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.