GUEST COMMENTARY
Why Peter Shelton’s Critique of San Juan Interconnect Is Wrong, Wrong, Wrong
by Josh Geetter
Aug 19, 2010 | 2256 views | 52 52 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Thanks to Peter Shelton’s article “Debunking a Pie-in-the-Sky Eurovision: Why Josh Geetter’s Alps-Inspired Vision for the Future of Skiing in the San Juans Won’t Work” and over 80 additional internet commentaries to date on my “San Juan Range Interconnect” article, the discussion on this issue has officially gone “Live.” How wonderful! I welcome all input, and there’s been lots of it. I excuse any negativity such as Shelton’s title and text as fodder for a productive discussion. To this end I’ll endeavor to elucidate the big idea while addressing individual points of criticism.

My overall response to Shelton, for whom I have much respect, is that he is brilliant in his literary technique of irony to catalyze a reverse psychology effect on his audience. His article appeared so negative, small-minded and wholly dismissive that it immediately broadened and opened the minds of his highly intelligent readership. His thesis was so boorish that it immediately engendered the antithesis. I cannot tell you how many people came to me with support saying that they “got it,” through Peter’s skillful writing. Thank you, Peter, for supporting the Interconnect through this shining example of dialectic reasoning. In the context of the discussion, your piece deserves a Pulitzer prize for irony.

Because some readers may have taken Shelton literally, I am obliged to answer point by point to his critique of my original commentary. Let us begin with his title. First, to debunk requires essential bunk in the object being examined. The San Juan Range Interconnect did in fact exist for nearly one-half century, including the Galloping Goose railway, roadways, trams, tunnels and backcountry trails. It did in historic fact support and sustain many tens of thousands of people far more efficiently than we do today. The interconnect by definition then is a factual entity. It is factually not bunk.

Next in the title, “Pie-in-the-Sky,” refers to unreasonable fantasy with implied lack of grounded realism. Again, the interconnect was built and operated for many decades. It is imminently grounded in fact. Possible future versions of the same would do well to borrow from the European model, yet this was and could in the future be an imminently American, Coloradan, San Juan based interpretation. It borrows from, but is not a “Euro-vision.”

Further in the title Shelton reduces the plan to merely a ski vision. My original article primarily addresses transit, sustainability and survival. Skiing is secondarily implied in throughout the plan in that skiing is essential to our local economy, history and future. Shelton and Roberts completely ignore the greater issue of transit as it relates to regional sustainability and survival in their reductionist attachment to skiing as the primary issue. That’s simply incorrect. Shelton and Roberts would do well to recall local history and embrace the idea of pro active local future planning.

Lastly in Shelton’s title he asserts that the plan “Won’t Work.” Again, he has missed the point by reductionist thinking. To write off a many faceted, long-range regional idea to “won’t work” is dismissive and reactionary at best. There are many aspects to the Interconnect idea, which can be examined individually or as parts of the whole. Healthy discussion and debate should foment the highest good. Dismissal serves only our failure to plan for our future.

The body of Shelton’s article goes on to shoot holes in the interconnect, as if I had not considered obstructing factors. In my article I clearly state that innumerable obstacles exist. I also state that for every challenge, sub-industries of legal, political and engineering jobs are created. I encourage Peter and all of us to embrace the monumental task. It means work, great amounts of the greatest work of our lives. I can factor the obstructions as far as the decimals in the number pie: 3.1459. For instance, San Miguel County has quit claimed most of the Galloping Goose right of way to private landowners. The mine tunnels to Red Mountain and Camp Bird are not straight shots. There are elevators and shafts and veins to be navigated, but there is light at the end! Rather than authoring a bunch of hole punches I propose we get to the great work of authoring our future.

In terms of funding: Currently, under the U.S. DOT (Dept of Transportation), subsection STA (Surface Transportation Administration) which is the old UMTA (Urban Mass transit Administration) and old FHwA (Federal Highway Administration) combined which built both regional mass transit systems and the interstate highway system the funds exist. Today there are 90 percent grants with only 10 percent local match funds available for exactly this type of project. I said 90 PERCENT GRANT, and 10 PERCENT MATCH! Can we all get our heads around this opportunity? Can we afford not to?

In terms of public and private cooperation, which Shelton decries as “socialism,” as if I were proposing something un-American and unheard of, this is also just false. Implementation of the above grants would be a mean de facto cooperation between all levels of government and the private sector…as I said in my proposal, sigh.

In terms of population, I have several facts to report. Western Slope population is predicted to double, reaching 1,003,708 persons by the year 2035. Colorado population will nearly double to 7,699,126 persons in this time. World population is slated to reach carrying capacity of the planet between 11,000,000,000 and 14,000,000,000 persons in the next generation. Is that enough people to warrant planning for our future by developing a regional transportation and supply system?

Shelton also posits that charming alps villages somehow do not translate to our region. Of course they do not. Our extractive industrial history and present tourism based economies are boom and bust by nature. I say that we can engender the pastoral ideal, sustainable local village economies and a viable rooted, landed, sane and survivable economy by rebuilding the transit system which previously sustained the mining towns.

When Peter speaks of Tort Law, avalanche danger and our litigious society, he is again missing the point. The interconnect is about transit and survival. It is four-season. It is not essentially about skiing. That being said, I am intimately acquainted with San Juan Avalanche conditions, with the Skier Safety Act of 1978, and with the nature of our society versus that of Europe. For decades I have contended that we need to mature in terms of self responsibility. For the same decades I have seen not a single successful lawsuit against a ski area for a backcountry avalanche death. Shelton’s complaint is just that, a complaint.

Shelton’s statement that one can no longer get lost in an uninhabited side valley in the Alps, and his implication that this would be the regional case, is also untrue. The Alps are still high and wild and deadly. I have too many dead friends and personal experiences therein to ever dare write them off as “civilized.” The San Juans have the Weimenuche Wilderness and very soon the Sneffels Wilderness expansion. The interconnect nests beautifully between the two. Outside of the wilderness areas there are as one blog commentary stated “a hundred Bear Creeks” in the San Juans. We will not run out of high and wild. We will just have better access to go deeper. Instead of skiing Oh Boy and Commodore our whole lives, we might actually get a chance to ski Rolling and Grizzly mountains in midwinter without extreme risk and consequences of remote access.

Shelton’s statement that the power lines, hydro dams and infrastructure are ubiquitous is also false. They are commensurate to the population and have more to do with supporting the urban populations of Europe than supporting the Alps townships.

In summary, I would much rather engage in a productive discussion on the future of our region as it fits into world future than to answer to attempted discussion ending dismissals as Shelton’s article. It is only because Peter has a regular column that I felt I had to answer to his every point. I welcome Peter Shelton, Jerry Roberts, Chris Blatter (with whom I had a most enjoyable discussion yesterday) and all parties to whom this may concern (which means all of us) to contribute in a spirit of positivity and brilliant cooperative problem-solving.
Comments
(52)
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FaceOnMars (nli)
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September 02, 2010
It's a very nice thought, but eminent domain ain't gonna happen in BC for a number of reasons ... although it would certainly be interesting to see one government entity (i.e. Town of Telluride) try take land from another government entity (i.e. National Forest Service).
freedomfighter2
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September 02, 2010
And so it goes, as it always has. Now is the time for forceful, individual action. The powerful will take and take. You can't beat their lawyers. Only one person, acting alone, in a meaningful way can make a difference.

Their paper, like their skin, is thin................
Lets just gather
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September 02, 2010
together,condemn all of Bear Creek and preserve it as it was, for all time...
Say What?
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September 02, 2010
Can we remember that patented mining claims are a dubious form of property to begin with? Land claimed on federal property under the provisions of an ancient, obsolete law, for the express purpose of subsidizing mining, now repurposed....? Legally, a patented mining claim has property rights, but the law was a very bad one... and we should be cleaning it up... somehow... Patented mining claims really aren't like other property and shouldn't have the same property rights.
dude....
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September 02, 2010
just because someone owns a mining claim doesn't mean that person is the one that trashed the site. You shouldn't assume that a mine claim owner has anything to do with the past use other that the fact that they bought the claim with money.

How would you feel if you bought some land with some old ruins on it and a bunch of people you don't even know start telling you what a piece of trash you are for owning the land they want to use for whatever reason.

Open your eyes, cause you are so blinded by your rage against unknown humans that you can't see who exactly you're mad at, the miners of past who left the refuse or the current owners who just bought a claim, maybe even with the intention of cleaning it up or preserving what remains for educational purposes. Do you hate the govt. agencies who buy parcels in the high country to preserve them too? Who do you hate now? I'm confused.
angry...
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September 02, 2010
Getting back to the topic at hand: Mine owner, can you point to any evidence that a skier harmed or otherwise disrespected a high country mining claim?

I've seen lots of high country streams fouled by mining waste, lots of trash that miners left strewn across the high country. Skier or hiker damage? Not so much...
Mine Owner
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September 02, 2010
Respect...I am not sure why you are such an angry person. Clearly no amount of reason is going to be sufficient to alter your opinion that land owners have rights. The fact remains, and is without debate, people who own land have the right to close it to trespass, those who trespass are willingly violating the law. The question becomes how strict will any owner ever become over the use of their land, and for the most part people are very tolerant of a number of things regarding trespass, however once an individual or a group attempt to force the hand of the landowner to give up their rights, then often times confrontation ends with closures. It is shame people such as yourself are so angry about life that you are unable to even compemplate asking an owner permission to use their land, or even thank them perhaps for being gracious enough in the past to not impose closures. Heaven forbid that you ever own anything that you wish to protect from the use, over-use, theft, etc... from others. That includes land, bikes, clothing, anything really.
respect....
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September 02, 2010
How about private property owners showing a little respect by not spewing their mining waste everywhere and not building eyesores all over the high country. Respect is a two-way street.
looky here, sis....
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September 02, 2010
well, hell - why do you have to be such a (pin)prick in how you participate in this discussion?

So meanspirited. Is it really necessary to be so hateful towards someone just asking for a little respect as a neighbor? Do you have any neighbors? Do you have the least bit of respect for them?

I don't have any land up there but if I did and I had to deal with a prick(led pear) like you, I'd push back too. I'd tell you to suck it and shove your pencil skis up your ass(urance) and pizza ski somewhere else, female dog.
Well, hell,
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September 01, 2010
guess we are gonna have to hike up there tomorrow and respect you...

Yes, your little paper holding..we got all kinds of respect coming at ya, buddy...

Could you do us a favor and stake out your land..post signs and the like?

Keep Off! Private, Owned by 4th Generation Tellurider! Know it all including where the Utes are buried! Just wants a little stroke, some RESPECT!

Can we name you Aretha?
Mine Owner
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September 01, 2010
I have a better idea, just respect the owner of the land, you will have little or no hassles. But if you wish to become combative, belligerent, and self righteous then of course the land owners won't want to allow you access through their lands. The choice is really yours, be a good friend and neighbor or be a jerk. Who do you think will get treated better? Who will be allowed to "visit" private lands versus who will be asked to leave? Why does current Telluride have to be so selfish that they think they can ignore the friends and neighbors who own the land, and why do they always know so much better what those people should do with their land? Once again, are you capable of being good friends and neighbors or not?
Ok, We bow down
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August 31, 2010
property owner..our people were never there, we never felt Bear Creek was sacred and we have no relatives buried there. Thanks for correcting all of the stories and histories passed to me by my tribe and family.

You are so omnipotent with your knowledge.

I am glad to know that the first people (and being fourth generation and all, who could dispute it) in Upper Bear Creek were miners. Now we know that the Utes were never there and it is settled!

Of course, what really matters is who is there next-some person holding a paper claiming to know all and have every legal right to Bear Creek, some ding dong ski operator whose next bonus depends on a lift being placed there or a bunch of people, wild and free, hiking and skiing there..or letting it just be, used by man and wildbeast alike?

What really matters to you, Oh Great One?
Mine Owner
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August 31, 2010
Hey Ute Indian,

I am a huge supporter of Native Americans, and Native American rights...so much so that I have degree in Anthropology and Archaeology. Couple this with being fourth generation person from Telluride, I think I know a little about what I am talking about. You are very incorrect about having relatives buried in that area. There are no Native American buriels in upper Bear Creek. And as far as lower Bear Creek, it is steeped in myth that it may have been sacred to the Utes, but no Archaeological evidence suggests that(this is not to say it could not be, but is unlikely). But using that analogy that the Native Americans were there first, then everyone else is trespassing is not solid. By using that, the upper areas where the Utes clearly were not must belong to the miners that were there first and the new transplants and outsiders do not belong. A very tricky area to to try to traverse (literally and metaphorically).

Basically in today's world if you own land, you have bought it and you should have some rights...particularly if you have owned for years and years prior to skiers, hikers, etc...trying to claim it as their own. You would not like your home invaded by someone else, this is no different. Through kindness of owners, you have been allowed to hike and ski, but offend and upset a number of owners, things will certainly change. Why can people not be friendly with owners and ask first. Nobody wants another "valley floor" fiasco simply because somebody would not talk to somebody else first and tried to take it from them.
Ute Indian
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August 31, 2010
Hey Buddy...that land you claim belongs to no one and everyone...

It is the white people's way that causes so much problem...

I have relatives buried in that area..
Please label your
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August 31, 2010
fence with your name, MINE OWNER...

I will make it a special priority to visit your property when hiking or skiing -

Thank you
MINE OWNER
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August 31, 2010
I own claims up there, nobody has asked me what I want to do with my lands. Since they are my lands, it is my choice, not the people of Telluride to decide for me. (Or the ski area for that matter) Bear Creek is not your private playground, and if people continue to abuse land owner rights up there, you will find the area fenced off the same way that Rusty Nichols closed off access to Wilson Peak. Show some respect to those owners, some of them have owned their claims for several generations.
some private
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August 31, 2010
Yes, there are some "private" claims in the Creek--left over from when the land was stolen from the San Juan Utes. But, clueless, the majority is still public.
FaceOnMars (nli)
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August 31, 2010
and by the way, if you do look at the map system on the San Miguel County website at:

http://www.sanmiguelcounty.org/

... click "webMap" (left hand column)

... be sure to have "layers" active

... be sure "Parcel Ownership" and "Land Status per Assessor Records" are checked off.

... then toggel to the "legend" button at top

You'll see the vast majority is green and denoted as "US Forest Service". If i had to put a percentage on a visual observation guestimate, I'd say it's at least 85% owned by NFS. You can maybe subtract 5-10% from this number if you don't want to count some mining claims (which I believe is different than owning a deed to a parcel).

I'm more than open for correction on my interpretation of the mapping system ... as I believe it's an excellent tool and would love to learn more precisely how to utilize it.

If I am correct, I will have still digressed; Bear Creek is sacred for what it is apart from human impositions.

FaceOnMars (nli)
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August 31, 2010
Sure, Bear Creek is riddled with mining claims and private inholdings, but I challenge you to provide us with data vs. a wide a sweeping rhetorical statement. Are you saying that Telski could simply unilaterally expand it's boundaries without going through an approval process with the NFS? Let us know how and why? Otherwise, you're words are empty.

Moreover, the private inholdings probably present a much greater challenge to navigate the waters ... might as well start learning how to heard cats. Do you think a few dozen Chapmans would be easier to deal with than a single friendly contact at the NFS?

Ultimately, Bear Creek is sacred because of it's inherent essence ... not due to some sort of artificial layering of "invisible boundaries" humans have imposed.
Hello?
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August 30, 2010
Have any of you actually looked at a land ownership map of the "sacred" Bear Creek? It is mostly private private land - duh.

You folks act like it's public land. Get a clue.

What makes you think you have rights to this land to begin with?

Comments are welcome...