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13 Colorado stories worth a second (or first) look

As we wrap up 2019, we present some of The Colorado Sun stories that our writers and editors think you may have missed the first time around

Ceclia Floyd, 6, of Mead, bounds across an inflatable bounce pad at Jellystone Park Camp-Resort. (Andy Colwell, Special to The Colorado Sun)

Time, especially for readers like you, is a precious resource.

One of the core mantras here at The Colorado Sun is to make sure that every story we report is important enough, impactful enough and interesting enough to make it worth you taking the time out of your day to read it.

In 2019, our first full calendar year of publication, we published nearly 1,800 pieces of original reporting, and no matter what kind of newshound you are, there’s a good chance you weren’t able to read them all.

So as we wrap up the year, I asked our reporters and editors to share a few of the stories they worked on this year that you may have missed the first time around (or would be worth a second look).

 


 

“I saw him holding the gun and pointing it at us. Robert Dear even said, ‘Yes, I did it.’ He’s getting three meals a day. He’s in a warm place when it’s cold. He’s in a cold place when it’s warm. It makes me wonder: Are all the victims in the same place he is?”

— Cristina Jiminez, former assistant manager of the Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs

Jesse Paul, politics/everything else reporter

STORY: These employees survived the Planned Parenthood shooting. They say the organization could have done more to help them.

WHY IT’S IMPORTANT: Four years after a gunman opened fire at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, we still know very little about what happened on that deadly day. The case against the alleged shooter has been stalled (though it’s now also making its way through the federal court system) and very few people have spoken about surviving the attack. That is, until now. Four former employees of the clinic spoke with The Colorado Sun to talk about that day, their recovery and how they wish Planned Parenthood had done more to support them afterwards. 

This is a story that could really serve as a microcosm for all mass shootings across the U.S., where the country tends to quickly move on but the people affected are forever changed.

 


 

“After sentencing, one victim rancher yelled at the top of his lungs outside court, ‘A hundred years ago, he’d have been swinging from a cottonwood tree!’ They hung people back then.”

— Gary Nichols, an investigator with the Moffat County Sheriff’s Office

Kevin Simpson, lifestyle writer

STORY: “Colorado cattle rustling’s colorful history helps modern brand inspectors keep up with a changing crime”

WHY IT’S IMPORTANT: Part of the mission of The Colorado Sun has been to help readers understand who we are as Coloradans. And part of that, especially with so many new arrivals, involves connecting our modern-day lives with the state’s history. When about 50 head of cattle went missing from an Aurora ranch, investigators quickly determined it was the work of cattle rustlers. That provided the perfect starting point for a look at a crime that permeated the Old West yet persists today. And the resulting story serves as a reminder that we’re not so far removed from our cowboy roots as we sometimes think. It also introduced folks to Ann Bassett, the woman who got revenge on a cruel cattle baron who had her fiancé murdered. You can’t make this stuff up.

 


 

“It’s available to urban folks. They could get a mobile phone, but they’re not. And why not? You can’t tell me that 15 million people don’t think the internet is useful. Cost is the primary factor.”

— Angela Siefer, executive director of the National Digital Inclusion Alliance, which advocates for digital equity

Tamara Chuang, business reporter

STORY: “The cruel irony of the digital divide” in Colorado: Urban poor are left behind even as access, technology improves

WHY IT’S IMPORTANT: The digital divide is often about people who live in rural communities with slow or no internet. Even Colorado’s government focuses on closing this rural divide. But in urban areas like Denver, the digital divide is apparent among people who just afford service. The urban needy rely on nonprofits and private companies to get online, though critics feel it’s all a political ploy by major internet providers to steer government funding into areas where the ISPs have no desire to compete.  

 


 

“You’ve got a bunch of businessmen who got into the sharing world. … I’m not sure they were motivated by Christian charity.”

— Dave Weldon, the president of the Alliance of Health Care Sharing Ministries

John Ingold, health care reporter

STORY: As Coloradans struggle to pay for health coverage, cheaper alternatives come with their own perils

WHY IT’S IMPORTANT: Pretty much nobody is happy with how much they pay for health insurance, so it’s not surprising that people would look for alternative, less expensive coverage. But as we found out with this story, once a consumer wanders outside the world of carefully regulated insurance, things can go bad in a hurry. Some options in the world of so-called health care sharing ministries might seem like a good deal — right up until you need to use them. As lawmakers look to propose tighter regulations on these non-insurance sharing plans, read up on what they are, what they do and don’t cover, and how state regulators may have inadvertently given them a boost.

 


 

“To make ends meet, policymakers have turned to fees, disproportionately shifting costs onto the poor and middle class, while putting more of Colorado state spending under the purview of unelected bureaucrats.”

Brian Eason, contributing writer

STORY: TABOR faces a reckoning with Prop. CC. Here’s what you should know about its impact on state spending

WHY IT’S IMPORTANT: The election put TABOR in the spotlight once again with Proposition CC. But the findings outlined in this deep-dive into state finances extend well beyond the 2019 campaign. The story shows the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights isn’t working as intended, for supporters or critics. And it outlines the foundation for the fiscal fights that will continue into 2020.

 


 

“I wasn’t anti-2A before, but now I will spend every last day of my life lending my voice to the gun control movement. Not one more.”

— Regina Daly, mother of 21-year-old Finnegan Daly

John Frank, reporter

STORY: She blames America’s gun culture for her son’s death. But the NRA may profit from a plea deal with the gun owner.

WHY IT’S IMPORTANT: For a victim’s family, the court system can seem like a cold and unsatisfying path toward justice. This is how Finnegan Daly’s loved ones felt. The Colorado State University senior’s death from a gunshot wound in 2018 transformed his mother, Regina Daly, into a gun control advocate. But in a cruel twist of irony, her son’s death also may boost the National Rifle Association.

 


 

“Police didn’t know it as they shined flashlights across the dark backyard on May 25, 2018, but the seventh-grader’s suicide would spark a social-media frenzy they would chase down for months to come. A pastor at the local church would become overwhelmed trying to keep kids from hurting themselves, begging for mental health help from bigger towns. And the state legislature would pass a new law this year in an attempt to keep this from ever happening again.”

Jennifer Brown, reporter

STORY: A Snapchat video of a 13-year-old boy’s suicide roiled a Colorado town — and left police chasing social media ghosts

WHY IT’S IMPORTANT: Writing about suicide is never easy, but it’s time to break the stigma and crack open the conversation in Colorado, where suicide is the leading cause of death for teenagers. In Dacono, a small town north of Denver, a boy’s suicide traumatized the youth of the community over and over again in a way that only social media has the power to do. This story is a wake-up call for adults.

 


 

Members of Way Down Yonder perform during the first night of the 2019 Pea Green Saturday Night music series in Pea Green, Colo., on Jan. 26, 2019. (William Woody, Special to The Colorado Sun)

William Woody, freelance photographer

STORY: Out in the fiddle of nowhere, old-time music is sprouting forth. A pictorial essay, with video and audio.

WHY IT’S IMPORTANT: Culture isn’t just a product of the bright lights of the big city. Western Slope photographer William Woody helped guide us through sweet-corn country to Pea Green, at the intersection of two roads on the way to someplace else, where a community of pickers, fiddlers and singers breathe new life into lost era of American music on the fourth Saturday of every winter month.

 


 

Camille Stevens-Rumann, left, a forestry researcher at Colorado State University, graduate assistant Zoe Schapira, and field technician Zane Dickson-Hunt gather data amid the burn scar of the 2018 Spring Creek Fire June 11, 2019, near La Veta. (Mike Sweeney, Special to The Colorado Sun)

Mark Jaffe, contributing writer

STORY: Climate change is transforming Western forests. And that could have big consequences far beyond wildfires.

WHY IT’S IMPORTANT: Climate change is such an overwhelming topic that sometimes it’s just hard to process. Writer Mark Jaffe spent the summer with forest researchers who have for decades documented how changes in climate are altering the Western landscape in ways far more significant than the view.

 


 

To exit or enter their home at Grizzly Camp, Glenn and Kim Schryver must pass through a 4-mile long tunnel flowing with water on its way to Grizzly Reservoir. (Dean Krakel, Special to The Colorado Sun)+

Jason Blevins, staff writer

Dean Krakel, contributing photographer 

STORY: The most thrilling commute in Colorado: How Grizzly Reservoir’s caretakers keep water flowing

WHY IT’S IMPORTANT: Sure, it was fun to read about a 4-mile commute through a dark, narrow tunnel. But what this story by Jason Blevins and Dean Krakel really did was shed light on the complicated network of reservoirs, tunnels and pipes that moves water from high above Aspen to faucets in the Front Range cities of Aurora, Colorado Springs and Pueblo. 

 


 

“There have been so many scientific studies that there’s no difference” for health or nutrition between GMO crops and traditional seeds, said Nikki Weathers, whose family raises cattle and grows corn for silage, alfalfa and other hay outside of Yuma. She said she is proud that her generation and her father-in-law’s generation “embraced that technology. That’s what we have to do to raise enough food for a growing population, and to afford enough corn to feed our cattle.”

Michael Booth, freelance reporter

STORY: GMO food labels are coming. But with most products already using modified ingredients, battle lines have shifted.

WHY IT’S IMPORTANT: Health writer Michael Booth helped explain that while the decades-long battle for labeling genetically modified foods is finally over, the war over whether they convey enough information about the new technologies used in agriculture is only beginning.

 


 

A Jellystone Park Camp-Resort guest bounds up a wall at the campground near Estes Park as the sun sets on June 29, 2019. The campground has invested heavily in amenities that appeal to tenderfoot campers and to people who would rather bunk in a cozy cabin or bring their own 40-foot RV to the edge of wilderness. The Jellystone Park franchise system is celebrating its 50th anniversary this week. (Andy Colwell, Special to the Colorado Sun)

Monte Whaley, freelance reporter

STORY: Campers now want more than just a tent. One Colorado campground is leaning into those changing tastes — and shorter attention spans.

WHY IT’S IMPORTANT: Camping is for everyone, right? Freelance reporter Monte Whaley visited Jellystone Park near Estes Park to learn how people who are not quite ready to bed down under a pine tree in the wilderness are getting a taste of the outdoors at “glamping” resorts across the West.

 


 

Handfuls of voters stop at God’s Country Cowboy Church in Loveland on July 13, 2019, to sign a petition requesting a recall election to challenge Gov. Jared Polis. (Sandra Fish, Special to The Colorado Sun)

Sandra Fish, contributing writer

STORY: Who’s signing the petition to recall Gov. Jared Polis? People who feel left out in Colorado

WHY IT’S IMPORTANT: Almost as soon as the legislative session was gaveled to a close, petitions to recall Gov. Jared Polis started circulating. Writer Sandra Fish visited places where signatures were being gathered and found out that many people who signed felt that laws passed this spring posed an existential threat to their way of life.

 


 

Trinchera Blanca Ranch in the San Luis Valley of Colorado is proving new techniques to manage forest health. (John McEvoy, Special to The Colorado Sun)

Jason Blevins, reporter

STORY: This Colorado ranch-made-lab is turning beetle-kill trees into lumber in the name of forest health

WHY IT’S IMPORTANT: Can one ranch change the environment and the economy? The 172,000-acre Trinchera Blanca Ranch flanking southern Colorado’s San Luis Valley is trying. Jason Blevins traveled to the spread owned by billionaire Louis Bacon and learned about forest-management techniques being developed there and about the economic boost beetle-killed lumber has delivered in Costilla County.