The Pueblo Chieftain, Sept. 17, on new state park opening up:
Fisher's Peak has tantalized outdoor enthusiasts in Southern Colorado for years. The mountain near Trinidad has been as inaccessible — at least legally — as it is beautiful. But that will be changing soon.
Last week, Gov. Jared Polis joined a group of state and local officials to announce that Fisher's Peak and its surroundings will become part of Colorado's newest state park. For decades, the land was under private ownership. Thanks to the cooperative efforts of the city of Trinidad, the Trust for Public Land, the Nature Conservancy, Great Outdoors Colorado, and Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the 30-square-mile property will be opened to the public for recreational use.
A ribbon cutting is set for fall of next year, with the park expected to open to visitors in January 2021. Polis called Fisher's Peak "an iconic landmark in Southern Colorado" and predicted that the land would be "one of the crown gems in our state parks system."
It's not hard to understand his enthusiasm for this project. At a height of 9,633 feet, Fisher's Peak is billed as the tallest mountain in the United States east of Interstate 25. The park property connects Colorado's eastern grasslands with its western mountains and serves as a travel corridor for animals such as elk, mule deer, white-tailed deer, mountain lions and black bears.
The land is adjacent to the James M. Montoya State Wildlife Area and the Lake Dorothy State Wildlife Area in Colorado, as well as the Sugarite Canyon State Park in New Mexico. Altogether, the parks and wildlife areas span more than 55.5 square miles.
So who will benefit from the new state park? Certainly the people who run businesses in Trinidad, where people will stop to eat, gas up their cars and buy supplies and souvenirs on their way to or from excursions to Fisher's Peak.
Taxpayers throughout Colorado also should benefit, since the park's close proximity to the New Mexico state line means out-of-state visitors likely will be paying some of the taxes and fees that support our state government's bottom line.
And people living in Pueblo and surrounding areas will benefit, too. Yes, we have Lake Pueblo State Park right in our backyard, which is a great place for hiking, boating and other activities. Yet many people who want to experience the great outdoors often do so to get away from the worries and stresses of their everyday lives for a while.
Sometimes, that's easier to do if there's some physical separation from the places they call home. In that respect, the Fisher's Peak state park might be a perfect distance. It's a good drive from Pueblo, yet close enough for a manageable weekend trip.
This new park will benefit the local and state economy, provide new recreational opportunities, and offer a refuge for wildlife. Finding a project that satisfies all of those criteria can be a tall order.
Not taller, though, than Fisher's Peak.
The Greeley Tribune, Sept. 15, on public comment opportunity on oil and gas regulations:
Those Weld County residents with opinions on how oil and gas development should be regulated — and we know there are a lot of them — have an opportunity to sound off and be heard effectively.
The passage of Colorado Senate Bill 19-181 in the 2019 state legislative session allows a revamp of regulations that could have a massive negative impact on this county, which hosts the majority of oil and gas operations in the state.
With the governor's office, the Colorado House and the Senate in Democrat control, Colorado could see a significant tightening of regulations that could severely curtail Weld County's largest industry, reducing jobs and revenue for public entities.
Political and industry leaders have been lobbying hard for common sense regulations, but fear they are too outnumbered and aren't being listened to in Denver.
Now there is a way for everyone to make themselves heard on this controversial and important issue.
The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission has opened a web portal and is seeking public comment on the new rulemaking: cogcc.state.co.us/sb19181.html#/public_comments.
The site details the bill's scope and explains the four main rulemaking topics — alternative location analysis, cumulative impacts, flowline, and mission change to protecting public health, welfare, environment and wildlife.
The commission has stated that staff will review all public comments submitted and they will be taken into consideration while developing recommendations during rulemaking. The comments will also be available for COGCC's commissioners to review.
There are already numerous comments that can be read on the website from municipalities and individuals from around the state, including Weld County.
The beauty of this method of commenting is that residents can conveniently express their views in detail, without having to attend a contentious meeting, or worry that their email or letter will never be opened.
It's a way to be at the table without having to pound on it to be heard.
Those in Weld County who care deeply about this issue should take advantage of this opportunity. Speak up and encourage those you know with strong feelings on the future of oil and gas operations in Weld County to do the same.
The Daily Sentinel, Sept. 14, on police using data analysis to identify criminal trends:
Crime will always be an issue in our community.
So crime prevention and crime fighting will always be at the forefront of law enforcement's mission to keep communities safe.
A recent Sentinel article by reporter Alex Zorn revealed that Western Slope law-enforcement agencies are utilizing crime statistics to highlight trends to implement a more intelligence-based policing method.
It appears to be working.
The Mesa County Sheriff's Office is using crime statistics compiled by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation to move to more of an intelligence-based policing instead of a periodic checkup policing method.
By meeting monthly and sometimes weekly, Sheriff's Office personnel can discuss trends they see in the community and develop strategies on how to prevent or fight crime.
Localized areas, neighborhoods and even groups of houses where crime is trending is one of the important areas of analysis.
By using CBI data, the Sheriff's Office identified a specific list of crimes happening in its 76 distinct neighborhoods. Those were mostly property crimes that could be prevented by increased presence, education and other policing tools.
This modern approach to law enforcement makes sense — and it's only going to grow. By having an increased presence where crime is trending makes for a more strategic use of personnel.
The Sheriff's Office started using more intelligence-based policing two years ago.
Mesa County Sheriff Matt Lewis said the mission was to get into those areas where crime was trending and have a positive impact.
The crime studies reveal an important trend.
According to Lewis, by targeting property crimes, there's been a corresponding drop in the violent-crime rate.
Less violent crime is the immediate goal of law enforcement agencies to chase the ultimate goal of making our communities safer. Without public safety, forget about higher education attainment or economic growth and development.
Effective law enforcement is still about boots on the ground and responding to calls, but using data to identify trends and forecast areas where crime is most likely appears to be working.
One specific property crime — theft from motor vehicles — decreased from 268 reported incidents in 2017 to 189 in 2018.
These decreases were about persuading the public to lock their vehicles as a crime deterrent, but it also started with evaluating trends from statistics to determine where the focus was needed.
Other results saw a decrease, included larceny and other theft-related crimes that decreased by 22% compared to the previous year, and motor vehicle thefts were down almost 27%.
Finally, the violent-crime rate throughout Mesa County saw a decline of 22% in 2018 compared to 2017.
For the Sheriff's Office specifically, violent crimes decreased nearly 32% last year from 179 incidents in 2018 compared to 262 in 2017.
Those are impressive and encouraging numbers.
It clearly shows that the Sheriff's Office and other law enforcement agencies can use data to identify criminal trends as a way to have success in targeting and fighting crime.
Any time the crime rate drops, it is great news for the community.
The era of Big Data can be scary when we fear our smart TVs and are wary that other devices are listening to our conversations, but data is clearly aiding intelligence-based policing here in Mesa County.