Editorial – The Pagosa Springs SUN http://www.pagosasun.com The most trusted source for news and information about Pagosa Springs, Colorado. Wed, 16 Sep 2020 21:34:25 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.4.2 http://www.pagosasun.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/cropped-sun-logo-512x512-1-32x32.jpg Editorial – The Pagosa Springs SUN http://www.pagosasun.com 32 32 Taking on the challenge http://www.pagosasun.com/taking-on-the-challenge/ Thu, 17 Sep 2020 11:00:06 +0000 http://www.pagosasun.com/?p=210442 By Terri Lynn Oldham House

Pagosa Springs Elementary School Principal Justin Cowan seems to be on a mission. 

He started a 22-day push-up challenge to raise awareness for “Veteran suicide prevention and mental health support.”

Cowan posted on his Facebook page: “On average 22 Veterans a day commit suicide, and this challenge is a small way to raise awareness for this issue. 22 push-ups for 22 days to raise awareness for veterans suicide prevention and mental health resources.

“MILITARY AND VETERANS CRISIS HOTLINE. 1-800-273-8255. Press 1. TEXT 838255 24/7.”

Each time he posts about it on Facebook, he posts a video of him doing his 22 push-ups. Sometimes you can hear the theme song to “The Andy Griffith Show” playing in the background. That happens to be one of his favorite television shows.

Cowan is a lot like the Energizer Bunny, when he hit day 22 of his push-up challenge, he just kept on going. On Tuesday of this week, he was on day 40 of creating awareness and working toward saving the lives of veterans.

Cowan isn’t just a school principal. Last month, he was promoted to the rank of major in the Colorado Army National Guard. That is where he serves as chaplain, helping to lift up others and sometimes he even finds himself doing interventions pertaining to suicide.

Some of his videos come with a message. One of them was about taking life one step at a time and taking things that overwhelm you one step at a time. He reminds us that there is help out there as he brings awareness to his important goal of suicide prevention in veterans.

In Cowan’s first video back in May, he encouraged reaching out for help and shared some of his own challenges and frustrations that he was dealing with at the time.

We commend Cowan for putting the importance of preventing suicide at the forefront in his daily life. 

September is National Suicide Prevention month, and the “Let’s Talk Colorado” campaign encourages talking about mental illness. 

In 2009, 13 confirmed suicides in Archuleta County placed the county high above state and national averages. 

From 2004 to 2015, there were a reported 34 suicides in Archuleta County, with La Plata County reporting 98 deaths by suicide. 

In 2015, suicide was the fourth leading cause of death in Archuleta County.

That same year, Colorado’s suicide rate was 19.4 per 100,000 residents, making it the seventh highest in the country. For the southwest Colorado region, the rate is higher than the state’s average.

According to Archuleta County Coroner Brandon Bishop, there were nine suicides in Archuleta County from 2016 until this same time last year. 

Unfortunately, Bishop reports those numbers increasing to four suicides from January to date for 2020.

SUN reporter Randi Pierce’s 2009 article on Archuleta County’s suicide crisis received statewide recognition for Public Service from the Colorado Press Association in 2010. That article included the following warning signs to watch for: 

• A significant change in eating habits — either decreased or increased appetite.

• Significant weight gain or loss.

• Withdrawing from family and friends.

• Increased substance abuse, including drugs and alcohol.

• Statements about hurting themselves or committing suicide.

• A sense of hopelessness or that what one is doing is not enough.

• Sleeplessness.

• In men especially, an increase in irritability, anger, frustration.

• Behavior that deviates from the norm.

• Loss of future orientation.

• An element of loss.

• The loss of a typical daily routine, which can follow events like retirement.

• Increased anxiety or stress.

Statistics show that at least 90 percent of all people who died by suicide were suffering from a mental illness at the time, most often depression.

The Let’s Talk Colorado website states that “COVID-19 is affecting all of us, causing uncertainty, fear and changes to our lives we never imagined. Now more than ever we need to take care of ourselves and look out for each other.”

You can find helpful information, tips and resources to stay healthy and support friends, neighbors, loved ones, our community and even ourselves at www.letstalkco.org.

A few of those tips include:

• “Stop the silence. If someone discloses that they have a mental illness, they are opening up to you in a big way. Ask questions, show concern, but keep the awkward silence at bay.

• “Be nice. It sounds simple enough, but try to say the right things with openness, warmth, caring and sincerity.

• “Listen. The fact that you are there can make a world of difference, so in your conversation, try to err more on the side of listening.

• “Keep in contact. Offer availability by phone, text, email, or a time to meet up. Just be there.

• “Don’t ignore it. Don’t be afraid to ask about the well-being of another if you think they might be hurting. Trust your senses.

• “Offer help. Everyone is different. They may want very specific help or no help at all. Either way, you can always ask and be open to the answer.

• “Keep the conversation moving. It’s OK to talk about other things to keep silent lulls out of conversation; as long as they know you’re completely open to revisiting the topic later.”

If warning signs are present, individuals are encouraged to reach out to family, friends and professionals. Loved ones are encouraged to ask the hard questions — asking if the person is thinking of hurting themselves or committing suicide.

Locally, Axis Health System offers a 24-hour crisis support line. If you are experiencing a mental health emergency, call 247-5245.

Western Colorado Crisis Services are also available 24/7 at (844) 493-TALK (8255) or text TALK to 38255.

If we all took on the challenge of preventing suicide like Cowan has done by reaching out and talking about mental health and how to deal with our problems, we might just save someone’s life.

You don’t have to be adept at push-ups to make a difference. 

Guest Editorial: Older men need regular PSA screening http://www.pagosasun.com/guest-editorial-older-men-need-regular-psa-screening/ Thu, 03 Sep 2020 21:00:20 +0000 http://www.pagosasun.com/?p=209607 By Steve Ranson

Prostate cancer is to men as breast cancer is to women.

The second-leading cause of cancer deaths in men comes from a small gland located between the bladder and the penis. If not monitored or treated, prostate cancer can be a killer. Likewise, the No. 2 cause of cancer deaths in women is breast cancer. So, what’s the difference? Over the years, more awareness has been directed at breast cancer screening than with the prostate gland. Therefore, with September being Prostate Awareness Month, let’s put the spotlight on this type of cancer.

I’m one of those statistical males where prostate cancer will affect one out of nine men in their 60s. I began screening about every 18 months to two years when I was in my 50s, and then about every year to 18 months after I entered my 60s.

An abnormal PSA, or prostate-specific antigen, found in the blood alerts physicians that prostate cancer may exist. During the past six years, my PSA slowly climbed from a 3.18 in 2014 to 6.36 in 2017. In 2019, the PSA more than doubled to 16.57, causing my general practitioner to refer me to a urologist. Other warning signs began to develop during the first seven months. I had frequent urges to urinate, but the stream was weak. Occasionally, blood would appear in my urine. Sometimes, I would stand over the toilet, straining to empty the bladder.

My urologist, Dr. Brian Montgomery, saw me in late August 2019 and quickly reordered another PSA. It returned with a score shy of 17.

“The higher the PSA, the more likely prostate cancer,” he said, reviewing the latest result with me.

A month later, Dr. Montgomery completed a core biopsy of the prostate by taking samples from 12 areas. When he presented the results to me two weeks later, I had the presence of cancer in two quadrants, the left base and left lateral apex. Dr. Montgomery’s attention focused on the left lateral apex, which measured the adenocarcinoma — cancer forming in mucus-secreting glands — up to 16 mm in its greatest dimension and occupying 95 percent of the surface area. 

Furthermore, Dr. Montgomery said the pathologist issued a Gleason grading score of eight, which means I have a high-grade lesion than can spread more quickly than scores half that.

The left base showed adenocarcinoma took up only 5 percent, but the Gleason score came in at six. Based on my PSA, however, Dr. Montgomery said he expected to see the adenocarcinoma in more than two quadrants.

“It’s all statistics with many different results,” he said.

One test remained before Dr. Montgomery offered his final decision on treatment. A bone scan using criteria based on National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) guidelines determined if the cancer had spread beyond the prostate to another organ or the bones.

“If you’re metastatic, that basically means high risk,” he pointed out, “but your imagining shows it has not spread.”

Dr. Montgomery said I was very fortunate not to have the cancer in more than two quadrants. Statistically, he said the prognosis shows I have a good chance to beat this disease and there’s an 80 percent chance I will not have a reoccurrence of prostate cancer.

The treatment: Based on all the tests and the Gleason scores, I was deemed a good patient for receiving radiation treatments instead of having a radical prostatectomy where the prostate and surrounding tissues are removed.

The next step: Dr. Montgomery implanted three radioactive seeds into my prostate that would accurately guide radiation beams to not only the affected quadrants, but also the entire prostate.

Dr. Gary E. Campbell, a radiation oncologist with more than 37 years experience, oversaw the next step with me receiving 43 radiation treatments over three months. The last session on June 1 ended the numerous 128-mile roundtrip journeys from my hometown to the center. Willing to answer any questions thrown at him, Dr. Campbell works with his team to develop a tailored plan for each patient.

“We want to take away the fear. It’s scary. Anybody would be scared,” Dr. Campbell said of patients facing radiation treatment.

 As the treatments progress, patients begin to feel more relaxed and confident. Seeing and talking to the staff on each arrival seemed like the beginning of the popular television sitcom Cheers — where everybody knows your name.

The 43 radiation treatments I received give a higher percentage of killing most cancer cells. Dr. Campbell said statistically, out of hundreds and hundreds of patients, he can tell how they will do with their treatment plans. Chemotherapy, however, is used for advanced prostate cancer and administered on the center’s main floor.

Dr. Campbell also said radiation will work on both the prostate and the tissues associated with the prostatectomy, and since The Carson Tahoe Cancer Center is an affiliate of Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah, he can access their physicians and findings to assist him developing a treatment plan on answering questions.

Based on his 30-plus years as an oncologist, he said the technology has improved, and the treatments are better tolerated by the patients and more successful because of the center’s multimillion-dollar treatment machines.

“It’s kind of like the latest and greatest, and it’s very precise. We are able to push the radiation doses, which is important,” he said.

With each 20- to 25-minute treatment, Dr. Campbell said his technicians shoot external radiation beams to the area that’s being treated.

Radiology technician Ellen Plewacki said every patient is treated according to information downloaded from a chart to a computer. For every session, the prostate cancer patient like me lies down on a table, and at a computer outside the treatment room, a technician guides the rays at different angles — nine to be exact — at both the affected quadrants and entire prostate.

“Most of the patients have the same setup and procedure,” she said. “It takes about 2 to 3 minutes to identify the internal anatomy needing treatment.”

Based on dose escalation studies, Dr. Campbell said a higher dose provides the best opportunity to eradicate the cancer.

With the end of radiation treatments almost three months ago, I have encountered side effects from swelling in the legs and ankles, urination and bowel-movement problems, restless nights and some tiredness — they should go away. In order to keep the prostate small and to fight any cancerous cells that may be lingering, I receive a Lupron shot every three months. My main complaint with the shot is how it causes hot and cold flashes and mood swings. 

Both doctors, however, have repeatedly said the best indicator of how treatments worked is with another PSA — and with a score of two or below. 

“I would anticipate your PSA will be extremely low,” Dr. Campbell predicted after I finished the treatments.

My first three-month checkup with Dr. Montgomery occurred in late August, and I had the opportunity to see my first PSA result. Bingo! The result came back as a negative .02, meaning there is no traceable sign of cancer left in the prostate.

“Just what I hoped for,” Dr. Montgomery said.

Steve Ranson is editor emeritus of the Lahontan Valley News in Fallon, Nev., home of the U.S. Navy’s Top Gun aviation training program. He is a former president of the Nevada Press Association Board and the International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors. 

Dan Appenzeller’s dream http://www.pagosasun.com/dan-appenzellers-dream/ Thu, 27 Aug 2020 11:01:37 +0000 http://www.pagosasun.com/?p=209223 By Terri Lynn Oldham House

What if?

The year was 1996 when Dan Appenzeller had his “what if?” moment that became the Four Corners Folk Festival.

Before COVID-19, thousands of people of all ages converged from all around the country over Labor Day weekend for live performances, workshops, campfire jams and children’s programs that are the backbone of the popular, music-filled weekend that was once one man’s “what if?” moment.

Twenty-five years ago on Labor Day weekend, Appenzeller’s vision became reality when the grassy meadow on Reservoir Hill became known as the “festival meadow.” 

Sally Hameister was the director of the Chamber of Commerce at the time, and in the Sept. 5, 1996, “Chamber News” column, she wrote, “Congratulations Four Corners Folk Festival — To all those who shed blood, sweat and tears, went without sleep and sustenance for extended periods of time, lost touch with your families, friends and the real world, and lived and breathed only for the Four Corners Folk Festival, congratulations on a superb job. As a ‘ticket lady,’ I had the opportunity to talk to lots of people who raved about their Festival experience, and I have no doubt that they will spread the word and return time and time again.”

Hameister gave props to the event director, Appenzeller: “Job well done. And, Dan Appenzeller — some people live out their lives without a dream, let alone a dream realized. 

“Congratulations on making your dream come true.”

Sitting down with SUN staff before the festival a few years ago, Appenzeller explained that, while the festival may have been his notion, it would have never continued if not for his wife, Crista Munro. 

“She’s the reason why the festival actually exists. She was born with wisdom that I have never, ever found in anyone else,” he said. 

At the time, Munro was the festival’s executive director. When you added her wisdom and talent to Appenzeller’s dream, you came up with world-class, legendary music festivals as we have grown accustomed to here in Pagosa Country. 

Thankfully, the couple didn’t stop dreaming after that first festival. Nowadays, there are two such festivals held annually on Reservoir Hill. Pagosa Folk ‘N Bluegrass is celebrated each June and the Four Corners Folk Festival each Labor Day weekend. 

Munro and Appenzeller moved away from Pagosa Springs nine years ago due to health issues. Yet, they continued pouring their heart and soul into our community. The two festivals have become an impactful economic driver for our community over the years.

Munro and Appenzeller returned twice a year to the festival meadow — the same meadow where they exchanged their wedding vows just one month after they first made the 140-acre ponderosa pine forest on Reservoir Hill come alive with the sound of music.

A few years ago, Munro wrote, “Since 1996, we’ve amassed a FolkWest family made up of volunteers, staff, musicians and, of course, our amazing audience. We’ve watched as a generation of kids has grown up and started families of their own. We’ve shared in the sorrow of the passing of countless friends and loved ones. Through it all, the one thing that’s remained constant is the music and its power to unite, heal and create joy.”

Unfortunately, it’s been a few years since Appenzeller’s health allowed him to come home to this altitude and join in the culmination of his dream with us, but his heart was with us all.

Munro’s and Appenzeller’s journey changed course when they began a new chapter of their life in Sisters, Ore., where Munro accepted a position as executive director of the Sisters Folk Festival.

We are forever grateful for that “what if?” moment, and for Appenzeller and Munro keeping the dream alive in Pagosa Springs. 

On Friday morning, Appenzeller’s son and greatest creation, Elias, shared that his father had “passed away peacefully in his sleep this morning. He’s finally at peace, no more suffering.”

We are thankful for the hours we spent visiting in our office and solving the problems of this world with Appenzeller. He definitely put a song in so many of our hearts. His legacy and dream will live on forever. 

Guest Editorial: Dr. Rhonda Webb: Leading during a pandemic http://www.pagosasun.com/guest-editorial-dr-rhonda-webb-leading-during-a-pandemic/ Thu, 20 Aug 2020 21:00:23 +0000 http://www.pagosasun.com/?p=208897 By Shari Pierce

Among us is a modest and humble leader working tirelessly to care for our community as we face coronavirus and COVID-19, the effects of which have been unprecedented in most of our lifetimes.

Dr. Rhonda Webb has worked, and continues to work, to coordinate her staff in providing care, acquiring supplies, making adjustments to the patient flow at the hospital and clinic, educating our community, coordinating testing and looking to the future of care for our community for the coronavirus and beyond.

She is tireless in attending meetings to educate attendees about how to best protect ourselves and others by wearing face coverings, washing our hands, practicing social distancing and cleaning areas around us. This lady kindly and patiently explains “droplet protection” and the use and success of that through years in the medical profession. The hundredth time she says this is just as kind and patient as the first time.

Webb has attended town and county meetings encouraging face-covering mandates and has taken the lead in prompting community leaders to come together with a unified message for protecting our town and county. 

Under her guidance and with her support, the staff of the medical center has made changes to the way patients are directed to receive care and attend appointments to provide for the safest care possible for our community. Guidelines are carefully developed to check patients in at the clinic and the hospital, and separate those showing symptoms of this virus from others.

In a phone conversation with Webb, I learned that each day area hospitals post the availability of beds they have for taking patients. Our CEO watches these reports carefully as plans are made to determine where patients from Pagosa Springs Medical Center might be transported, should an urgent case come to the hospital.

Webb and her staff work with mask makers’ coordinator Debby Donavan. In her last email of Aug. 11, Donavan shared that between March and this date, the mask-making group has produced 5,600 masks for the hospital. She also shared that the cost of the masks that the hospital is required to use has gone up from 80 cents to over $3 each. The effort of Webb and her staff in coordinating this sewing project has saved the hospital thousands of dollars and has also provided masks for the safety of patients and staff at the hospital during times when masks were not readily available. The work of this group continues.

But, that wasn’t enough. Webb took it upon herself to make sure that the people sewing masks for the hospital received a personal note of thanks amidst all the other work she is doing.

I am grateful the board of directors of the Upper San Juan Health Service District had the foresight to hire Webb as the CEO for Pagosa Springs Medical Center. Fortunately for our community, the board is looking at extending that contract.

She is often the first to thank others for what they are doing, but this time I thank you, Dr. Rhonda Webb.

And, thank you to all of the health care workers in our community. Be safe.

How has the COVID-19 pandemic changed your life? http://www.pagosasun.com/how-has-the-covid-19-pandemic-changed-your-life-2/ Thu, 13 Aug 2020 21:00:39 +0000 http://www.pagosasun.com/?p=208630 By Terri Lynn Oldham House

Last week, we shared some responses from Facebook followers to the question that The SUN asked: “How has the COVID-19 pandemic changed your life?”

The following are some more of the unedited responses that we’ve received.

Linda Lutomski wrote, “With quarantine and the limited contact with friends and family, we have focused on creative endeavors and taken a more focused look at what really matters. Friends, health, neighbors, our environment. So lucky to live in such a wonderful place!”

Krissy Gardikis wrote, “It’s made me realize how mean folks can be to one another. I suppose folks are scared of many things, but boy can they ever be mean to one another over masks etc.”

Shelley Raymond added, “Made me realize how selfish and sanctimonious most people are.”

Missy Losee shared, “The quarantine, while stressful, gave me quality time with my husband and daughter that id probably never have otherwise.”

Sylvia McDaniel added, “I’ve become a hermit, but we have grown closer to our neighbors. We social distance outside once a week.”

Michele Sweitzer shared, “Just changed the times of shopping, nothing I ever need is at the store. Have to go to 3 stores to find, and still nothing. So I shop elsewhere more.”

DawnMarie Olson added, “How has COVID-19 changed my life? I have to remember to have a mask before I leave the house. My mask is now my new accessory to my outfit.”

Sally Hovatter noted, “Waiting and waiting in line yesterday at the post office and it’s like everyone is afraid to talk to each other anymore. It is sad.”

Pauline Yago shared, “A ton more people especially from out of state have been coming up here and exploring things such as the ice caves and Piedra Canyon. So in return I have been exploring roads that I have never explored getting to know our mountains a lot better. Going where people don’t go.”

Annie Stone added, “I have taken the isolation time to learn & create. I’m a weaver & I’ve tried & made a lot of new things. I also miss my friends sorely.”

Amber Rhea wrote, “I haven’t smoked a cig in 7 years..until COVID. Stress is lame but I love having my kiddos close all the time!”

Di AL shared, “I’ve been off of work, so I’ve had more quantity AND quality time with both my daughters and their growing families. It’s been a real blessing.”

Leah Reeves wrote, “We moved to Pagosa in December 2019. It was a random move. We wanted something new and an opportunity arouse to work at an awesome local restaurant. Winter was tough, but coworkers told me summer would be awesome and I’d be able to save money to prepare for Winter 2020 and the ‘off season’. In March, our restaurant had to shut down dining options. Right before spring break. This lasted till mid June. Covid-19 was the cause of the shutdown. Now I’m scrambling to work as much as possible at the restaurant as well as another part time job just to get caught up on bills and to hopefully prepare for the off season in this sleepy town. I should be resting and nurturing my body so I dont get sick. Instead, I’m picking up as many restaurant shifts as possible while also doing my part time position at a wonderful cleaning company. People come into the restaurant and argue about wearing a mask.”

Glenna Sullivan added, “I’m amazed that some folks disregard medical studies and scientific facts from healthcare professionals and just simply make up their own story at the expense of the vulnerable. Wherever this virus came from and other disputed details of the pandemic are secondary to actually getting rid of the virus. Priorities are fuzzy at best. I’m amazed at our town leaders not being strong enough to protect its citizens. I’ve realized that as much as I’d like the world to be a better place and for people to care about each other, the population is not moving in that direction. People are holding lifestyle over life.”

Tony Medrano shared, “My father in law passed away a couple months ago. We were not only unable to be there (Arizona) when it happened but to this day no funeral service has been held. He was a decorated Army Veteran ( Vietnam/Persian Gulf). No one should be forgotten this way. He will soon have a Memorial Brick placed at the Veterans Memorial site. He will never be forgotten….”

Kayla Hamblin wrote, “It’s shown me the good and bad of our town. We have people who will go out of their way to help others. Who selfishly put themselves out there to help. And we have people who only think about them selves and their agendas, they will be defiant for whatever their reasoning and that’s their choice. It’s been a blessing for my immune compromised home to be together to teach my children. Yeah some days suck, but most days are not so bad. I am getting valuable time with myself and family to grow and learn and be apart of, we’re making memories that our crazy society was rushing us past.”

Michele May Rafferty shared “Because of covid 19, we had to cancel the big extended family trip, I didn’t get to see my mom like I had planned, and now she’s gone.”

Charlotte Ballard added, “I was a bit of a hermit before so it hasn’t impacted me as much as others….i am thankful to have many closets to clean out and finding many projects to finish. My biggest sacrifice is not being able to have family and friends visit.”

Chris Olivarez noted, “I sleep a lot.”

Pamela Larson wrote, “It has given me the space to disconnect from the world and focus inward.”

Danyelle Vincent Leentjes added, “I miss my family across the country, especially my mother who lives alone in Ohio. Also I am trying to raise my child to live in joy, not fear. It is challenging to find a balance between staying healthy and living a normal life.”

Lisa Griffin Smith wrote, “I miss traveling and going to concerts with my girls… and I’m over peoples behaviors! So many people behaving like children!!!!”

Kim Bristow added, “It has made me more aware of stopping to take notice and embrace the joy in the simple moments of everyday life. Of connecting more with people in my everyday life – cashiers, postal workers and our UPS driver. Being thankful for the wonderful blessing of living in our small mountain town and the refuge we find being in nature in our National Forest.”

Leslie Lattin wrote, “Sore ears.”

Karen Bartholomew added, “My mom is in Pine Ridge with dementia and haven’t been able to see her for months except through a closed window. She doesn’t do facetime, skype or cell phones. She’s been so isolated for so long and her dementia is declining because of it.”

We wish we had room to share everyone’s thoughts. Thank you to everyone who responded. Stay safe. 

How has the COVID-19 pandemic changed your life? http://www.pagosasun.com/how-has-the-covid-19-pandemic-changed-your-life/ Thu, 06 Aug 2020 21:00:25 +0000 http://www.pagosasun.com/?p=208273 By Terri Lynn Oldham House

On Jan. 30, the World Health Organization declared the worldwide outbreak of COVID-19 a “public health emergency of international concern.”

On Jan. 31, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services declared the virus a public health emergency.

On Feb. 26, Rhonda Webb, CEO of the Pagosa Springs Medical Center, activated the district’s emergency operations plan for a pandemic.

On March 14, when Gov. Jared Polis closed down Wolf Creek Ski Area right at the start of the biggest week of spring break, our tourist-based economy came crashing down.

Two days later, a public health order closed bars, restaurants, theaters and casinos statewide.

Things have certainly changed in our community since then. We have witnessed an amazing resilience in our community. 

This week we reached out to The SUN’s Facebook followers and asked: “How has the COVID-19 pandemic changed your life?”

The following are some of the unedited responses that we’ve received.

Judith Farnam shared, “I think it is hard. We tend to choose what we believe and go with it. As a country, we tend to be pretty spoiled. Lots of freedom, ability to travel, etc. Then that just went away. I decided to try to embrace the change. I’m a nurse and believe in science. Do I love wearing a mask? No, never did, but I wear one. I stayed home and did my best. Developed more strategies for coping. Do I miss my family who don’t live close? Absolutely! My motto became stay calm and carry on. I have spent lots of time making masks, gardening and trying to make the best of it.”

Cindy Lucero wrote, “Not finding lysol disinfectant spray is the only thing thats got me in a sling , what happened to it. I think because it works they did away with it.”

Deirdre Denali Rosenberg added, “Avoiding places we normally would go, because of so many from out of state. And just being pretty shocked by how nasty and cruel neighbors are being with each other for pretty much no reason.”

Barbara Munro shared, “The biggest change we have experienced so far from COVID-19 is no traveling. We canceled going to Spring training in Arizona, an RV trip to WDW, and a steamboat cruise. I love Pagosa Springs, so it’s not a bad place to be when you have to stay home. We have tried to support local businesses, in a limited capacity, however, we do not support any business that does not enforce the governor’s mandate to wear masks.”

Carla Taylor added, “Not much, but have supported my local restaurants, by carryout/ curb side pick up. I feel really bad for all the small businesses.”

Misty Carrasco wrote, “Nothing really for my family. Just the inability to go anywhere without a mask and being criticized if you don’t have one on. And also the hate that has risen in people. Its horrible how even a small.town like pagosa has become so hateful.”

Katelyn Lopez shared, “I do my part and wear a mask because I care for humanity even now more than ever. During the first shutdown I was out of work from March 16-May 27th and still have anxiety of the fear of shutting down again. I bartend and serve here in town and it’s been a tough summer just getting back into the swing of things. As a community during the shutdown people really came together to suppet local businesses. People have been hateful but there has been a lot of good from covid. So let’s not forget about our community and that we will always come out stronger from difficult times.”

Leila Johnston responded, “Katelyn Lopez , pm me where you work!! We will stop in for a cocktail.”

Jan Havens shared, “I pretty much stay home. Cautious because of health issues. God bless my daughter, she does almost all shopping and errands.”

Nikki Taylor wrote, “Its brought the meanest, self entitled group of tourists here in an effort to escape their own conditions at home. They have no regard for our county environmentally, they are rude to our service personnel and somehow believe that w/out them Pagosa would be nothing. The massive influx has changed our town drastically and therefore has changed life here for locals. I think we would have seen much more community unity and concern had there not been such massive influx. So much second home ownership has not helped either. Money is not God. Pagosa could have been so much more than a tourist trap. Or a Coronavirus escape destination.”

Suzette Peak noted, “True test of humanity. Many passed. Epic fail for the rest!”

Tammy Boen wrote, “I go about my everyday life. I do the same thing every day. I go to work and I come home. I go to bed and start all over again the next day. The only thing that has really changed is is having to wear a mask 10 hrs a day and having to deal with the stupidity of those who can’t give up a few minutes of having respect for the safety of others.”

Sally Logee Neel added, “We retired from ministry after spending the past 12 years at St Patrick’s Episcopal Church. It was sad not to be able to give hugs to our beloved friends. Lack of physical contact was particularly hard as we are a hugging congregation!”

Jenny Iguchi shared, “HUGS! I miss giving and receiving HUGS!”

Kameron Averitt Swithin added, “I fully respect all of the new rules, and I want to protect my neighbors! But, it breaks my heart when my 3 year old cries when I tell her that she can’t give someone a hug…”

Anita Rowe Hinger chimed in, “I clean my house for ‘entertainment.’ But seriously, I make a more conscious effort to be thankful and not take connecting with others for granted. I’m getting better at shutting out people who speak /post negativity and toxicity. Even these current circumstances can end up being the best thing that ever happened, depending on mindset. I’m determined to make it so!”

Jeff Switzer wrote, “We have not been able to come back to visit friends in Pagosa. That was part of our plan when we moved last year! Jeff and Betty”

Rhonda Webb added, “How has it not changed my life would be a shorter answer.”

Beth Anderson Einig shared, “I really miss dancing to Tim Sullivan!!”

Lora-Jean Wilson wrote, “I have many friends who caught the virus and who have passed away from it. A friend of mine passed away from Covid last week leaving her daughter’s behind as a single mom.”

Kimberly Jean White added, “We haven’t felt comfortable traveling so haven’t been able to see our kids in California.”

Annie Stone shared, “I have taken the isolation time to learn & create. I’m a weaver & I’ve tried & made a lot of new things. I also miss my friends sorely.”

We received so many answers that we don’t have room to print them all this week. We will share more next week. Until then, be safe and wear your mask, if you are able.  

Public meetings in a pandemic http://www.pagosasun.com/public-meetings-in-a-pandemic/ Thu, 30 Jul 2020 21:00:10 +0000 http://www.pagosasun.com/?p=208007 By Terri Lynn Oldham House

We’ve participated in what seems like a million virtual meetings since March.

We’ve attended trainings, award ceremonies, news briefings and reunions from the comfort of home. We’ve all had to learn to do new and different things during this pandemic.

The full version of this story is available in the print edition and e-edition of the Pagosa Springs SUN. Subscribe today by calling (970)264-2100 or click here.

We’ll see you at the Archuleta County 4-H Fair http://www.pagosasun.com/well-see-you-at-the-archuleta-county-4-h-fair/ Thu, 23 Jul 2020 21:00:21 +0000 http://www.pagosasun.com/?p=207757 By Terri Lynn Oldham House

The real heart and soul of the Archuleta County Fair is the junior livestock show, where youth active in 4-H showcase their months of work caring for and feeding animals. 

This year will be no different. With the cancellation of the fair as we know it, the Archuleta County 4-H Fair will still go on, albeit in a rather unique and innovative manner.

Throughout this time of uncertainty due to COVID-19, our livestock project kids continue to work hard on their projects, in the hopes of being able to provide a buyer with quality raised meat. 

For many of these young exhibitors, the money they make from the livestock auction helps pay for a college education.

The Archuleta County Livestock Committee decided to hold virtual livestock shows and a virtual auction this year. Its goal is to ensure the safety of kids, buyers and volunteers. 

You will find these virtual events online at archuletacountyfair.com.

The general public is not allowed to attend the 4-H shows, due to the pandemic, but the shows are being brought to you via livestream links on the website. 

There will be a swine show, horse show, gymkhana, poultry show, turkey show, lamb show, goat show, steer show and even a dog show, with a complete schedule available online. If you happen to miss a show you wanted to attend, there will be links to the recorded shows on the site. 

4-H Coordinator Becky Jacobson shared in the past that one of her favorite moments of the Archuleta County Fair is watching high school senior 4-H participants assisting the first-year 4-H members, who are as young as 8 years old, during the master showman contest.

“It is the culmination of all the years they have put into 4-H and they are giving back,” she explained while attempting to hold back her tears. “They are being patient, careful and watching out for the safety of the younger participants.”

The learned experience of the older members is shared with those who are following in their footsteps. Considering that some of those youngsters are handling steers that average some 1,300 pounds, safety is of utmost importance.

There might be no other event during the year in the county that has as much tradition attached to it as the annual livestock auction. This year’s virtual livestock auction will be held Saturday, Aug. 1, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. You can view and participate in the event at archuletacountyfair.com.

Buyers and add-on buyers must preregister. There is a link on the site which will take you to the registration page. 

Before the auction, you will receive a password to allow you to login to the event at 6 p.m. where you will see all of the animals that are for sale. You will also be able to view the current bid for each animal. You will be notified via email if you get outbid so that you can increase your bid.

Short videos and pictures of the 4-H’er and their animal will also be available for bidders to view. 

As always at the livestock auction, you will be able to do add-ons. You can do this during the virtual auction or you are welcome to drop off your add-ons to the Extension Office before or after the auction. For more information about add-ons please call Jacobson or Terry Schaaf at 264-5931, or you can email rjacobson@archuletacounty.org or tschaaf@archuletacounty.org with questions or to get help registering for the auction.

This great slice of Archuleta County life and heritage known as the fair doesn’t come off successfully without the support of livestock buyers. Auction organizers and 4-H youth are hoping for a repeat of last year’s auction success. 

To get an idea of how the auction will be held, there is even an auction tutorial on the website that is available for viewing now. We urge you to go ahead and preregister as a buyer to ensure a seamless process on auction day.

For those of us who love the tradition of attending the 4-H Chuckwagon Dinner before Saturday night’s livestock auction, you may not be able to enjoy the meal, but you can still support the 4-H program as a whole by making a donation at www.archuletacountyfair.com, where you can click on the green 4-H four-leaf clover. 

Before COVID-19, you would find more than 140 volunteers selling tickets, doing the setup, decorating, serving and cleaning up for this 4-H fundraiser. Jacobson estimated that 900-plus people are typically fed and entertained over two hours at the dinner.

The 4-H organization appreciates any donation you can make to help replace this major event.

There are approximately 140 youth, ages 5 to 18, who participate in Archuleta County’s 4-H program. 4-H has been one of the leading youth organizations in the nation for more than 100 years. The program helps youth enhance their communities and their lives.

The sign-up for the program is in October, and clubs meet monthly or sometimes weekly. There are also 4-H leadership camps and opportunities for youth to take on leadership roles such as local club or state offices.

These 4-H kids even participate in community service projects such as walking dogs at the Humane Society of Pagosa Springs, cleaning up trash along area roads and serving up lunches for Loaves and Fishes. During Domestic Violence Awareness month, they assist the Rise Above Violence organization with projects.

You don’t have to have a livestock project to participate in 4-H. Sewing, photography, fishing, home design, cat and dog projects, horses, alpacas, rocketry, woodworking, cake decorating, cooking, beekeeping, wildlife, veterinary science and scrapbooking are all ways our youth can become involved in 4-H.

Local 4-H volunteer leaders teach these youngsters and inspire them to succeed and leave an impact on our community. 

Next week is the time for Archuleta County 4-H members to shine. We encourage you to show up virtually and support the hard work and dedication of these fine young men and women.

Even as a virtual event, the fair gives us all a chance to celebrate ourselves, our community and the things that make Archuleta County great. 

We’ll “see” you at the Archuleta County 4-H Fair. 

Bodhi’s bike: A gift in more ways than one http://www.pagosasun.com/bodhis-bike-a-gift-in-more-ways-than-one/ Thu, 16 Jul 2020 11:00:11 +0000 http://www.pagosasun.com/?p=207378 By Terri Lynn Oldham House

There is nothing quite like a 7-year-old boy’s love for his bike.

It was natural that when Bodhi King celebrated his birthday weekend at the Town Park Athletic Field with friends and family, his bike went along with him to the party.

When his family was leaving the park to return home, it was discovered that Bodhi’s purple Fit Misfit BMX bike was missing. 

His parents reached out to friends on social media for help in recovering the bike, which had been his Christmas present.

 Those friends reached out to other friends, sharing the post about Bodhi’s bike. 

The SUN shared his mom’s post to the newspaper’s Facebook group, where it was spotted by Susan Sorce. 

Susan and her husband, Ken, live in the Aspen Springs subdivision and they have a Facebook group known as Aspen Springs CommUNITY.

“I just wanted people out here to know to keep an eye out for that bike. A lot of the people out here take their kids to town to play and I just wanted to let them know what had happened and to keep an eye out for that bike,” wrote Susan about why she shared the missing bike post in her Aspen Springs group.

Susan is just that sort of person, providing information to the group in order to help others. In her caring fashion, she also shares posts about lost pets, accidents, fires and such with her friends and neighbors. 

The group is pretty popular in her subdivision and you will find people helping each other all the time in myriad ways.

As a matter of fact, Roper the dog was happily reunited with his family in no time, thanks to a post in the group the same day that Susan posted about the missing bike.

As social media goes, it didn’t take long for those in the Aspen Springs CommUNITY group to start expressing their sadness and disdain over Bodhi’s stolen BMX bike. 

Jan Havens wrote: “Takes a real quality person to steal a kids bike. What an ____.” 

We’ll let you fill in the blank there.

Anne Jo Lee Hill exclaimed “Just, wow, who steals a kids bike?!”

It didn’t take long for Elle Craig to redirect the subject from who would do this to a child and pose the question: “If it doesn’t turn up who wants to pitch in and buy a new one for this young man? Isn’t that what CommUnity is about? 

“Let’s make his Birthday better than this incident. Does anyone know his mother?”

Sandy Freeman was the first person to reach out and chip in to help buy Bodhi a new bike. 

She was quickly followed by a pledge from Niara Terela Isley. Then, Darrin Strickland, Becky Woods Ziminsky and Cindi Galaty Galabota all chimed in, wanting to give to the cause.

Steven Keno wasn’t sheepish when he wrote: “Count me in. Lets show them how the community can come together.”

Jason Okash stepped up with $40 to help a kid get a new bike. 

Ken and Susan chipped in, too, with Ken exclaiming, “I love our Community!”

It was looking very much like this group was going to make sure that a 7-year-old boy would receive the best gift ever.

Chris Torres asked the group for confirmation that Bodhi would be getting another bike. 

Others were determined to keep looking for the missing bike.

Lori Ayers shared that she had asked her teens to ask their friends to keep an eye out for Bodhi’s bike in town. 

Others shared their own experience and were determined to help make a difference.

“Who can I give my support and $ to….. I’m in!!!!!! My daughter had her bike stolen once…. We found it later at the bottom of a bridge. All busted up of course. It broke her heart,” Deborah Lubeck added. “This is unbelievable that someone would be so callous and cruel to take a kids bike. On his birthday no less!!!! Despicable!!!!”

When Elle came back online later, she was pleased at what had transpired in her absence, “Wow! I’m back online. You all are amazing! This is wonderful!”

In a matter of hours, this group of Aspen Springs residents had lived up to the Facebook group’s name: Aspen Springs CommUNITY. 

A couple of group members reached out to Bodhi’s mom for more information. 

“You all have restored my faith in my home town,” Ivy King responded in a Facebook message. “Just knowing there are people left like you all makes my heart happy …

“Please extend our thanks to all the Springers for even thinking about this! I’m crying!! Just sending me this is enough. 

“Side note: his auntie had offered yesterday to take care of a bike for him. 

“I am so grateful for all of you to even think of him. Absolutely wonderful.”

Ivy included a few heart emojis in her message to express her love for the kind gesture.

“It’s really is ‘faith restoring’ to see this kind of love and support,” wrote Becky Woods Ziminsky. “…When people want to know more about this area I am always proud to talk about our little community within a community. 

“The hearts of you, all my neighbors, is refreshing in this crazy world. This incident isn’t about the bike anymore as a family member stepped in but for Bodhi to know for every ‘bad egg’ out there there are 10 more good ones that will step up and stand up for what’s right! – Bravo [Aspen Springs]!!”

You might think that is where the story ended. It is not. 

Elle asked her friends, “So, Tomorrow I’d like to go get a Birthday card and I’ll contact each of you who said they’d like to pitch in. Given that his Aunt is buying his bike I thought we could get him a gift card. I’m open to any other suggestions. Becky Woods Ziminsky, would you mind helping me in coordinating this?”

The group decided to reach out to Maria Olsen at the Turkey Springs Trading Post to allow people to drop off donations/gifts for Bodhi and to have them sign a card at her store.

Justin Timmerman, Linda Gunnels, Annie Stone and Christopher Gray joined in to support the effort, with Maria and David at the trading post also contributing to the gift fund.

What a difference one community can make in restoring one’s faith in humanity after it was stolen on a 7-year-old boy’s birthday, along with his bike.

The story brings to mind one of our favorite quotes by Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”


Proposed URA limitation is excessive http://www.pagosasun.com/proposed-ura-limitation-is-excessive/ Thu, 09 Jul 2020 11:00:48 +0000 http://www.pagosasun.com/?p=207014 By Terri Lynn Oldham House

Eligible voters are being asked if the Town of Pagosa Springs Home Rule Charter should be amended, as set forth by Ordinance No. 932, by the addition of the following provision: “Any proposal by the Town Council or by the Pagosa Springs Urban Renewal Authority to use Tax Increment Financing (TIF) must first be approved by the Town electors whenever the total TIF revenues are expected to exceed $1 million ($1,000,000) over the life of the project.”

We believe this limitation is excessive and unnecessary.

For years, community leaders have sought ways to finance the economic development of our community.

In November, the Pagosa Springs Town Council formed an urban renewal authority (URA), which provides additional economic development financing tools for our community. By passing this amendment to the town’s charter, the URA would be greatly limited in working with developers of potential projects. 

The 11-member URA commission was slated to consist of the seven town council members, an elected member from the school board, one person appointed by the county commissioners, one mayoral appointee and one person collectively appointed by the special districts that levy taxes within the URA boundaries.

Archuleta County Assessor Natalie Woodruff was appointed as the county representative, J.R. Ford was selected to be the special district representative and Greg Schulte was selected as the mayoral appointee. The Archuleta School District Board of Education declined to have representation on the URA commission.

The commission consists of leaders who have been elected by the voters or appointed by elected officials. We believe that these leaders have the knowledge, experience and integrity to perform the duties of the commission. These leaders are tasked with doing the work, studying the issues, reading reports and balancing the interests of those they represent, and they should be trusted with those responsibilities. 

TIF financing is a source of funding that takes the new taxes generated by the improvements of a development to pay for the public infrastructure necessary for that development. It does not use any taxes that existed previously. The taxing districts will get what they’ve always received, plus inflationary increase. 

The petition proposing the change to the charter was circulated by local citizens in an effort to stymie the use of TIF financing for public infrastructure such as sidewalks, additional roads and more in future developments.

Developers have to pay for the construction of the development on the site, with the TIF only reimbursing for the public infrastructure.

These days $1 million doesn’t buy you much when it comes to infrastructure. The current proposal is just too small of a cap to place on the commission.

While it sounds like a good idea to some that the voters should have the right to make the decision, we ponder, if the community doesn’t trust the leaders we have, then why do we have them?

More than that, TIF financing is not decided by the URA board. That is done in agreement with each local taxing entity negotiating the amount of revenues it would allow a potential project to receive.

For those concerned, under current law, the school district would be made whole by the state for any amount it allocates to a project as the state is required to backfill any amount that is pledged to TIF revenues by a school district and there will be no impact to the district’s finances.

We’ve witnessed the time and thoughtfulness our elected officials have put into researching and asking questions about forming a URA. We know that they do not take this responsibility lightly.

On Tuesday night, the URA commission passed a resolution adopting a guiding vision and development principles for the URA. Those items are consistent with the Pagosa Springs Comprehensive Plan. 

The commissioners for the URA agreed on a guiding vision: “Pagosa Springs desires to promote and sustain an authentic Colorado mountain experience in a culturally rich, economically diverse town set in a vibrant, healthy environment. The very existence of the Pagosa Springs Urban Renewal Authority and its efforts should be in support of this vision.”

They also established a mission statement: “The PSURA’s mission is to facilitate public and private investment in underutilized areas to address community priorities and create thriving places.”

The Pagosa Springs Urban Renewal Authority adopted the development principles to guide its efforts and resources. Some of those principles are:

• “Pagosa Springs endeavors to offer a diversity of business, education and job opportunities, supporting an economically viable community, with primary job creation and economic redevelopment being twin pillars of the intent of the PSURA.”

• “We value, protect, and enhance the beauty and health of our natural environment.”

• “We utilize, promote, and support geothermal, biomass, solar and other alternative energy as a cornerstone of community sustainability and economic development.’

• “We embrace, sustain, and preserve our historic landmarks, sites, districts, and structures and we celebrate our history and cultural heritage.”

• “The Town of Pagosa Springs offers zoning and land use regulations that support: a balanced mix of land uses, densities, neighborhood types and commercial areas; development that adds vibrancy and density while maintaining the community’s unique, authentic and small town character; and residential development and infill at an array of price points to attract and retain workers within the community.”

• “We believe it is critical to plan, build, and maintain necessary infrastructure to support the community.”

• “We affirmatively discourage the use of eminent domain for PSURA projects and view it as a tool of the very last resort.”

As demonstrated by the thoughtfulness of the above principles, we believe the URA members have the best interests of our community in mind. We believe they will diligently work on our behalf to make important decisions.

At the same meeting where this vision and mission were approved, the new owner of the former Adobe Building property on Lewis Street inquired about working with the URA. 

No project has currently been submitted to the URA commission for consideration, including the 27-acre multiuse development adjacent to The Springs Resort and Spa or the property on Lewis Street.

If any project comes before the URA commission, it would be the responsibility of the commission to examine the details of the proposal. We believe it would be unwise to put such a low limit on the size of a project that the commission can approve without an election.

There are already multiple layers of checks and balances in the URA and our taxing districts, which include the Upper San Juan Library District, San Juan Water Conservancy District, Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District, Pagosa Fire Protection District, Upper San Juan Health Service District, Southwestern Water Conservation District and Pagosa Springs Sanitation General Improvement District.

We don’t need to place additional limitations on the process. We need to let them do what they were selected to do. While many of us do not like change, we shouldn’t resist new ways of doing things.

We are not big fans of unlimited growth. We do, however, believe in thoughtful and planned growth. 

We do not love change, but change is going to continue to happen here in Pagosa Country, just as it has happened for hundreds of years.