This Place Where I Live

steamy street 0219Some words about the weather: it’s cold.

The weathercaster on Channel 4 Denver, Chris Spears, seemed quite happy (he’s always happy) this morning to report a statewide low of -18 in Gunnison. My computer begs to differ: Weather Underground currently has us at -11. (In fairness to Mr. Spears, he probably gets the temps for his 7 a.m. map before the sun comes up.)

But this is the kind of place I live: it doesn’t show up well in the picture above, but yesterday the streets were steaming. My car told me it was 11 degrees (I’ll clarify: above zero) near the Channell House where I took this photo (on Wisconsin Street, in a little tribute to niece Emily, a blog follower); I drove two blocks and my car said 8, and by the time I reached Lynn’s post office (I’ll clarify: the one in Gunnison) it was at 6.

So who knows for sure (my car sure didn’t) what temperature it was yesterday afternoon in Gunnison, but let’s just say single digits — and ice and snow were melting off the streets. They call that Solar Power, and our not-very-forward-looking city, 145 years later, still doesn’t seem to get it.

I’ve never delved into it deeply, so I’m not sure what the impetus for Sylvester Richardson and his band of agrarians was for laying Gunnison’s streets out on a north-south axis rather than east-west back in 1874. Probably the river, which runs along the same Palisades that foolishly motivated school architecture a century later, factored in: the city started down by the river, and it runs north-south.

To be correct, one of two towns started by the river, and good luck finding First Street today — numbers don’t readily kick in until we get to 7th or so. That was West Gunnison, and then there was Gunnison a little to the east, and I don’t know which was the light of Sylvester’s eye. Of course, he thought this would be an agricultural paradise, not knowing what the Utes did about the 56-day growing season, so I guess I shouldn’t expect him to be a visionary well ahead of his time and to factor the significant sun into house layout when those of us to whom he bequeathed his legacy still don’t get it all these years later.

The Gunnison Country Times had a story this week on the regressive renewable-energy policies of both the city and the Municipal Energy Association of Nebraska, from whence our electricity comes. But it also featured a letter from my spud supplier Susan Wyman, who noted that an article the previous week had only mentioned four proposals for a parcel of land, when there were actually five.

When I was a kid, Tomichi Avenue diverged from Highway 50 at what was then Endner’s hardware store (now it’s Fullmer’s hardware) and headed toward the murkiness of First Street. There wasn’t much down there, a smattering of houses, the nursing home, and Lazy K Resort, which sometimes had a restaurant open to the public and sometimes not.

[Na Ki’o, if it’s possible, is being an even bigger help than usual this morning.]

It was maybe not a place of great happiness: first the owner died of a heart attack at what must have been a very young age, and then his daughters, the same ages as Terri and me, were killed in a car accident before the age of 20. A few years back (one city manager ago) his widow sold the property, which by now is surrounded by housing, with more on the way.

Homegrown real estate agent Erich Ferchau ( — I kid you not), who is on the city planning commission, opined to me once that the city paid way too much for the property at $1 million, and I’m not sure the purchase came with a lot of vision. The city manager who supervised the purchase was way into his recreation, but there’s also always talk on the periphery (never an actual policy discussion) about affordable housing.

So they’ve had visioning events, and “charrettes” (which as far as I can tell is French for “wasting people’s time”), and now — although I don’t pay nearly as much attention as I used to — apparently an RFP (request for proposals).

Obviously the city hasn’t been paying attention to the county’s last affordable housing RFP (“Danger, Will Robinson! Danger!”), which, in an understatement, has gone disastrously. And the applicant that “won” that RFP (for Brush Creek, if you follow area news) is one of the four under consideration for the Lazy K property.

According to Susan’s letter, there was a fifth proposal that was of so little significance to the city that it didn’t make the paper last week, submitted by a group that included Susan and — ta da! — Dusty of Straw and Timber Craftsmen. I haven’t seen any of the proposals, and I’m not sure I finished reading the article on the other four proposals last week, but I’ll bet the Susan-Dusty proposal was more heavy on upfront costs, but with a lot of bang for the buck off the back end.

That’s because their houses would be small and energy efficient, possibly even without any heating bills at all. Some day the dinosaurs are truly going to die out, and we’ll probably have ruptured the entire innards of the earth trying to squeeze out the last of their essence — assuming we haven’t melted all of Antarctica and Greenland along the way. (I read a comment by one of those climate change whackos the other day who said this isn’t about planetary survival, because the Earth will manage as it always has, but about human survival. Those nuts!)

And I’m afraid that’s when people will start to act. Not now, when it could possibly make a difference, but way after the barn door has slammed shut, been battened down and bolted to the framework in no uncertain terms.

As I mentioned in some previous post, the county may already have realized a complete return on its investment into a geothermal heat system for the courthouse — but I guess the city only looks at the county’s bad examples and decides, “That’s what we want to follow.”

On the Solarize website (and they did learn their lesson: their next meeting will be at the library, not a brew pub), their FAQ section asks, apparently with a straight face, “Is there enough sun in southwestern Colorado for solar power?” Honey, if there’s not enough sun here, then there’s not enough anywhere, and we might as well all give up and go home. It is after all, cold outside. For now.

2 thoughts on “This Place Where I Live

  1. I too saw Chris Spears’ cheerily note it was -18 this am in Gunnison. And I had two thoughts: 1) what kind of fool lives there, and 2) the fools Lynn and TL will love their in floor heating, gas fireplace, and boiler heated garage!


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