FIVE FRIDGES FARM’S GOATS ARE STILL MISSING as the Neighborhood Gazette went to press, but the company is “overwhelmed with gratitude for the community helping us find the missing boys,” including seven trained volunteers from Colorado 4x4 Rescue and Recovery conducting a search on Jan. 1. PHOTO COURTESY OF 5 FRIDGES FARM
By Nancy Hahn
If you live in Wheat Ridge, watch the news or read NextDoor, you have heard about Five Fridges Farms missing male goats: Wendell, Daryl and his other brother Darryl, Yoda and Creampuff.
Sometime between Dec. 30 and New Years Eve morning, the gate to their pen at the Kipling Trailhead Open Space was opened, and they haven’t been seen since. Volunteers and the Wheat Ridge Police have searched all along Clear Creek and the Greenbelt.
What is it that has made the entire community so concerned? Goats have distinct personalities and enjoy people. When they thought I wasn’t looking, my own children repeatedly shared their breakfast cereal with Mr. Stubbs, our first goat. He followed them to the bus stop. I’m sure teachers heard, “My goat ate my homework.”
Wheat Ridge has enjoyed many opportunities to get to know the goats from Five Fridges Farm. Five Fridges has shared their goats with the community for years. In 2017, Dr. Amanda Weaver of Five Fridges Farm was concerned about chemical weed killers being used beside 38th Avenue by the farm. As CU Denver Senior Instructor of Urban Geography, Weaver was concerned about finding safe, sustainable solutions. So, instead of the city using chemicals, the LaMancha male goats performed weed control along 38th. Then, the goats spent several weeks in a one-acre fenced area in Lewis Meadows Park.
Since that time the goats have worked throughout Wheat Ridge, around the Wheat Ridge Rec Center, and other areas around town. When they worked, visitors stopped by got to know them. This arrangement benefited everyone, Weaver explained: The goats enjoy eating the noxious weeds, and the weed seeds that pass through a goat will not sprout. The goats will, also, munch the grass down to about five inches.
Last August the community was invited to meet at Lewis Meadows Park to walk the goats home. The male goats had spent time again weeding and grass trimming. A big group of Wheat Ridge residents arrived. The gate was opened and a big mixed group of goats and people of all ages started walking home. They were a few younger goats that tended to wander. They had to wear leashes. Children, who needed a job, held their leashes. The goats enjoy people and were quite happy to follow along.
In September, the male goats walked to the Kipling Trailhead Open Space off 38th and Kipling Street. When the goats are penned they have goat houses, fresh water, lots of hay and lots of visitors.
Children talk to them and pass handfuls of grass and weeds through the fence. The goats know their names and are quite friendly.
A reward of $2,500 is being offered for information leading to the goats recovery. If you have any information you can call CrimeStoppers at 720-913-7867, text DMCS and your message to 274637, or go to MetroDenverCrimeStoppers.com/tip.
By Mike McKibbin
One of the largest private employers in Wheat Ridge will get a partial rebate of city use tax the company paid related to a planned four-phase renovation and expansion project.
The Rocky Mountain Bottle Co. submitted a request to participate in the city’s business development zone program. The company paid $1.05 million in city use tax associated with the first phase of a possible $120 million renovation project at their plant, 10619 W. 50th Ave. in Wheat Ridge. City staff recommended a 25 percent rebate, or approximately $262,500, and that council agree to future rebate amounts through 2021, when the full project is scheduled to end. City council consensus at a Dec. 17 study session was to grant the request.
Existing Wheat Ridge companies and companies relocating to the city can ask to be included in the program for a partial rebate of use tax and other fees paid for new construction or redevelopment. The program allows a maximum rebate of 75 percent of use tax on building materials, furniture and fixtures associated with the development, building permit fees and zoning fees.
According to the council agenda packet, the project will replace two of the company’s three furnaces with one larger furnace that uses cleaner-burning oxy-fuel technology to lower emissions and increase energy efficiency.
A second phase under consideration for later this year would expand plant capacity and a third phase slated for 2020 would add new technology for production monitoring and quality inspections. A fourth phase would include rebuilding the third furnace in 2021.
“Part of this request will help us remain competitive and continue in the years to come,” plant manager William Dillaman told the council.
City Manager Patrick Goff said if the company does spend around $120 million on the four-phase project, they would receive a total rebate of around $630,000.
EPA settlement that calls for plant improvements not mentioned at council meeting
The project will also meet the terms of a 2017 settlement Rocky Mountain Bottle Co. reached with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment over a furnace expansion project in the late 1990s. It was done without obtaining permits or installing required pollution control equipment and resulted in significantly increased emissions of nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide.
Nitrogen oxides (NOx) can cause or contribute to health problems and adverse environmental impacts, such as ground-level ozone, acid rain, global warming, water quality deterioration and visual impairment, according to the EPA. Children and people with lung diseases such as asthma are most affected, along with possible lung tissue damage for people who work or exercise outside.
High concentrations of sulfur dioxide (SO2) can affect breathing and may aggravate existing respiratory and cardiovascular disease, especially among asthmatics, those with bronchitis or emphysema, children and the elderly. SO2 is also a primary contributor to acid deposition or acid rain.
The EPA also alleged the company violated part of the Clean Air Act by failing to submit a complete permit application. The company agreed to pay a $475,000 civil penalty, split between the federal and state governments.
The settlement required the company to install new controls to reduce NOx and SO2 emissions by the end of March 2019 and to monitor for emissions every hour.
The settlement noted the company will convert two of its three furnaces to one oxy-fuel furnace, as outlined to city council. Such furnaces mix pure oxygen — produced at Rocky Mountain Bottle Co.’s site — with natural gas to increase efficiency and reduce emissions. The third furnace already uses oxy-fuel combustion and the new furnace will reduce NOx emissions by approximately 60 percent. The company must route all emissions through a continuously operating scrubber system to reduce SO2 emissions by about the same amount. The EPA estimated the new equipment will result in a 200 tons-per-year reduction in NOx emissions and 150 tons-per-year reduction in SO2 emissions.
The settlement was not referenced in the council packet nor mentioned during the council study session. Mayor Bud Starker said he was unaware of the settlement when asked in an interview.
“It might have been a useful piece of information,” Starker said. “But I’m not sure what obligation city staff has to ferret out every bit of information there is about everything.”
Starker added he was unsure knowledge of the settlement would have made a difference in the council’s consensus to move forward with the rebate request.
In an interview, Dillaman said the settlement was not included in the company’s presentation on the advice of a consultant who helps companies identify and obtain government rebate programs, Duff & Phelps.
“The advice was that it wasn’t pertinent to the discussion about use tax and rebates,” he added. “But we think it is the correct thing to do to meet the requirements in the settlement as we move forward with this project.”
Company could add more workers
The council packet noted Rocky Mountain Bottle is a glass container manufacturing joint venture between Owens-Illinois Inc. and MillerCoors. The company began as the Columbine Glass Co. in 1970. The approximately 400,000-square-foot plant is on 17.5 acres and includes a recycling facility that processes recycled glass for its bottles. The plant makes six bottle types and about 3.5 million bottles per day for over 30 varieties of beer. Bottles are shipped primarily to MillerCoors breweries in California, Colorado, Texas and Wisconsin.
The packet called the company one of the largest private employers in Wheat Ridge, with 226 full-time permanent employees. Total annual payroll exceeds $23 million, with average annual wages of about $100,000, well above the Jefferson County average wage of $57,824. Between 15-18 new full-time permanent jobs could be created at the facility by the end of 2019.
In addition, a significant amount of local labor among approximately 180 contractors will likely complete the project. That could include local millwrights, masons, electricians and other skilled labor. Local labor project costs could be in the range of $15 million to $17 million.
“I HAVE WRITTEN POETRY ALL MY LIFE, including as a young child,” said Sharon Heinlen, Wheat Ridge’s first-ever Poet In Residence. PHOTO COURTESY CITY OF WHEAT RIDGE
By Elisabeth Monaghan
When visitors come to Wheat Ridge, they don’t have to go far to discover public art on display throughout the city. That’s because through its Cultural Commission, the City of Wheat Ridge is committed to promoting the arts and the artists who live in the area. To celebrate Wheat Ridge’s 50th Anniversary in 2019, the City’s Cultural Commission has integrated poetry as part of its program with the recent appointment of its first Poet in Residence.
When Wheat Ridge resident Sharon Heinlen learned about the newly created Poet in Residence program, she recognized an opportunity to merge her love for the community where she’s lived for 18 years, with her passion for poetry.
“I have written poetry all my life, including as a young child,” Heinlen explains. “Poetry was a part of my public-school education, K-12, and it instilled in me the importance of this art form and its contribution to society and communities.”
As a poet, Heinlen, who currently serves as an adjunct professor in humanities and social sciences university graduate programs, communicates with words that read or sound like poetry, even in what would be considered “every day communication.” For example, in an email explaining what poetry means to her, Heinlen writes, “Words, phrases and paragraphs in poetry record, explain, give hope and comfort to that which we live by – the human heart. Poetry reins not just as evidence of a fantasy life on the part of the poet, but quite often as a beacon of reality that inspires those of us who live moment by moment, day by day.”
In her application for the Poet in Residence appointment, Heinlen included a poem she wrote, “Neighborly Inspiration” (see sidebar). She wrote the poem based on her interactions with an elderly neighbor she met just after she moved to Wheat Ridge. Over the years, the gentleman, who became Heinlen’s treasured friend, taught her about the area’s history. He also helped her appreciate the uniqueness of the community. Heinlen says she continues to be inspired by Wheat Ridge’s history and culture, or as what she describes as the city’s “points of light and interest, the progressive commitment to art in public places and especially our easy access to stunningly beautiful natural resources.”
When she found out the Wheat Ridge Cultural Commission had selected her to be its first Poet in Residence, Heinlen’s first reaction was surprised, and then she was humbled because she knows of several talented poets who live in Wheat Ridge. Teaching at a variety of colleges and universities since 1973, Heinlen is excited about working with students during the second year of the Poetry in Residence program and considers it an honor.
“Part of this honor, that really inspired me in the first place, was the potential opportunity to work with young people in year two of the appointment,” says Heinlen. “The open-heartedness and often incredible wisdom of youth is a gift to all of us.”
During her first year as Poet in Residence, Heinlen will create original poems, which she will read at public celebrations of Wheat Ridge’s 50th Anniversary, as well as the grand reopening of Anderson Park, Ridgefest and the Wheat Ridge Holiday Lighting. Her poems also will be posted on Wheat Ridge’s social media pages, as well as in city publications.
To learn more about the Poet in Residence program or other activities the Wheat Ridge Cultural Commission sponsors, visit www.ci.wheatridge.co.us/100/Cultural-Commission.
By Mike McKibbin
As Edgewater city officials settle into the new Civic Center building, the most recent city hall building could be under contract for sale in a few months.
The city is negotiating a contract for the sale of the recently vacated municipal building at West 24th Street and Sheridan Boulevard. The building was constructed as an office furniture store in the mid-1980s and was sold to the city in 1995 to serve as the “new” city hall. At the end of last year, the building was replaced by the new $12.5 million, 55,000 square-foot Civic Center, about six blocks away at 1800 Harlan St.
The Civic Center includes a 5,000-square-foot fitness center, 10,000-square-foot gymnasium, 10,000-square-foot Jefferson County Public Library, 6,000-square-foot police department, plus 6,000 square feet for administrative offices, 5,000 square feet of basement space, 3,000 square feet of public meeting, entry and atrium space, and 3,000 square feet of unfinished space for future use.
The city sold properties at West 25th and Gray — which included previous city hall, fire department and library buildings — in August. The owners of the 25th and Gray property, CSI-Edgewater, LLC, also own corner properties to the west and south. The four parcels are to be developed as Edgewater Town Square, a commercial project.
City Manager H.J. Stalf said shortly after the start of this year that a contract for the sale of the West 24th and Sheridan building might be finalized and plans presented to the city planning and zoning commission in February or March. The anticipated use of the building is a restaurant, but details remain to be worked out, according to a city email newsletter. The use and sale could be finalized this summer.
Meanwhile, city council held their last meeting at the West 24th and Sheridan building on Nov. 1 and their first meeting in the Civic Center council chambers on Dec. 6.
Starting Jan. 15, council meetings will be held on Tuesday nights rather than Thursday nights. Mayor Linda Keegan said the change was made “very simply” because Tuesday nights were felt to be more convenient for council members, “as well as allowing the council to have all weekend to review our upcoming packets, too,” Keegan wrote in an email.
Council meetings will continue to begin at 7 p.m. on the first Tuesdays of each month and when needed.
WHEN FIRSTBANK BOUGHT THE STONEWALL MOTEL PROPERTY on West Colfax, they donated the sign to the Colfax Museum. “They delivered it here and everything,” says curator Jonny Barber. PHOTO BY LAURIE DUNKLEE
By Laurie Dunklee
The story of Colfax deserves to be told,” says Jonny Barber, a musician, former Elvis impersonator and curator of the Colfax Museum. “Colfax was the richest street in Denver — the grand dame — but she fell on hard times. People gave up on her, but it’s important to reclaim that history.”
The Colfax Museum, opening soon at Colfax and Pierce in Pasternack’s Art Hub, is stuffed with an eclectic collection of memorabilia, including neon signs from iconic former businesses on Colfax. Sid King’s Crazy Horse Bar, an infamous strip joint on East Colfax for 35 years, lives on in its neon sign, now repaired.
“I also have both mannequins that were on display above the sign,” Barber says.
The neon from Freedom Harley-Davidson on West Colfax also shines proudly, as does neon touting refrigerators and color TVs from former Colfax stores. The Stonewall Motel sign sits in the courtyard, which Barber plans to turn into a performance space.
“It’s great to activate this key bridge between Casa Bonita and the 40 West Arts District, especially since 2019 is Lakewood’s 50th anniversary as a city,” says Barber.
Barber was collecting Colfax items in his basement for 14 years, until he was offered a space in the back room of Ed Moore Florist on East Colfax in 2017. The building was sold this year and he moved into Pasternack’s, formerly a pawn shop, only to face several shut-downs and a flood.
“Eighteen inches of water ran right through our building after a crazy summer storm. I had a feeling about it before it happened, so I moved everything to the elevated room [formerly the police holding room for confiscated items].”
Barber loves all things Colfax.
“No matter what the storyline, there’s always a weird turn. Colfax is where the odd, eccentric and outrageous characters fit in. Whatever it says about me, Colfax is the street where I feel most at home, where I can be myself. I say, ‘Keep it weird.’”
Inside the Colfax Museum hangs a giant beer-can airplane that hung over the bar at The Hangar Bar on East Colfax.
“The Hangar Bar shut its doors last summer, just short of its 80th birthday,” said Barber.
The collection also includes organs from Music City, as well as ephemera like matchbooks, posters and photos from various venues. Among the mementos are a set of salt-and-pepper pigs from Eddie Bohn’s Pig ‘n’ Whistle restaurant on West Colfax; and a metal pin with two dangling skates from Mammoth Gardens’ days as a skating rink. In the “way back” department is a 150-million-year-old stegosaurus footprint, “quarried when they put the original Highway 40 through,” Barber says.
Born in San Francisco, Barber got a taste for unusual characters early on.
“My mom took banjo lessons from Jerry Garcia, before he was Jerry Garcia.”
At age 8 he started playing guitar; it was 1977, the year Elvis Presley died. Barber attended school in Salt Lake City and Seattle, where he found himself in the middle of the grunge music scene.
“We opened for Nirvana. But I didn’t fit in with grunge — too depressing.”
Barber brought his music and song-writing talents to Denver in 1995. Because making a living was “brutal,” he started impersonating Elvis in 2004.
“It started as a joke. I’d do random Elvis sightings on the 16th St. Mall and at Burger King.”
“The Velvet Elvis” became a success as he sang all over the country, from Red Rocks to Graceland. In 2011, The Velvet Elvis was pronounced dead of a heart attack en route to Rose Medical Center; but he was sighted in 2013 and 2014 (at a Burger King on Colfax). “I finally had to turn off my Elvis-ness,” Barber said.
Since opening the Colfax Museum, Barber is gaining recognition for preserving the history of Colfax. In 2017 he received the Heart and Soul Character of Colfax Award from the Colfax Avenue Business Improvement District; and the Colfax Museum was named Westword’s Best New Museum. Recently he was made an honorary member of the Schuyler Colfax Society.
Colfax Avenue is part of Highway 40, once a transcontinental route that stretched from Atlantic City, N.J., all the way to San Francisco.
“All the tourists passed through Colorado on Highway 40,” Barber said. “It was like a little Las Vegas, with its elaborate neon signs enticing travelers to restaurants, entertainment and motels.”
He said Colfax runs 53 miles, from Table Mountain in Golden to the eastern plains.
“I don’t know whether it’s the longest street in America, but it’s the longest main, commercial street.”
Colfax’s heyday as a tourist attraction ended when traffic was diverted onto the new Interstate 70 in the late 1960s and 1970s.
“The Colfax strip went to hookers, drug dealers and hippies. In the 1980s it was like a ghost town.”
Barber hopes to illustrate the extremes to be found on Colfax.
“We had the Clan here, but also Charlie Burrell, the first African-American to perform in a symphony orchestra, who played the Playboy Bar on Colfax. Hattie McDaniel, the first African-American to win an Academy Award, attended East High School.”
Legendary guitarist Chet Atkins cut his first demo at Rockley Music on West Colfax.
To raise money for the museum, Barber plans to start the Root 40 Music Festival in the courtyard this summer. “The Velvet Elvis might return, finances being what they are,” he said.
The Colfax Museum is at 6851 W. Colfax Ave. Donations of money and memorabilia are welcome. For more information see thecolfaxmuseum.org or call 303-525-5840. For more about Jonny Barber see jonnybarber.com.
By Meghan Godby
In 2017, the City of Wheat Ridge turned 1,500 real Christmas trees into mulch. The mulch, which was used throughout city parks, was also available to local residents for use in their own gardens and landscaping. But what about artificial Christmas trees?
I spoke with Rachel Nathan, Director of SustainAbility, a local recycling organization that serves the greater metro area. She explained that artificial trees can’t be recycled. The reason is twofold, but cross contamination is the biggest contributing factor. Artificial Christmas trees are made up of many different materials, including paper (which makes up those convincing artificial pine needles) and wire.
But that’s not the only problem.
“Plastics recycling in the United States is very lacking. A lot of low-grade plastics used to go to China. Now that China has cut us off [...], the U.S. is not allowed to send the majority of low-grade plastics out any longer.”
This is all part of the National Sword Initiative, a recently implemented policy in China that bans 24 types of solid waste, including the types of plastics that Nathan mentioned.
So, what can you do? Perhaps the most obvious suggestion is to donate your unwanted tree to a thrift store or local charity. After all, artificial trees are designed to last many years, not to be replaced from season to season.
Thankfully, not all is lost – you can still recycle your Christmas lights locally. SustainAbility accepts all types of lights, as long as large (golf-ball size) bulbs are removed.
Nathan explained that the lights, which contain copper wiring, are sent out to “metal smelters in the Denver area.” These facilities melt down the lights, which are then converted into copper wiring. She goes on to say that recycling metal is extremely important.
“It’s the easiest thing to recycle,” she explains, “and can be recycled over and over again. There is no end life.”
This is in sharp contrast to paper, which can only be recycled about six times before it “turns into sludge.” Yet although paper cannot be recycled indefinitely, it’s still important to extend its longevity as long as we can. After all, trees and lights aren’t the only waste leftover after a holiday season.
“We try to educate [the public] that wrapping paper is recyclable,” Nathan shared. “Most people think it’s not. Shiny paper is not recyclable because of the foil, but matte, regular paper, that can be put in recycling.”
The holiday season places a strong emphasis on consuming, and even well-intentioned traditions can generate a lot of waste. As consumers, it’s our responsibility to ensure that we properly dispose of the things we can, and try to find a home for the things we cannot. Because after all, the season of giving back should include taking care of our planet, too.
A VIEW DOWN THE TREE-LINED ESPLANADE to the mausoleum of Olinger Crown Hill Cemetery. PHOTO: KEN LUTES
By Ken Lutes
Trees play an important role in the history and architecture of Olinger Crown Hill Cemetery, at 7777 W. 29th Ave. in Wheat Ridge. Even before the land was a cemetery it was home to an orchard, at least in part, according to Mike Skolaut, Crown Hill’s general manager.
Crown Hill has one of the larger and more dense populations of trees in the Denver metro area. Many of the trees are more than 100 years old.
“Due to a strong wind two or three years ago, we lost seven blue spruces in one day, one of which was quite old and 120 feet tall,” Skolaut said. That was a painful loss for the cemetery; even so, more than 1,700 trees representing 70 species remain to cover the 247-acre site. Twenty-one of the species are Colorado State Champions.
Because of the variety and number of tree species, the cemetery was designated an arboretum by the City of Wheat Ridge in 2007.
“My understanding is that at the time we had an arborist on staff who helped to get that designation,” said Skolaut.
Crown Hill achieved arboretum status by identifying and documenting its tree collection, under the guidance of the Denver Botanic Gardens, Front Range Community College, and the Colorado State Forester.
Unlike many cemeteries and parks, the trees at Olinger Crown Hill were not planted in straight rows; they are grouped in clusters of 12-15. The most notable trees are the Colorado blue spruce, Engelmann spruce, Douglas fir, Norway maple, silver maple, ponderosa pine, Rocky Mountain juniper, plains cottonwood, English elms and Schwedler maples. Most of these trees are located in the oldest section of the cemetery, a five-block area that is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
As general manager, Skolaut is tasked with overseeing his grounds manager, who is responsible for the healthy maintenance of the lawn and all of the various plants and trees. Mature trees can provide a grand sense of reverence, but, Skolaut says, “It takes work to improve their look and their health, to make sure we don’t lose them at a rapid rate.
“When I was a general manager of two cemeteries in Oklahoma City, we had an ice storm. By the next morning, each of the cemeteries had lost more than a hundred trees, most of which were Bradford pears.”
Skolaut is partial to wanting to keep Crown Hill’s trees healthy and able to withstand our region’s severest storms. He hopes people 50 years from now will experience the same variety of quality trees as people do today. To that end, lost trees are replaced in a responsible manner.
Hill Cemetery was founded in 1907 by George W. Olinger and is renowned for its historic mausoleum, which is a Denver landmark. The first interment occurred on May 12, 1908, when Augusta Garson was moved from Fairmount Cemetery, according to the National Register of Historic Places. In 1907, the property ran from Wadsworth to Kipling, between 32nd and 26th avenues. About half of that land area is now Jefferson County open space. In a Neighborhood Gazette story published in September 2017, freelance writer Jim Cherney stated, “…in 1978, the County joined the cities of Wheat Ridge and Lakewood to create Crown Hill Open Space Park.”
Skolaut believes that over the past 20 years the stigma around cemeteries has started to change.
“A cemetery is not a sad place. We have people come here to have birthday parties with their loved ones. Some have brought mariachi bands. We have dove and balloon releases. More people are celebrating the lives of their loved ones. The cemetery is a place of reverence, but you can honor people in a lot of different ways. We try to provide a facility that honors all of those traditions; it’s more of a place to go where we can remember and celebrate life as opposed to a place where we’re expected to be somber.”
The importance of trees to the property is part of Crown Hill’s legacy. Skolaut’s favorite tree is a maple that is visible from the administration building’s front entrance.
“In the fall, when we have the right set of weather circumstances, that tree is spectacular. I remember my first year here, stepping out the front door and saying, ‘Oh, my gosh!’”
Everyone is welcome to visit the grounds and enjoy the trees, the history and the architecture. Group tours may be arranged by calling 303-233-4611. Stop by the office for maps of self-guided tours of the trees and a walk to 14 points of historic interest.
To learn more, visit the National Park Service: www.cr.nps.gov/nr; coloradotrees.org, americanforests.org, and crownhillarboretum.com.
Note: Many of this writer’s ancestors have been laid to rest at Olinger Crown Hill Cemetery, beneath a century-old silver maple that in the summertime provides a shady spot for a family picnic. Busy honey bees have maintained a hive in a hollow of the tree for decades.
The St. Patrick’s Day blizzard of 2003, which brought more than 30 inches of wet, heavy snow, severely damaged that stately maple that presides over my mother’s grave. Several large branches were lost, but the tree has survived and continues to serve as a symbol of life – and a home to the bees.
Contact Ken Lutes at ken.ngazette.com.