Mountain Town News: A happy story about how Wesley became Lesley |

Mountain Town News: A happy story about how Wesley became Lesley

A roundup of news from other ski resort communities

Allen Best
Mountain Town News

A happy story about how Wesley became Lesley

BRECKENRIDGE, Colo. — The Summit Daily News reports an exceptional story about a 13-year veteran of the Summit County Sheriff’s Department named Wesley Mumford who became Lesley Mumford.

Mumford told the newspaper she had struggled with gender identity even while growing up in a small town in Michigan. In 2004, she entered law enforcement after several years as a park ranger. She said she believes she got involved in law enforcement because it imposed uniformity, as a way to suppress her feelings. It did not.

“I absolutely struggled with depression and confusion,” she said. “There’s a constant dissonance that transgender people experience. The way that you understand yourself as being and the way the world sees you are in conflict, so there’s a constant internal dialogue trying to make sense of that.”

In 2014, Mumford decided to transition, seeking therapy and over time telling family members and close friends. By then he was married, and they had a child. His wife knew of his struggles.

“We got married in 2005, and I had an idea early on in that she had these feelings,” his wife, Sarah, told the Daily News.

The couple thought that making the transition in Summit County would be monumentally difficult. They considered relocating to Denver, starting over in the anonymity of a metropolitan area. Then one day Mumford learned of a decision by the Summit County commissioners to add language about gender identity to its equal-employment opportunity policy.

At the time, late 2015, Summit County was only the second county in Colorado, after Denver, to adopt such a policy. “Transgender people experience grossly disproportionate levels of violence, harassment and discrimination,” said Summit County Commissioner Thomas Davidson in a release issued at the time.

Summit County already has prohibitions in place against harassment and discrimination on the basis of sex, race, religion, age, sexual orientation and other factors. The commissioners added “gender identity” and “gender expression” to the county’s equal-employment-opportunity and anti-harassment guidelines.

“You’re not going to believe this,” Mumford told his wife. “Look at what the county did.”

Instead of leaving Summit County, the couple stayed. In January, he scheduled a meeting with Sheriff Jaime FitzSimons. The conversation lasted about three hours.

“I was both humbled and honored,” FitzSimons told the Daily News. “I was humbled that she had such courage to do that and honored that she wanted to do it on my watch. The response from our staff was incredible.”

Not all transgender stories end so well. This one has, and Mumford said she wants it known that “it is possible to be transgender and find love, be a parent and have a rewarding career with goals and dreams like everyone else has.”

“There was a time in my life when I didn’t think I could,” she added.

Cannabis chain unwelcome by other Telluride stores

TELLURIDE, Colo. — A new business called Green Dragon has been granted a license to sell recreational cannabis in Telluride. The four existing cannabis stores in Telluride aren’t doing cartwheels of joy.

The “Wal-Mart of weed,” said the manager of one existing store. The “Starbucks of marijuana,” said another of the Denver-based chain. It has 10 stores in the state, including in Aspen, Breckenridge and Glenwood Springs.

Green Dragon’s price of $5 a gram undercuts prices of existing stores. It sells only in the recreational sector. Other stores sell to both recreational and medical customers. A competitor argues that those with medical needs will be hurt by this price-cutting.

According to the Telluride Daily Planet, the new twist has some existing cannabis stores calling for new rules to govern marijuana sales. Like Aspen, Telluride has largely treated marijuana stores like liquor stores. There are no limits and there are no special prohibitions about locations, such as restricting them to industrial zones.

There is talk about how many is too many and, for that matter, whether chain cannabis stores should even be allowed.

Green Dragon owners estimate the new Telluride store will produce $8 million to $10 million in gross sales annually.

Town officials in the ski town of Winter Park also aren’t doing cartwheels of joy about a new marijuana-selling store called Serene Wellness.

About half of Colorado ski towns want nothing to do with marijuana sales, and Winter Park is among them. But Grand County, where Winter Park is located, allows sales. Here’s where it gets tricky: an old motel in the town’s core was never made part of the town when Winter Park was incorporated in 1979.

As such, town officials have no control over what happens there. This is the site of the new operation. The result, reported the Sky-Hi News, was a tense relationship between town hall and the county courthouse.

Like the new store in Telluride, the new store in Winter Park will sell only recreational marijuana, meaning there’s no need for a doctor’s prescription.

Trying to stop the spread of underground coal fires
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. — The resort community of Glenwood Springs, located along the banks of the Colorado River, has four seams of coal underlying its western portion, and they’re all on fire.

Fires have long burned in the seams. In 2002, an ember from one of those fires may have ignited brush on the surface that, whipped by hot, dry winds, blew up into a raging inferno that burned 29 homes and forced thousands to flee.

Can the fires ever be completely suppressed? Maybe not, but state officials have been in Glenwood Springs recently in an effort to starve the coal seams of oxygen, thus preventing the spread, reported the Glenwood Post Independent.

Tara Tafi, who is with the Colorado Inactive Mine Reclamation Program, said 30,000 cubic yards of soil and rock will be spread on surface vents that feed the fire with oxygen. “The purpose is to seal up the fractures on the hillside that are helping to fuel the fire.”

Complicating the work is the history of mining. Three of the four seams have been mined on multiple levels.

The seams are part of a broad swath of coal in northwestern Colorado that is called the Grand Hogback. More than two-dozen fires are burning in the seams underlying the hogback.

And there are more such fires burning underground elsewhere in Colorado, said Jeff Graves, director of the state’s Inactive Mine Reclamation Program.

Colorado is planning to spend $5 million during the next five years to try to prevent the underground fires from starting above-ground fires. He said in many cases the coal mine fires have been burning since the early part of the 20th century.

Another climbing first on world’s highest mountain
DENVER, Colo. — Another first has been achieved on Mt. Everest, and it will warm your heart. Chris Bombardier became the first person with hemophilia to summit Everest.

Hemophilia, the Denver Post explained, causes steady bleeding into joints, muscles and tissues. Without proper treatment, individuals may not live to adulthood. Bombardier has a severe case of hemophilia B.

His first love was baseball, but after college he took up mountain climbing. Everest is the sixth and penultimate summit of the highest mountain on each of the seven continents. The only one now remaining for Bombardier is Vinson, in Antarctica.

Bombardier was at the Hillary Step, just shy of the summit but a difficult climb by itself. He was ready to give up when his Sherpa guide boosted him.

“You can do this,” the guide said. “You have a mission and purpose, and you can make it.”

And so he did, speaking to his wife in Colorado from the summit.
“It was an incredibly surreal moment to be able to talk to my husband while he was on the top of Mount Everest,” his wife, Jess, told The Post.

Whistler takes first steps toward waste law

WHISTLER, B.C. — Whistler’s elected council will soon be reviewing a proposed law that would require businesses and strata – apartments and condominiums — to sort their waste so more can be diverted from a landfill and instead be recycled or composted.

A 2016 study found nearly two-thirds of Whistler’s landfill waste comes from commercial and strata garbage. Of that waste, 54 percent could be composted and 13 percent could be recycled.

The law, if approved, would require that waste be separated into three streams: food-scrap organics, recyclables and landfill waste. Waste from Whistler is trucked and then hauled by rail car several hours away to a landfill along the border between Washington and Oregon.

Accusations that children are put to work in Jasper

JASPER, Alberta — With 400 job vacancies in Jasper now during the height of summer tourism season, there are allegations that children as young as 10 are working, the Jasper Fitzhugh reports.

The Fitzhugh reported Alberta law allows children who are 10 or 11 to work only with the consent of a parent or guardian and approval by Employment Standards, a provincial agency.

Labor codes for those ages 12 through 14 also impose restrictions, according to Ginette Marcoux, executive director of the Jasper Employment and Education Centre.

“They must not work past nine o’clock at night,” she said. “They must be in constant supervision by an adult, they cannot work around grills, fryers, slicers or knives, and they cannot handle alcohol.”

Black bear bites tire in Banff wildlife jam

BANFF, Alberta — A black bear did a very strange thing in Banff National Park. Bears had been grazing along the green grasses along the Bow Valley Parkway, a highway in the park, and several people had stopped and gotten out of their cars and trucks to view the bears.

One of the bears bit and punctured a tire of one of the vehicles. Then, surprised by the sound of air hissing from the deflating tire, the bear ran off.

A local wildlife expert told the Rocky Mountain Outlook that instead of stopping when they see bears, people should continue on, if slowly.

“I strongly encourage people not to get out of their vehicles and to consider how hard this is for a bear when they’re having to go to the side of a road to feed,” Kim Titchener said.

More homeless people in Durango

DURANGO, Colo. — A study conducted in late January confirms what locals had been suspecting: there are more homeless people in Durango of late.

The study conducted by Housing Solutions for the Southwest on Jan. 24 found 91 homeless people in La Plata County, including 35 who were without shelter. The latter has tripled from five years before. Some 45 percent were homeless as a result of domestic abuse.

Why the upswing in the homeless numbers in Durango? The Telegraph reported no hypothesis. It did, however, note this chilling statistic: of the 91 homeless people there, 19 were children.

The same study was done for other mountain communities, including Eagle and Pitkin, where Vail and Aspen are located, respectively. The study found 27 homeless people in Aspen, including seven classified as chronically homeless.

Colorado’s highest proportion of homeless were in poorer, Hispanic areas of southern Colorado. Metropolitan Denver was not included in the study.

Real estate finally regains vigor of the last decade

GRANBY, Colo. — The resorts areas from Winter Park to Grand Lake tend to be the first to enter recession and the last to emerge. While construction had resumed in many resort areas several years ago, the pace is just now finally picking up in Grand County.

The shift is reflected in a project called Edgewater, located in Granby, mid-way between the major resort areas. Granby Mayor Paul Chavoustie is the developer, and he purchased the property during the boom in the last decade. He began selling the riverside cabins in 2007 — then got swamped by the recession.

“From 2008 until now, we basically shelved this project,” Chavoustie told the Sky-Hi News. “We were waiting for the right market.”

That market, he says, has finally returned. The project’s new offerings are described as “mountain contemporary cabins” that emulate the popular tiny home movement.

Allen Best has edited mountain town newspapers for 20 years. He has served as managing editor at four different mountain town newspapers and is now living in metropolitan Denver. Visit for more information.


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