The Most Memorable Colorado Stories Of 2017, As Chosen By CPR News Reporters

<p>(CPR News Photos)</p>
Photo: Most Memorable 2017 Montage

Photo: Most Memorable 2017 Montage

We asked our reporters to tell us which stories they remembered most vividly from the past year, the stories that may or may not have been the most significant from someone else's point of view, but the ones they reported that captured their attention the most, and that said something unique about Colorado. Here's what they picked:

Sam Brasch: Conundrum's Poop Problem

Photo: Conundrum Poo Problem 6 | Hot Springs Soaking - SBrasch
Visitors soak in the evening at Conundrum Hot Springs, outside of Aspen, Colo.

Photo: Conundrum Poo Problem 6 | Hot Springs Soaking - SBrasch

Audio: Sam Brasch Follows A Conundrum Hot Springs Clean Up Patrol

Sam Brasch writes: My favorite story of the year was also the smelliest to report. In the Spring of 2017, I learned that Conundrum Hot Springs near Aspen has seen a surge of visitors over the last few years. The result has been a serious problem with unburied human waste in a wilderness area. The Forest Service has decided to take on the turds with a new management plan for the area that requires visitors to pack out their waste in so-called "Wag Bags." A crew invited me to watch them spread the poop-bag gospel on a one-night trip into Conundrum. It's easy for people to lament the state of Colorado's heavily used wildernesses. It's a lot harder to think of solutions. The trip showed the dedication of land managers and visitors to preserving wild places. I also got to go backpacking with a microphone and a camera, which was fantastic.

Vic Vela: Senior DJs Dial Back The Years

Photo: Senior Radio 4 | HCRK
Dick Gustafson, Kent Stenman, Jack Kelly, Dan Parker, Bob Stong inside the HCRK studio.


From Vic: There’s so much in today’s news that makes people sad or even angry. That’s not my personality. So I try to find stories that are positive and can put smiles on listeners’ faces. Judging by the feedback I received through social media, this story made a lot of people smile. It certainly made me smile talking to old-timers with wonderful stories to share, knowing that they’re able to share those stories with one another through their own “airwaves.” These folks were just wonderful to talk to!

John Daley: Eat Your Veggies

Photo: Kids CROP Nutrition 1 | Victory Cucumber - JDaley
Preschoolers at #1 Child Enrichment Center in Greeley, Colo., hold up a cucumber they raised from a seed.

John Daley writes: On the health beat, I cover stories that span the gamut, from opioids to operating rooms. I cross paths with all kinds of fascinating folks, with compelling, often moving, stories to tell. But it’s rare that someone I’m interviewing will cause me to burst out in laughter. That’s what happened here, because, of course, kids say the darnedest things. “I want to tell you something in your microphone!” Or, “I have soy milk, because I’m lactose intolerant.” As they raced outside to show me the veggies they grew, one child yelled “Let’s do this!” And this is what makes radio the essential, indispensable, news source. You can describe what a kids says, but it really makes an impact when you hear that voice.

Nathaniel Minor: Mind The Family Store

Photo: R&amp;R Market 1 | Front Of Store
The R&R Market on Main Street in San Luis, Colorado, has been open since 1857. The current building, seen here, has stood since the late 1940s.
Audio: Nathaniel Minor Stops By The R&R Market In San Luis, Colorado

Ben Markus: Can't Find A Home

Photo: Real estate in Denver
A sign stands outside a home for sale in south Denver.
Audio: Ben Markus Reports On Metro Home Buying

Ben Markus writes: Housing costs in Denver and Colorado are growing rapidly, putting homeownership out of reach for many. One culprit is the lack of housing inventory, for-sale homes on the market. A catch-22 has developed making the matter worse. Many potential home sellers aren’t putting their place on the market, because there are few places to move into after they sell. We look at the phenomenon sweeping the nation, one report found people living in their homes longer than ever before.

Michael Sakas: Pinball Wizard Women

Photo: Women Of Pinball 1 | Helena Walter Higgins - MSakas
Helena Walter Higgins, winner of the 2017 Women's World Pinball Championship, stands in front of a row of pinball machines in her living room in Thornton, Colo.
Audio: Michael Elizabeth Sakas Talks With Women In The Colorado Pinball Scene

Michael Sakas writes: I voted to headline this story, "Watch Out Wizards, Here Come the Pinball Witches." As a fan of the game, it was great to meet the women who are out to change its culture. Each of them shared stories of battling sexism in the gaming world, and eventually finding community and camaraderie with other players. And competition! Who knew it would be so fun to get my butt kicked in a round of pinball? The women’s world champ recently moved to Colorado, and her home was lined with games. It was one of my favorite moments of the year, playing her Addams Family-themed machine, while she shared her techniques and stories of pinball experiences around the world.

Grace Hood: Digging Out From Coal

Photo: NFV Coal Future 2 | Paonia Mayor Charles Stewart - GHood
Paonia Mayor Charles Stewart says the decline in the region’s coal industry has hollowed out the middle class. “We have seen folks leave that are really important to the day to day operation of the town,” he said.
CPR’s Grace Hood travels to the North Fork Valley

Grace Hood writes: 2017 environmental headlines were rollercoaster ride. Coal is in. Clean Power Plan is out. Since I report federal policy changes every day, my favorite 2017 story was one where I got to see what was happening on the ground in Colorado coal country. The North Fork Valley lost two of its three coal mines since 2013. So I visited the mine, met with the mayor, talked with local schools, economic development groups, businesses and residents. They told me they’re not waiting for Donald Trump to fulfill his campaign promises. They are taking economic development into their own hands.

What I loved about reporting this feature were the diverse natural sounds I recorded. My source at the local solar training school tracks the coal industry slump by the declining number of coal trains that go past his window every day. You can also hear apples fermenting! It was an all-out adventure finding this story and reporting it.

Jenny Brundin: A Lone Star Graduation

Photo: Lone Star Grads 6 | Grads 2 - JBrundin
The four soon-to-be graduates of Lone Star standing in the fallowed cornfield outside the school.
Audio: Before Graduation, Jenny Brundin Stops By Rural Lone Star School

Jenny Brundin writes: I love reporting on rural schools because administrators, teachers and students are open and relaxed about me wandering around and doing what I need to do. The schools feel like friendly, giant families. They are great places to tell the untold stories of an essential non-academic aspect of school – that they’re places where life skills are learned, where relationships are built between students, friends, and teachers, and where adolescents start to find their place in the world.

I’ve always wanted to do a story on a very small high school class. In a bigger school, these four very different students probably wouldn’t be in the same friend group. At Lone Star, they had to learn to like one another. They were funny, spontaneous and played off of one another, all of which made for an energetic, humorous narrative and that means great radio. And who can resist a picture of four high schoolers standing in a corn field?

Stephanie Wolf: Want Sprinkles On That?

Photo: TR Toppers_Rode brothers
Brothers Bob, Greg and Tim Rode. This picture was taken about 1980, when the brothers launched their “Rodey’s Ice Cream” trucks venture. They purchased old post office Jeeps and turned them into ice cream trucks.
Audio: Stephanie Wolf Visits TR Toppers In Pueblo

Stephanie Wolf writes: My favorite part about my job is when it takes me to new places and introduces me to people I would likely have not met otherwise. Reporting about TR Toppers, a multi-million-dollar dessert toppings company, took me to Pueblo for the first time and introduced me to Tim Rode. He founded TR Toppers with his two brothers.

This wasn’t the Willy-Wonka-esque story I had originally envisioned. There was, of course, no chocolate river or fancy candy-tasting lab. In fact, Rode had more sports memorabilia than candy in his office. But he painted vivid pictures of the early years when he would chop Reese’s Peanut Butter cups by hand. Rode didn’t get a twinkle in his eye when talking about candy — he got it when he talked about being an entrepreneur. How a simple idea could be such a success for three brothers really stuck with me.