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Your favorite Rocky Mountain PBS stories of 2023

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2024 has arrived, and Rocky Mountain PBS hopes to have the best year yet. But before we head in to new goals an aspirations, we’re taking the time to reflect on all the ways we connected with our community - starting with a round-up of our most popular stories of the year. 

By showing you appreciation for these stories, you showed us what matters most to you. From housing issues like homelessness in Colorado Springs or battles with HOA’s to Colorado arts and culture, like a new “troll” in Victor/Cripple Creek or the debunking of DIA mural conspiracies, we heard you loud and clear.

We look forward to spending 2024 diving deeper into these topics, and learning more about how to best serve you, the Rocky Mountain PBS community. 

Without further ado, enjoy a countdown of 2023’s most popular stories:

 

10. Colorado Springs touts itself as a national leader on homelessness. Unhoused people beg to differ. (September 28, 2023)

A warning note from Colorado Springs Police Department telling unhoused people to move their belongings or risk a ticket. 
Photo: Zach Ben-Amots, Rocky Mountain PBS


When it comes to homelessness, the Colorado Springs mayor, city staff and those who run its shelters tell a story of success so great that Colorado Springs had cities around the nation asking, “what is Colorado Springs doing right?”

Rocky Mountain PBS interviewed 36 people experiencing homelessness across Colorado Springs over the course of three months. They had a different story to tell. 

Unhoused residents described police sweeps in frigid temperatures where all their belongings were taken, staying in overcrowded and unhygienic shelters, losing friends to drug overdoses and being turned away from employment and housing opportunities because of their appearance.

 

9. The true story behind the conspiracy-riddled murals at Denver International Airport (June 26, 2023)

Tanguma proudly displays the endangered Snow Leopard daughter Darlina painted from memory.
Photo: Elle Naef, Rocky Mountain PBS

The meaning of the “Children of the World Dream of Peace” murals at DIA are often misconstrued. Rumors circulate about illuminati ties, Nazi propaganda and other  accusations that are harmful to the artists. But behind the murals are a father and daughter who have dedicated their work to the city of Denver since the 90’s. 

Rocky Mountain PBS visited Leo Tanguma and Cristina Darlina in their family home to discuss the meaning behind the murals and the impact the conspiracy theories have had on their lives.

 

8. Winter Park was once known as an affordable ski town. COVID-19 changed everything for locals.(November 20, 2023)

Construction workers build affordable single-family homes for Winter Park’s local workforce to have home-buying opportunities.
Photo: Peter Vo, Rocky Mountain PBS

In the years leading up to the COVID-19 pandemic, Winter Park was largely a one-day stop for tourists with suitable amounts of housing for the workers who staffed the tourist attractions. But once the pandemic hit and remote work became more common, many people moved to the mountain town, pricing out locals.

Today, around 80% of the homes in Winter Park are owned by second home owners, and locals are struggling to meet the housing costs. 

 

7. The story of Rita, Colorado's newest troll (August 10, 2023)

At the top of a trailhead sandwiched between two former mining towns, world-famous artist Thomas Dambo has constructed his latest project. Photo: Julio Sandoval, Rocky Mountain PBS

Artist Thomas Dambo from Denmark is a “recycled art activist,” and is known for his six-foot-tall troll statues that can be found around the world. 

Earlier this year, Rocky Mountain PBS paid a visit to Dambo and his crew as they constructed his latest creation, “Rita,” in a forest between Victor and Cripple Creek. 

 

6. The 'lose-lose' fight between an ex-Bronco and his HOA (March 14, 2023)

Karl Paymah took up a legal fight against his homeowners association over attorney fees that he considered exorbitant and unjustifiable.
Photo: Jeremy Moore,Rocky Mountain PBS

In 2021 former Bronco player Karl Paymah received a letter from the Rock Ridge Condominium Association saying he was to pay $1,515 in unpaid HOA fees or face foreclosure. According to Paymah, when he tried to pay the balance online, his account was locked due to being passed on to collectors. This was just the beginning when it came to barriers to completing his payments. 

Former RMPBS investigative journalist Brittany Freeman learned Paymah’s story was not a unique one, and that issues like these are more common than they may seem. 

 

5. How a Denver neighborhood became one of the most polluted zip codes in America (November 7, 2023)

Candi CdeBaca looks out at her neighborhood street, knowing it is one of the most polluted zip codes in America and determined to make it better.
Photo: Alexis Kikoen, Rocky Mountain PBS


The 80216 zip code includes the Denver neighborhoods of Globeville Elyria-Swansea and part of Commerce City and was ranked as the most polluted zip code in America in a 2017 study from ATTOM Data Solution

The area contains hazards including Superfund sites, refineries and highways. 

Rocky Mountain PBS dug into the history of the area to determine how 80216 became one of the most polluted zip codes in the country.

 

4. Staple of Grand Junction dining scene closes suddenly after nearly 25 years in business (January 18, 2023)

Il Bistro with a goodbye sign on the door. 
Photo: Alex Forsett, Rocky Mountain PBS

Il Bistro was a Grand Junction staple for almost a quarter of a century. Residents were surprised when it closed suddenly. 

The owners Brunella Gualerzi and her husband, Ron Hall, announced the closure through an email and a heartfelt letter posted on the door. They said it was time to pursue an idea bestowed upon them by Guy Fieri of “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” to package goods and vend them through grocery stores.

 

3. Colorado’s largest counties see population decline, experts point to affordability (November 12, 2023)

Following a decade-long population growth, migration to Colorado is now slowing. 

“Colorado grew at a lean rate in 2021 and 2022, population slowed down to about a third of the rate we had during the last decade,” said Elizabeth Garner, Colorado state demographer, at the State Demography Summit.  

Summit attendees said the decline alluded to the affordability crisis forcing people to find other places to live. 

 

2. ‘Everything was a thrill’: 50 years later, Rick Steves reflects on his favorite trip to Europe (October 6, 2023)

Rick Steves, left, and Gene Openshaw in Europe, 1973
Photo: Rick Steves' Europe


Fifty years ago, acclaimed travel guide Rick Steves set off on his first Europe trip sans-parents. After putting out a successful ad seeking a travel partner, Steves and his friend Gene Openshaw set forth with a rail pass, a budgeted $3 a day, and a handy guidebook. 

Rocky Mountain PBS chatted with Steves about the highlights of the trips, and how it contributed to his long career as one of America’s favorite travelers.

1.A Colorado high-country ski town struggles to save its identity in the shadow of a ski resort (June 13, 2023)

Linda Long's family has seven generations in Oak Creek. 
Photo: Kate Perdoni, Rocky Mountain PBS

The number one favorite article from 2023 takes us to Oak Creek, a small town where workers from expensive ski-towns go to live a more affordable life than the one in their place of work. As the population grows, the town is working to strike a balance between maintaining its historic identity and welcoming newcomers. 

Thank you for sharing another year with us. Without your support, we would not be able to achieve our growing mission to ensure a Colorado where everyone is seen and heard. 

Let’s keep the conversation going. Feel free to send your story ideas for 2024 to journalism@rmpbs.org


Elle Naef is a multimedia producer for Rocky Mountain PBS. ellenaef@rmpbs.org

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