Thursday, April 23, 2009

Bike & Trike event a success

About 75-100 kids and families turned out for the Bike & Trike event at Coleman Homes' new West Highlands development in Middleton on Saturday, April 11.

Criterium bike racers provided a lot of great entertainment in the morning as they raced in a Miss&Out format, meaning that after three laps, the last rider across the finish line on each lap was out of the race. The half-mile course on brand new pavement at West Highlands was a great venue because you could watch the racers come flying around the corners and three-quarters of the course was visible at once.

Three age categories of kids raced with Olympic Gold Medalist Kristin Armstrong in the afternoon. A Boise girl won a free mountain bike from George's Cycles, and she was positively thrilled. Many people had a chance to get Kristin's autograph and photo in a low-key setting. All of the race participants received a free T-shirt and water bottle.

Drake Cooper organized the event for Coleman Homes as part of the company's Grand Opening at West Highlands this spring. Home prices start in the $165,000 range. It's a great time to buy with interest rates below 5 percent, great prices and federal tax incentives -- it's a buyer's market for sure.

- SS

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Postal Service cancels air mail contract for Arnold Aviation

Media contact: Steve Stuebner, Drake Cooper, 208-472-5680 or

CASCADE, Idaho – (April 2, 2009) – Ray Arnold, an Idaho icon who flies weekly year-round into the Idaho backcountry to deliver mail and supplies to more than 20 ranches scattered throughout the 2.3-million-acre Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness, has been informed by the U.S. Postal Service that the mail contract will not be renewed as of June 30, 2009.

Backcountry residents and ranch owners this week pleaded with the Postal Service and Idaho’s congressional delegation to reverse course and restore the $46,000 contract, which Arnold has held for 34 years.

Arnold, who flies the only backcountry air mail route remaining in the lower 48 states, said Postal Service officials in Washington D.C. can’t understand why the mail can’t be delivered in other ways. “They’re like, why can’t the cowboys get on horseback and ride down the trail to get their mail,” he said, chuckling. “They don’t have a clue.”

The Frank Church Wilderness is the most remote region of pure wilderness in the lower 48 states. Many of the ranches are more than 60+ miles from the nearest road. In the winter, Arnold flies in on his Cessna 185 outfitted with skis. The skilled bush pilot has been profiled in National Geographic, CBS News, The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, Time and more.

“It’s a pretty serious situation,” said Judd DeBoer, the owner of a backcountry residence at Yellow Pine Bar on the Salmon River. “The services that Ray and Carol (Arnold) provide are a big deal for everybody back there. It’s their lifeline, and they count on it.”

“They’re a vital link to the backcountry – it’s about so much more than the mail service,” added Doug Tims, owner of Campbell’s Ferry Ranch. “They bring in critical food supplies and medical supplies – they’re a vital link to the people who live and work in the backcountry.”

The Arnolds have trouble understanding why the Postal Service is cutting back services to the Idaho backcountry when John Potter, the Postmaster General, told a congressional subcommittee on Jan. 28, 2009, “We must serve every customer and every community equally. Rich or poor, from the biggest cities to the smallest towns, we must provide the same high level of service…. We must make our services available at the same price – in both easy-to-serve locations and locations so remote they can only be reached only by mule, by swamp boat, or by bush plane.”

The mail contract has never covered the cost of the weekly mail-run flights, so the Arnolds have been subsidizing the route by adding additional passengers, equipment and supplies, Carol Arnold said. The contract “does not allow for any profit margin, just cost,” she said. “In addition, we are paid for a great circle, start to finish – one loop. No allowance for landings and takeoffs or weather, etc. It is a set price for each mail run and if we miss a week, we do not get paid.”

So as Ray Arnold points out, “We’re not getting rich on this. The way we make it work is to fly in freight and supplies with the mail, and then fly backcountry guests with us on our way back. It doesn’t always work out that way, but that’s what we have to do to make it work financially.”

For Lynn Demerse, who runs Shepp Ranch on the Salmon River with her husband, Mike, the cancellation of the mail contract would be difficult. “It would seriously compromise my ability to book guests, do Forest Service contracting and pay bills,” she said. “In addition, I get my perishable freight on the mail plane which saves the grueling, often-hot trek from Riggins up the road and in the jet boat. Meat and salad fixin’s don’t do well, not to mention the effect on a case of eggs on that bumpy river road and jet boat ride.”

Beyond the challenging logistics, everyone in the backcountry loves Ray and Carol Arnold. With Carol manning the backcountry radio, and Ray flying the plane, the duo have saved many lives by rescuing lost hunters or injured people who get hurt out of the woods in a timely manner. He’s even discovered people who have passed on when he’s noticed no smoke coming out of a chimney in the dead of winter.

“Ray is obviously a large part of our lives and Carol makes the whole thing work,” Demerse said. “Whether it is a rescue (last year Ray evacuated a patient with a head injury from here within two hours of the incident) or just a letter from home, it makes a huge difference.”

To contact Ray and Carol Arnold at Arnold Aviation, please call 208-382-4844. To reach Lynn Demerse, email her at Media inquiries can be directed to Steve Stuebner, 208-472-5680 or

For visuals, the media may be interested in a YouTube video of Arnold taking off and landing in various backcountry air strips in the Frank Church Wilderness.