OURAY – The Ouray County Sheriff’s Office, in conjunction with the Ouray Volunteer Fire Department, announced on Monday morning, June 25 that Ouray’s Fourth of July flare parade and municipal fireworks display have been cancelled.
“This was not an easy decision for any of us, but I think it is the right decision, considering what the rest of the state is going through,” Ouray County Sheriff Junior Mattivi said, in reference to tinderbox conditions that have caused wildfires to spread in several locations across the state.
As soon as the decision was announced, the Ouray Chamber Resort Association and Parks and Recreation Committee scrambled to find alternate evening entertainment for the crowds of people who generally descend on Ouray for the July 4 holiday. By Tuesday, they had announced there would be live music in Fellin Park from 4-7 p.m. featuring Mike Gwinn and the North Fork Flyers.
The water fights, meanwhile, “will not be cancelled unless we have a major issue with our water system,” OVFD Chief Adam Kunz said. “Everything is a go except for the flare parade and fireworks.”
While Monday’s announcement quenched local concern over the potential fire danger posed by a municipal fireworks display, many area residents are still worried about the illegal use of personal fireworks during the upcoming July 4 holiday.
Ouray residents David Koch and his wife Kathryn attended the Ouray City Council meeting on Monday, June 18, and Koch related past July 4 incidents with neighborhood children lighting fireworks under a tree near their property, causing it to almost catch fire. They expressed frustration about the town’s inconsistent enforcement of its fireworks policy, which was recently updated to be consistent with state statute outlawing the use of personal fireworks that fly into the air or explode.
Ouray police officer Tony Schmidt said that he and his fellow officers will confiscate fireworks when they see people using them. Repeat offenders may be issued a citation.
“The problem is staff,” Schmidt said. “We’re out there dealing with traffic control, illegal fireworks, bar fights ... and we’re only four guys.”
Koch noted that there is a perception that Ouray is lenient in enforcing its fireworks policy. “People say, ‘We love to go to Ouray on the Fourth because we can do anything,’” he told council. “I think we have some real issues here in this town. We’re not confrontational people, but when we approached our neighbors last year (about their use of illegal fireworks), they laughed.”
Bump(s) in the Road
Ouray resident John Nixon appeared at the council meeting last Monday evening to voice a complaint about the new speed bumps which have recently appeared on lower Second Street (which terminates at the southern end of Oak Street near Nixon’s house), and asked council why they had been installed.
City Administrator Patrick Rondinelli said that the three hotels along the street had requested that the city put in speed bumps because so many pedestrians walk along the street, and because there are problems with speeding traffic. Second Street is one of the only side streets in Ouray that is paved.
“People fly up and down that street,” Mayor Risch observed. “Our objective is to slow them down.”
Nixon expressed dismay that there was not more of a public process to determine whether the speed bumps should be installed. He pointed out that the speed limit on side streets in Ouray is 15 miles per hour, and that the new speed bumps, which are narrow, hard and sharp, necessitate slowing down to a near halt before driving over them.
He added that the speed bumps are already changing traffic patterns in the neighborhood.
“I have seen people drive out of their way to avoid them,” he said.
He suggested a better way to deal with the problem would be for the city to enforce its ordinance requiring all property owners to install and maintain sidewalks where their property interfaces with city streets, so that pedestrians would have a safe place to walk.
The city is also poised to install speed bumps along north Oak Street as it passes by the 4-J Trailer Park – another place prone to speeding traffic. “It is just one more attempt to find a solution to a problem for which there is no solution,” Mayor Risch said.
Street Waterer Hired
The City of Ouray has hired a street waterer who will work 20 hours per week for one to two months during the remainder of the summer season, to help mitigate dust levels in town. In the past, the city has applied magnesium chloride to its gravel streets in the summer to control dust, but this year, council elected to forego the annual treatment as a cost-saving measure.
Ice Park Business
The city is in the process of renewing its concessionaire agreement with San Juan Mountain Guides and operating agreement with Ouray Ice Park, Inc., for the Ouray Ice Park. Community Development Coordinator Ann Morganthaler noted in a memo to council that the city has recently received an inquiry to place a zip line in the Ice Park, but added that zip lines are currently not a permitted use in the park.
Box Cañon Gets Septic, Not Wewer
Council approved, on a 4-1 vote, a contract for a septic system at Box Cañon Park, with the bid awarded to Hinkson Development Corp. and Morss Construction, Inc. The project is associated with an ongoing municipal endeavor to install a second water tank with a new water main running along the road to Box Cañon park. The city decided to take advantage of the opportunity of having the road dug up to upgrade the water and sewer service lines to the visitor center at Box Canon Park, so that the center can remain open year round. But when a price tag to install a new sewer line came in at over $90,000, staff recommended opting for a cheaper septic system instead. Councilman John Ferguson cast the lone dissenting vote, expressing concern that a septic system was not a good long-term solution to the problem.