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Rocky Mountain high ... prices

Summer camps may be closed for the season, which means it's a perfect time for Johnson Countians to send 14 county employees off to the Rocky Mountains.

They'll be attending a four-day workshop at a place called Shadowcliff, a spread of cabins and hiking trails in Grand Lake, Colorado. It's owned by Bridging the Gap, the Kansas City nonprofit that works on environmental initiatives. Six years ago, a family in Kansas donated the property to Bob Mann, Bridging the Gap's founding director, who turned the rustic retreat into a training ground where Kansas City bureaucrats could learn how to make their agencies more eco-friendly.

At $750 a person, it's no Boy Scout camp (though participants are expected to take a turn doing the dishes). JoCo will shell out more than $10,000 for the environmental workshop alone.

Thing is, hopping on a plane just causes more pollution. Using an online calculator, the Department of Burnt Ends computed the global-warming side effects of the green field trip.

By the time they touch down in Denver, JoCo's staffers will have added more than 6,000 pounds of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. (By the return trip, they'll have racked up nearly 6 tons of the stuff.) Throw in a 200-mile round-trip drive from Denver to Grand Lake in a small caravan of rental cars, and that's at least another 500 pounds of suffocating yuck.

Once they get there, our travelers will see mostly familiar faces: The majority of Shadowcliff's attendees and nearly half of its "faculty" live right here in the metro.

Mann stresses that he brings in national experts, too. But it seems to us that it might be more environmentally conscious to just fly a half-dozen experts to KC instead of sending scores of locals to Colorado.

Cindy Kemper, Johnson County's environmental director, says it's being immersed in the natural world that makes the workshop uniquely effective. Past trips to Shadowcliff, she says, have resulted in measurable eco efforts back home.

After the Department of Burnt Ends began making inquiries, it learned that the retreat will now purchase carbon-offset credits to balance the greenhouse gases that visitors spew on their way to Grand Lake. Boy, were we glad to hear that. Because why actually reduce greenhouse gases when you can just offset them?

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