Branson Water Commissioner Brad Doherty explains how the town's water system works in this May 1, 2019 photo. The town of Branson is exploring new technologies to bring their water standards into compliance with the state of Colorado (Mike Sweeney, Special to The Colorado Sun)

Compiled by Dana Coffield,
Senior Editor, @danacoffield

Hi friends. Pardon the interruption from your regularly scheduled newsletter wrangler. I wish I could say that Eric is off doing something insanely fun, but no, we’ve dispatched him for the next couple of weeks to resolve some nagging barriers to our future. If you want to be a part of making that future brighter, and haven’t already stepped up to support us, you can become a member here. At $5 a month, you won’t find a better deal — especially not one so good for your community.

I noticed that many of you were outside enjoying the weekend as our weather finally started to behave appropriately. The idyllic climate was exactly what we needed after a kind of insane legislative session in Colorado that wrapped up Friday. I know our politics team needed it. More on that below…

The Colorado Sun, meanwhile, was riding high after we won 16 honors at the Society of Professional Journalists’ Top of the Rockies awards ceremony Friday. That included top recognitions for health stories, news writing, politics reporting and a feature article. We were also named second-best news website in the Colorado-Utah-Wyoming-New Mexico region!

We’ve got more great journalism for you ahead in this newsletter, so enough banter. Let’s trade in this ski tan for a farmer tan, shall we?


The Latest from The Sun



Tiny Branson has plenty of water. But like other small-town delivery systems in Colorado, it must find a way to meet new state standards.


“Enough water” isn’t a phrase often spoken about towns on Colorado’s extreme southeastern border, so teeny Branson (pop. 55) has that going for it. But a test that found E. coli in the water a few years back put the former railroad town on the state health department’s radar and on a course to try to correct the problem. After an (extremely) expensive misstep, Branson found its way to a little company in Rocky Ford that can provide the same type of water systems it makes for developing nations — if the Colorado town can crowdfund enough money to get the project done.

>> Writer Kevin Simpson and photographer Mike Sweeney frame up a captivating tale about the resilient Las Animas County border town, where the electricity and cell service are sketchy, but the water always flows.


The moments that defined the 2019 legislative session in Colorado


Lawmakers meet in the Colorado House of Representatives on May 1, 2019. (Jesse Paul, The Colorado Sun)

Wait. Was it only eight? Of course not. But if you distill the 120 day session — during which there were monumental shifts in policy and infinity-plus-one political clashes — into the moments that really mattered, there are a few that help explain exactly what went down, starting with Gov. Jared Polis’ State of the State address.

>> The politics team of John Frank and Jesse Paul guides us through the eight key points in the session.

MORE: We tracked all of the big bills to pass and fail in the final three days of the lawmaking term. Catch up here.


The good, the bad and the complicated: How Colorado’s electric vehicle laws changed this session

Yeah, the obstructionist drivers who get caught parking their gas-burning vehicles in front of electric charging stations as, I guess, a form of protest now can be fined. But is that really considered a win in the quest to normalize driving cars and trucks that don’t directly run on carbon-based fuels?

>> Tamara Chuang explains how Colorado lawmakers made it highly likely that Rivian, the Ford- and Amazon-backed maker of electric pickup trucks, won’t open its first-ever store in Colorado.

More from the Colorado Sun


From the Opinion Page




// Good news: Police internal affairs investigations now are considered public records and it’s now easier to have SLAPP lawsuits, filed to keep gadflies from speaking up about public problems, dismissed. Bad news: Police departments still can encrypt their scanner traffic. // Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition.  

// A super-sized version of the late Judith Pierce’s “The Corn Maiden” was an important element of the dozens of gigantic artworks that made up the “mural” lining the Arkansas River levee in Pueblo for 20 years. When the gigantic works — literally the size of houses — were destroyed to prepare for rebuilding the aging levee, “Corn Maiden,” which contains some of Pierce’s ashes, was the one work that was preserved. // The Pulp

// The horrible crash last week on Interstate 70 near Colorado Mills and the conflagration that followed it was shocking. But given the apparent lack of maintenance of long-haul trucks traversing Colorado highways, it’s not a surprise. // The Associated Press, The Denver Post ?

// Isak Heartstone, the charming, but potentially dangerous, art installation that captivated high-country travelers this winter is back. But he’s in a new, safer location. // Summit Daily

// It seems like it doesn’t matter how many social justice initiatives burrito magnate Pete Turner backs (higher minimum wages, paid family leave) he can’t catch a break about the name of his restaurant chain. He doesn’t scare easy, though, so he’s sued a Delaware court for stopping his plan to incorporate Illegal Pete’s there. // Coloradoan, Colorado Sun, Westword  

// Mountain Rescue Aspen dispatched a team out to save a man at 3:05 a.m. Saturday who activated his GPS rescue device near the base of Maroon Bells. Only thing was he didn’t need rescuing. (This tale reminds us of Dean Krakel’s award-winning story on his experience accidentally triggering a rescue last year.) // Mountain Rescue Aspen Facebook Page, The Colorado Sun

// Grim news for newspapers and digital news outlets like ours are nothing new. We keep at it because we love what we do and we know how important our work is. But a weekend report from the Wall Street Journal paints a particularly bad picture — and serves as an important reminder of why it’s important to support outlets like ours. // The Wall Street Journal ?

// We’re not sure what’s going on here, but we love it. The Rockies Twitter account sent out a post this morning that seemed more like something your mom or grandma might accidentally post on social media. It was awesome. The thread speaks for itself. // Twitter

// There are few places in Aspen that serve as bastions of affordable ski-bum living. Johnny McGuire’s is gone and now, so it seems, Paradise Bakery is next. Goodbye to a shop offering some of the best chocolate chip cookies in America. // The Aspen Times

// Big Boy 4014. That’s the name of a Union Pacific locomotive that made a brief visit to Weld County this weekend. It’s not quite Thomas the Tank Engine-famous, but it’s a big deal in the train-enthusiast world. A quick peek at the machine will tell you why. // The Greeley Tribune


Today’s Thing



The Thing: “Deep Creek: Finding Hope in the High Country,” by Pam Houston (W.W. Norton & Co., $25.95)

Why You Might Like It: I’ve significantly reduced my commute, freeing up precious time spent screaming at other drivers on Interstate 25 (windows rolled up) and wondering what fresh architectural hell has been wrought on the north metro by (redacted,) the massive online retailer, and (redacted,) the massive golf practice company, to less angrily contemplate the landscape as a character in my life. I partly blame Pam Houston’s memoir for this lane change. The main character in “Deep Creek” is not Houston, or her beloved hounds, but her 120-acre ranch near Creede. The storied, historic homestead in the San Juans, purchased during a frantic crosscountry search for self, is constantly under threat — from the weather, from bad actors, from forest fire. And yet, over the 20 years it takes her to pay off the mortgage and become a truly self-sufficient person, the land delivers a parental type of peace and nurturing to Houston that she did not get from the humans who birthed her. What’s your thing? If you have something that you just can’t stop raving about that you’d like to share, send us an email at and you could be published in a future Sunriser!

That’s it from us for today! We — and by we, I mean Kevin Simpson — will be back Wednesday with another Sunriser packed with Colorado news. In the meantime, keep telling you friends all about us and be sure to step up and become a Colorado Sun member here if you haven’t already. It takes just $5 a month.

For those of you who are supporting our work, thank you so much. You folks are making more journalism possible every day. Our community is growing by the hour and we are so excited about the future.

See ya next Monday!

— Dana

Dana Coffield is a Colorado native who became a journalist because of an outsized appetite for knowledge. On the quest, she has worked as an editor and reporter at a variety of publications along the Front Range ranging in size from the Rocky...