‘Too much snow’ cancels editor’s first snowmobile ride

A snowstorm, of all things, canceled the White River Snowmobile Club’s annual ride.
Poor visibility and road conditions were contributing factors in the decision to scrub the snowmobile ride Feb. 21, not to mention lots of fresh snow.
“There was just so much snow, it would’ve been overwhelming for your first time,’ club member Suzan Pelloni told me.
Even though I would’ve been a novice — a nice way of saying I would’ve had no idea what I was doing — I had been invited to go on the club’s snowmobile ride.
The club hopes to reschedule the ride.
“With that much snow up there, we can go into March or even into April,” Pelloni said. “So that is the plan.”
The club had expected a good turnout for the ride.
“It sounds like we have quite a bit of interest in the ride, even people from Rangely,” Pelloni said. “Luckily, they were able to go out on their own.”
While the official ride was canceled, the snowmobile club’s members remain active. Organizers just wish there were more of them.
“You know, we used to have like 40 some members,” said club president Troy Hilkey. “Now we’ve got 15 or something. I don’t know why people won’t join a club.”
Pelloni, the former executive director of the Meeker Chamber of Commerce, said the snowmobile club’s membership challenges are not uncommon.
“Clubs were so important years ago, but there’s not that participation now. I see that across the board,” Pelloni said. “I don’t think it’s us or the younger generation doesn’t care. We love snowmobiling as much as the rest of ’em, but the idea of a club is not as important in the 20- or 30-year-old mind. You’ll see that in any club in Meeker.”
Participation is important, though. Because it helps to fund the club’s mission. And one of the most important roles of the snowmobile club is to maintain the riding trails in the White River National Forest.
“That’s our main thing,” Hilkey said. “If we don’t have a snowmobile club, these trails won’t be groomed. People ask me, What’s the benefit? Right now, it’s the fact you have nice, smooth trails. Without grooming, these trails will get extremely rough in about one weekend.”
Troy Hilkey’s uncle, Ron Hilkey, maintains the trails for the club.
“Ron grooms probably three days a week,” Troy Hilkey said. “We pay him as a club. We don’t pay him much. Most of it (Ron Hilkey’s time spent grooming) is donated.”
When a snowmobile is registered with the state, the Colorado Snowmobile Association, in partnership with Colorado State Parks, dedicates a percentage of the money from the registration fees — an estimated 75 to 80 percent — to maintain trails.
“We get a portion of that every year,” Troy Hilkey said. “And that money from the state is used for grooming. That’s how we groom our trails is with that state funding. But when that money is gone, it’s gone. Everybody who joins the snowmobile club actually helps by being a part of the club.”
“Snowmobile registration is the No. 1 source of that money coming in,” Pelloni added. “So many people don’t realize that. More often than not, the people who are complaining about trails are the ones who don’t register. Our huge battle is to educate people. Even if they don’t want to be part of our snowmobile club, at least register your sled and be an advocate for snowmobiling.”
Janelle Kukuk, president of the Colorado Snowmobile Association, said the majority of snowmobilers register their sleds.
“I feel like we have a high compliance rate with registration,” Kukuk said. “We estimate over 80 percent, possibly even close to 90 percent are registered. The fee is $30.25 — the 25 cents goes to the state search and rescue fund. And, yes, (registration) is required by law.”
The White River Snowmobile Club maintains miles and miles of snowmobile trails.
“The groomed trails, it’s right around 100 miles,” Troy Hilkey said. “We’ve got Yellow Jacket, Hay Flats, Miller Creek, Lake Avery, Ripple Creek and Buford, those are some of our main trailheads.”
The snowmobile club meets monthly, from about October or November through March or April. Members will decide at the March 15 meeting on a new date for the snowmobile ride. The event will be open to snowmobilers of all skill levels as well as riders who are not members of the club. Riders will have the option of staying on the groomed trails or “hitting the powder.”
“A lot of people, like us, only use the groomed trail for five miles or so and then we duck off into the un-groomed trails,” Pelloni said. “There’s a wide area out there, for sure, where you can go exploring.”
Pelloni and other snowmobilers will be out there riding the trails — or blazing new ones — for at least another month or so.
“With as much snow as there is up there, we can go through March or even into April,” she told me. “So, we’ll get you out there yet.”
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Roni Bibb of Meeker is headed to Tegucigalpa, Honduras.
But she is not going in her role as Mrs. Colorado International. She is going as part of a team called “Seeds of Change.” The group leaves March 17 and returns March 23.
“We will be doing various mission work from working with children, ministering to women, visiting orphanages, teaching how to build veggie and herb gardens, painting a church and remodeling a transitional house,” Bibb said. “We will spend lots of time ministering, laughing, crying, serving and sharing.”
Bibb said this is something she has wanted to do for a while.
“It is a personal challenge I’ve been trying to accomplish for four years,” Bibb said. “Now that this is my year as Mrs. Colorado International, I am making (the mission trip) a priority.”
Team members have been asked to collect items to take with them to distribute once they arrive in Honduras, including soaps, shampoos, towels, wash cloths and children’s rubber-soled shoes.
“Of course, they can always use funds for food and chairs for the youth groups and ministry gatherings, that we can’t purchase until we arrive,” Bibb said.
To donate, e-mail Bibb at ronibibb62@msn.com.
• • • • •
Some of Alahna Martin’s friends visited her last Saturday.
“They did a get-together for Alahna,” her father, Paul Martin, said. “They just had a lot of girl time.”
Alahna Martin, injured in a Jan. 19 auto accident, continues to improve.
“She’s doing really well,” Paul Martin said. “We’re still working on her cognitive rehabilitation. That will continue just as her physical rehabilitation continues. Really, what you do the first four to six months with a traumatic brain injury like that is you go back through all the things you’ve already learned … you don’t learn anything new.”
Alahna, a sixth-grader, visited last week at Meeker’s Barone Middle School.
“She tried a little more school last week, just a class. We’ll probably increase that … it will continue more over the next few weeks as she increases her energy level,” her father said.
Alahna suffered multiple injuries in the accident, including a broken femur. As far as Alahna’s broken leg, “She’s counting the days until she gets the cast off,” Paul Martin said, adding the cast is supposed to be removed next Friday.
• • • • •
Clem Clark of Meeker was moved out of intensive care, but his condition is still serious. Clark, who will celebrate his 25th birthday March 9, has been hospitalized in Denver because of complications due to cystic fibrosis.
“They’ve moved him back in to a regular room, so there’s some improvement, but he’s not out of the woods by a long ways,” family friend Jean Wood said.
• • • • •
Pete Waller, president of First National Bank of the Rockies, with branches in Meeker and Rangely, met with county commissioners last week as a matter of review.
“I try to meet with the commissioners annually to discuss the health of the bank and go over some pertinent ratios,” Waller said. “I also explained how the collateralization of municipal deposits works in Colorado — every state has its own rules — and the fact that all municipal deposits are protected by pledged collateral. Therefore the public’s money is never at risk.”
Commission chairman Ken Parsons said of the meeting, “Pete explained that a federal regulatory agency was placing additional collateralization requirements on them for government deposits, due to the ratio of their liquid assets to loan ratio. Mr. Waller accepted responsibility for the situation, but feels that his bank is in a strong position nonetheless and his capital assets are in a favorable position.
“After this presentation … the county’s investment committee assured Mr. Waller that the county feels that its deposits are well protected and they do not anticipate changing the mix of where the county is currently allocating its deposits.”
Currently, the county has deposits of $27,474,523 with First National Bank of the Rockies, more than with any other financial institution. The county’s deposits total $42,455,183.
“The county has a policy as far as ratings, and with the loan situation, a good number of banks have had trouble with ratings, so they (representatives of FNBR) just wanted to reassure the county they are standing behind their customers and they appreciate we have a good working relationship with them,” said county treasurer Karen Arnold. “They are my primary bank. We have always tried to keep money locally.”
The county also has deposits of $6,001,171 with Mountain Valley Bank in Meeker.
• • • • •
It’s still early, but the county could be on pace to reach or surpass last year’s total foreclosures.
“We’re looking at nine, so far, which is at about the same pace as last year, but who knows,” county treasurer Karen Arnold said last week in a report to commissioners.
“In 2009, we had 51 foreclosures,” Arnold said. “There are quite a few of them still open, that are still in the process. We also have a handful from ’08 (still open). It used to be a quick process. But it takes awhile now, and that’s by design. They want the homeowner to have every chance to get things straightened out.”
While foreclosures in Rio Blanco County have been on the increase, at least it’s not like in Garfield County.
“I was talking to the treasurer there and they are looking at 600 (foreclosures) for this year,” Arnold said.
• • • • •
Last week’s newspaper story about the Meeker School District considering a return to a four-day school week generated a mixed response on the Herald Times Facebook page. Here’s a sampling of comments:
• “When I was in elementary school we went four days a week until 4 p.m … I really liked it. Kids miss so much school on Fridays anyway, especially when they are in sports. This would make it so they don’t have to miss so much school.”
• “But what about the parents who have to work Monday through Friday, who have children in school and can’t afford to put them in daycare?” …
• “Loved it when I was in school. Seemed to work great in my opinion.”
• “Also grades went up, because kids don’t miss as much school.”
• “We tried that when I was in school and it never lasted … made a longer school year … I like the five days myself.”
• “Got a better economics idea, do six months per grade school year, days for grades k-8, nights for 9-12, same building, one building, and six days a week. The next grade is after a two-week break, so the teachers don’t lose their edge. Oh, wait, I forgot … good planning is not the norm, sorry.”
• “It is a miserable idea and one that did not work the first time around. There are precious few things for young people to do in Meeker, so turning them out after four days is not the best plan. My son was in high school during the previous experiment and hated it. It can also be a strain on single, working parents.”
• “Wyoming started (the four-day school week) two years ago. But instead, like Meeker had when I was in school, they go to school from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. for high school and middle school. The elementary go to 3:13 p.m., or have the choice to stay and get extra help if needed. Fridays can be makeup day in the mornings. We start in August and get out in May. I also enjoy the extra time I have with my kids too.”
• “When Meeker had the four-day school week we loved it. It was good for our family.”
• “I am all for it! I was one of the students at the time they did it before. There are pros and cons to everything. Now that I have kiddos, four-day school week would mean for one of my kiddos to not miss so much school due to her braces. I would rather see them go four days than cut classes that can benefit the kids.”
• • • • •
In Rangely, where the four-day school week is also being considered, superintendent Barry Williams, said, “We are still discussing the four-day school week. We are researching and studying the concept and all aspects of the four-day school week, to make sure it is the right fit for the Rangely School District.”
• • • • •
A few Facebook readers also responded to the front-page story in the Feb. 11 issue of the Herald Times regarding the police response to a domestic call prior to a Jan. 19 fatal car accident involving a Meeker family.
• “In no way was the article stating any news anyone needed to know. I feel it was done in poor taste and am disappointed that the Herald Times chose to run it.”
• “This was disrespectful! How sad to let everybody know how people fight instead of just saying they are doing fine and we all hope for the best. … My heart goes out to the family and their loss and like (the husband) said, every happy couple fights … it’s life … this didn’t even need to be brought up … especially front page.”
Meeker police chief Bob Hervey said the domestic call is still under investigation. The district attorney’s office is now looking into the matter.
• • • • •
Phyllis Henley of Rangely shared this story about the history of the Boy Scouts of America, which celebrated its 100th anniversary last month:
“An American W. D. Boyce was in London, England, when an unknown British Scout helped him across a street. Mr. Boyce offered him a tip, but the Scout refused, saying he was only doing his duty, and gave Mr. Boyce the address for Scout headquarters. Upon his return to the U.S., he incorporated the Boy Scouts of America program on Feb. 8, 1910. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints became the first institutional sponsor of Scouts in 1913.”
• • • • •
Meeker High School football coach Shane Phelan submitted his resignation to the school board. He had been the Cowboys coach for six seasons, and last year guided the team to the state quarterfinals.
• • • • •
Rangely boys’ basketball Mark Skelton, who doubles as the school’s athletic director, is mulling whether to continue coaching.
“This has been my first year as athletic director, and I’ve really enjoyed it. I like the athletic director duties,” Skelton said. “So it’s kind of a dilemma. I like the battle (of coaching), but I like the challenges (being athletic director) presents. I’ll be doing a lot of praying about it.”
• • • • •
Chris Hejl, the pro at Rangely Golf Course, told me local golfers were out knockin’ the ball around on March 1 last year. This year, the temperature on March 1 was almost golf-weather-like. However, there were several inches of snow still on the ground.
Come on, spring.

Jeff Burkhead is editor of the Herald Times. You may e-mail him at jeff@theheraldtimes.com.