19 among residents as of August 27, 2020. We hope these statistics will continue to show decreasing trends in new cases among residents and visitors to our county; however, the reopening of schools to in-person learning comes with increased risk of COVID-19 transmission. For that reason, Grand County Public Health has been working with administrators from West and East Grand School Districts all summer to develop safe and scientifically-driven protective measures that would allow our schools to remain open for as long as possible.

Naturally, when schools reopen to in-person learning, social distancing decreases. Social distancing is proven to help reduce COVID-19 transmission, but when that is not possible (due to the innate nature of classrooms and indoor school environments), protective measures must be taken to counterbalance the lack of social and physical distancing, Face masks and coverings are another proven means of reducing the spread of COVID-19 and thus become the next best measure for offsetting the decrease in social distancing within our schools.

In the state of Colorado, the use of face coverings (even by younger children) is supported by the following:

  • The Governor’s Executive Order mandating the use of face coverings in Indoor Public Spaces for individuals over the age of 10-years old.
  • Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s (CDPHE) guidance for Childcare Centers requiring that face coverings or masks be provided for children age three or older, no face coverings or masks for children age 0 to 35-months.
  • CDPHE’s guidance for Children’s Camps requiring masks or face coverings whenever possible.
  • Colorado Department of Education (CDE) & CDPHE reopening guidelines that support having decisions on masking in schools to be based on local public health guidance.
  • The allowance for local Public Health Orders to be more restrictive (but not less restrictive) than state Public Health and Executive Orders.
  • Furthermore, on a national level, both the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the Center of Disease Control (CDC) urge use of face masks for anyone 2-years of age and older.
  • In an article published on August 13th by the AAP, the AAP affirms:
  • “Children ages 2-years and older can and should wear cloth face coverings when not able to physically distance, including while in schools, child care and other group settings.”
  • “During the COVID-19 pandemic, plans for the safe return of children to school, child care, and other group settings must include the universal use of cloth face coverings by children 2-years of age and older and the adults with whom they interact.”
  • The CDC’s August 11th school guidance, notes:
  • “COVID-19 can be spread to others even if you do not feel sick. Cloth face coverings are an example of source control. Cloth face coverings are meant to protect other people in case the wearer is unknowingly infected. Appropriate and consistent use of cloth face coverings is most important when students, teachers, and staff are indoors and when social distancing of at least 6-feet is difficult to implement or maintain.”
  • “While cloth face coverings are strongly encouraged to reduce the spread of COVID-19, CDC recognizes there are specific instances when wearing a cloth face covering may not be feasible. In these instances, parents, guardians, caregivers, teachers, and school administrators should consider adaptations and alternatives whenever possible. They may need to consult with healthcare providers for advice about wearing cloth face coverings.”

In summary, we acknowledge that the requirement for face masks to be worn in schools, with some exceptions, is contentious and unnerving for some. This action is meant to keep our community safe and open. The state-mandated Stay-At-Home Order, enacted last spring, was devastating to many of our local families and businesses. To refrain from that happening again, protective measures must be taken to keep our citizens working and our economy moving forward. Sadly, COVID-19 is here, and although we are all tired of it, we must remain steadfast in keeping our community healthy.


Grand County Public Health


In October, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) will amend its rules for permitting oil and gas sites in Colorado. This rulemaking is required by Senate Bill 19-181, which expanded the agency’s mission to safeguard wildlife and its habitat against adverse impacts of oil and gas development. This provides a landmark opportunity to achieve improved protections for wildlife and wildlife habitat, including cold-water fisheries, wetlands, streams, and stream side riparian zones.

The Colorado Natural Heritage Program in its Field Guide to Colorado’s Wetland Plants emphasizes that riparian wetlands are particularly productive ecosystems that receive large inputs of water and nutrients from upstream sources during floods. The woody plants such as willows and cottonwood trees are important for bank stabilization and shading the streams to help keep them cooler, which is critical for trout.  The varied structure of the vegetation provides habitat for nesting, brood-rearing and cover, as well as production of insects and vegetation. The insects are an important food source for birds and fish.  The Colorado Wetland Wildlife Conservation Plan states that “Wetlands and riparian corridors comprise less than 2% of Colorado’s landscape but provide benefits to more than 75% of the wildlife species in the state.”  These species include warblers, song sparrows, bald eagles, moose, beaver, and declining species of toads and birds such as the Southwestern Willow Flycatcher.

Our local Trout Unlimited chapter has long recognized the importance of woody riparian vegetation.  That is why with the help of many great volunteers we have planted tens of thousands of willows along the Fraser River and its tributaries.  We are also involved in planning extensive future habitat improvements on the Upper Colorado River. 

As a professional biologist/ecologist, I have extensive background in the protection and restoration of these habitats.  I am also an ardent angler and hunter.  That is why I am very concerned that the current draft of the 1200 series (the portion regulating wildlife impacts) – with a buffer zone of 300 feet from streams – does not provide sufficient protection for riparian zones, stream waters and associated fisheries. The COGCC should expand the no ground disturbance buffers around valuable streams (e.g., Gold Medal trout habitat) from 300 feet to 1320 feet to protect surface waters and high-priority fisheries from erosion, sedimentation and spills. The expanded buffers will also protect the valuable streamside riparian habitat.

Also, the COGCC should require additional measures to safeguard streams from spills including lining berms, using tanks instead of pits for waste water, collecting baseline water samples and monitoring water quality, and keeping spill response equipment on site. These measures are required today near streams providing municipal drinking water, and we need to protect important aquatic habitats in the same way.

Now is the time to speak up to ensure wildlife protection is prioritized in these amendments. There may not currently be drilling in this area, but there are important vulnerable streams in other areas that are valuable to anglers such as yourself.  I urge you to send any concerns and recommendations you may have to DNR_COGCC.Rulemaking@state.co.us with the subject line reading 800/900/1200 Series. 

Dennis Buechler, Board Member, Upper Colorado River Chapter of Trout Unlimited; and Principal of Wetlands and Watersheds, LLC


I read your column in the Winter Park Times, “Turning Peaceful Protest Into Something Else” and couldn’t believe how misleading the commentary was and far from fact-based.

Since May 26, 2020, nightly downtown Portland activity has included assaults on law enforcement officers, destruction of property, looting, arson, and vandalism.

The Hatfield Federal Courthouse has been a target of vandalism during evening protests and riots, sustaining extensive damage. Please refer to this list of continued criminal activity to the federal building: dhs.gov/news.

Every night for the past 85 days, a mob of hundreds of rioters has laid siege to the federal courthouse and other nearby federal property. The rioters have come equipped for a fight, armed with powerful slingshots, tasers, sledgehammers, saws, knives, rifles, and explosive devices. Rampant looting, vandalism, and federal buildings have been attacked. The police union headquarters was broken into and set on fire by rioters.

For over two months, Portland’s Mayor has done nothing and stood down. We’ve seen police chiefs in both Portland and Seattle now resign. 

This is the first time of our great two-party political system, the Democratic Party is not coming out and condemning mob violence.  There is no place in this country for armed mobs that seek to establish autonomous zones beyond government control or tear down statues and monuments that law-abiding communities chose to erect or to destroy the property and livelihoods of innocent business owners. Basic rule-of-law principles should unite us even in a politically divisive time.

Finally, last week Mayor Ted Wheeler came forward and shared that the protests haven’t been as peaceful as he was telling us. After all, it’s infinitely hard to justify people being barricaded in a building while gasoline is poured on it. Reality and truth with always prevail 

In the press conference Wheeler shared, “When you commit arson with an accelerant in an attempt to burn down a building that is occupied by people who you have intentionally trapped inside, you are not demonstrating, you are attempting to commit murder.

I would urge you to put your bias aside and report the news fairly. The federal government stepped in to provide additional manpower to protect federal property and arrest those who have committed federal crimes, which is on solid legal footing. Basic rule-of-law principles should unite us even in a politically divisive time.

Ashley Howell

Fraser CO


Trump, his supporters and Fox News love to traffic in conspiracy theories.  A long standing one is from Qanon which purports that there is a “deep state” in the federal government (democrats of course) that is trying to take down Trump and that these people are sex-trafficking pedophiles that eat children.  Pizzagate (the armed guy who invaded a pizza restaurant believing that Hillary Clinton was keeping children in the basement) was inspired by Qanon.  Trump is okay with Qanon because “they like me”.  Trump rails about lawless protestor violence in Portland and Chicago.  Here’s an interesting conspiracy I’ve heard, but you will never hear on Fox News.  The Trump campaign is hiring people (mostly white supremacists) to set fires and vandalize property during protest marches in these cities to disparage the Black Lives Matters movement and to bolster Trump because he believes that violence and chaos helps him in the polls.  This conspiracy is more plausible than child-eating politicians.  Like 2016, Trump is pandering to people’s fears and prejudices.  I know of a Trump supporter who sincerely believes that there will be an armed revolution in the U.S. between “Americans” and “Dumbocrats” – what he calls Democrats.  Trump truly does propagate hate for Democrats among his supporters.  Trump’s latest conspiracy is that the November election is rigged and will be the most fraudulent in history because of mail-in ballots.  He said in a press conference that “ballots are being mailed to dogs and cats and dead people”.   I serve as an election judge in Grand County.  I can assure Colorado voters that our State’s system of voting by mail is one of the most honest, fair, inclusive, secret and secure processes in the country.  Trump is now trying to slow down and sabotage the U.S. Postal Service through his new, corrupt Postmaster General.  So vote early after you receive your ballot by mail;  use one of the secure (24 hour surveillance) drop boxes located throughout the County (locations are listed in your ballot instructions); and be sure to sign your ballot envelope.  That is how your vote is verified.  Now, where is my dog’s ballot?

Melinda McWilliams

Fraser CO


We understand there are questions about the status of certain developments in and around Fraser and thought it’d be helpful to share some information.

The Market Street Buildings in the Village at Grand Park (adjacent to the Foundry)

These two buildings were started in December of 2018 for mixed commercial tenants. Building permits for these structures are current and to date, inspections have been approved. In addition to passing building inspections, the construction engineer has inspected and approved the foundations and structural installations to date.

These developments were provided economic incentives intended to encourage commercial development in Fraser. These consist of fee waivers and deferrals. The Town has not provided any direct financial payments to the developer. The incentive agreement for these buildings is conditioned upon completion and certificates of occupancy before January 1, 2021. The agreement provided that all fees will be due if construction is not complete within that timeframe.

The Fraser Economic Development Advisory Committee requested an update on the project at their last meeting and the Town Board intends to discuss the status at its next meeting on September 2nd.

Vicious Cycle (adjacent to Bank of the West)

The Fraser Economic Development Advisory Committee also requested an update on the progress of this development at its last meeting. The owner indicated that progress on the structure will be accelerating and he intends to have the exterior of the building complete before the end of this year.

This commercial project also has an economic incentive agreement with the Town of Fraser which requires completion and occupancy before January 1, 2022. The owner plans to be complete and operational before mid-year 2021.

Mill Avenue Apartments (south of Mill Avenue and West of the UPRR railroad)

Development of an attainable housing apartment project (60 units) began this week. While the Town of Fraser will be serving the development with water and sewer, it is not located within the Town of Fraser and is subject to Grand County land-use regulations.

Town of Fraser CO


As a 5th generation Colorado native, I’m beyond furious at the inaction of my state & national legislators with regard to  the ongoing anarchy taking place in the cities of America.  In the emails I receive from their offices, I see smiling happy faces but I’m not smiling at the arson, looting, intimidation and physical attacks that have been going on for months.

At first, there was complete silence,–no condemnation at all, for the outright anarchy taking place.  Now, I hear weak platitudes and excuses for very bad behavior.  How much is enough?  Will you let this go on until Christmas or maybe until next summer?

You receive a very generous salary paid for by my taxes and I expect, at the very least, vigorous condemnation of these hoodlums for their lawbreaking activity.  Tolerance has only led to increasing violence.  I may become a single issue voter this Nov. with my ballot being decided by who will take action  to curtail this turmoil.  I have a long memory and I’ll be watching.

Where is the initiative & leadership you were elected to provide?  I expect no less than a strong statement of support for our hyper tolerant police and for the prosecution of the criminals terrorizing our streets.

The “Summer of Love” never existed and your inaction speaks volumes—Lets get this taken care of —NOW!

Pete Peterson

Tabernash CO