gains ground in trail dispute
The city of Durango has made some progress in its effort to
extend the Animas River Trail behind the China Restaurant. After
a court order, the city has permission to go on the property
and study the feasibility of extending the trail, a first step
toward condemning the land.
The Animas River Trail is interrupted in the middle at the
Main Avenue bridge. Over the past year, the city has been working
to buy property from Terri D’s, the VFW Post and China
Restaurant to complete the connection. In total, the connection
would cost $2.3 million.
Terri D’s and the VFW have come to the table, but China
Restaurant’s owner Louis Cummins has strictly opposed
selling an easement. Consequently, the city is now considering
condemnation, which is legally allowed if a public benefit exists
and a fair price cannot be agreed upon. District court has ruled
that the city may take the first steps toward condemnation by
beginning studies on the property. “The court said that
in order for us to do our due diligence and do an appraisal,
we needed to be on site, and it granted us permission,”
said Kevin Hall, Parks, Open Space and Trails development manager.
The next step in the process includes an appraisal of the property
and negotiating an agreeable price. If negotiations fail, the
court decides how much the property is worth. Cummins has refused
to enter negotiations with the city and most likely will fight
the judge’s recent decision. “I believe he is going
to pursue an appeal on that particular ruling,” said Hall.
Hall said the city will continue to try to talk with Cummins
and encourage negotiations to avoid condemnation.
“While the request for access does fit in with that condemnation
process, I believe it is the city’s desire to come to
some sort of agreement and not have to go there,” he said.
Survey and soil work should begin in the near future.
City drafts dark sky ordinance
Durango City Council members got their first look Tuesday at
an ordinance aimed at decreasing light pollution and helping
the stars become more visible.
City planners have drafted a code that calls for light fixtures
that direct light down – not out or up – and avoid
excess wattages. The code also calls for an end to light trespass,
which would mean light could not spill onto other properties.
As drafted, the so-called “dark sky ordinance” will
apply to existing structures as well as future development,
though there will be a grace period for compliance. A public
hearing on dark skies was held in September, and there were
“All attendees at September’s meeting were very
supportive of the idea,” said Assistant City Manager Greg
Ironically, the city is one of Durango’s biggest light
polluters and will have to change hundreds of lights, including
street lights, fixtures at the fairgrounds, and ballfield lights
at Fort Lewis College. Commercial areas like Bodo Park, Main
Avenue and the Durango Mall will likely need substantial adjustments
as well. Mandatory changes also will trickle down to small businesses,
subdivisions and in-town housing.
“Our hope is that the implementation will be as painless
as possible for property owners,” said Caton.
The council will continue discussion of the draft ordinance
in the first part of next year. Prior to adoption, another public
hearing will be held.
Study offers HD drilling alternatives
An environmental consulting group recently released a study
that challenges plans to drill gas wells in the nearby HD Mountains.
The Ecos Consulting study says that simple conservation measures
could easily outweigh the amount of gas available in the roadless
area near Bayfield. Coal Bed Methane Co. proposes to drill a
total of 297 wells in southeast La Plata County, including at
least 35 wells in the HD Mountains.
“We tried to get an accurate read on how much gas is
there and then looked at if you want that much gas in the region,
what are some less harmful ways to get it,” said Chris
Calwell, Ecos Consulting’s Vice-President for Policy and
Citing a study by the Boulder-based SWEEP, an energy-conservation
advocacy group, Calwell said implementing things like utility-based
incentives for energy efficiency and encouraging more efficient
light bulbs would save more than twice the fuel available in
the HDs in half the time.
“The savings SWEEP found were dramatically higher than
what could be found in the HD Mountains,” said Calwell.
“The HD’s would provide just a tiny, tiny fraction
of what the state of Colorado is using.”
Calwell added that efficiency standards would not be that out
of the ordinary and that Colorado is actually well behind the
national norm. “Mostly we’d like to get this part
of the country to start adopting the kind of energy efficiency
standards that are common throughout the rest of the country,”
The HDs study was commissioned for national purposes by the
Energy Foundation, a large, nonprofit group encouraging sustainable
energy. However, the results will be sent to the Forest Service
as it weighs the feasibility of drilling in the HD Mountains.
Ecos Consulting is an environmental consulting firm based in
Portland, Ore., with an office in Durango.
Soup kitchen opens new doors
The Manna Soup Kitchen opened the doors of its new building
Friday, Dec. 6, after more than a year without a home.
Prior to last June, the soup kitchen operated in the Sacred
Heart Catholic Church. However, the church’s need to remodel
displaced the soup kitchen. As a result, lunches were served
in the Sacred Heart parking lot for more than a year as construction
took place on the soup kitchen’s permanent home at Avenida
del Sol and Roosa Avenue. The soup kitchen served its last meal
in the parking lot in September.
Last Friday, the new 4,200-square-foot building, which includes
a kitchen, bathrooms, dining room, storage and office space,
opened for business. “So far, we’ve hit day three
and everything’s fine,” said Kim Workman, the kitchen’s
director. “We haven’t had any problems, and we’re
basically trying to feed as many people as possible.”
Last Tuesday, 58 people ate lunch at the Manna Soup Kitchen,
and Workman said she hopes that number will climb to 150 and
that the kitchen will eventually expand beyond lunch into other
meals. Workman also stressed that the soup kitchen is not just
for homeless people.
“You don’t have to be homeless,” she said.
“The only requirement is that you be hungry.”
The building’s cost came in at about $300,000. The structure
is on city-owned land and is being leased to the Manna for $1
Benefit Day raises $21,000 for DAC
The regional community showed up in force for DMR’s annual
Benefit Day, Nov. 27, raising $21,437 for the Durango Arts Center.
In total, 2,021 skiers and riders paid $10 for a lift ticket;
the Big Prize Raffle tallied $920 and beer sales raised more
than $300. Last Tuesday, DMR employees presented a check to
the arts center.
“The DAC was so pleased to be on the slopes last Wednesday
with Durango Mountain Resort,” said Brian Wagner, executive
director of the arts center. “This is a wonderful beginning
to a partnership between the DAC and DMR.”
DMR Senior Vice-President Bob Kunkel lauded the community for
“We couldn’t be more pleased with the turnout,
with the way this community repeatedlyA0comes together to support
its local arts and nonprofit organizations,” he said.
Tuesday’s donation could be doubly beneficial as it is
eligible for a matching gift of $35,000 being made by Durango
resident Betty Haskell. This is the second consecutive year
that Benefit Day has raised more than $20,000, with $22,000-plus
going to the San Juan Mountains Association last year.
Police nab suspected tire slashers
Police have apprehended three men they believe were responsible
for slashing tires on 128 parked cars early last Saturday morning.
Based on reports from students and individuals on their way
to work, police had been investigating an incident which took
place between 4:30 and 5 a.m. that morning.
“We had a group of people slashing tires on cars early
Saturday,” said Fort Lewis College Chief of Police Arnold
Trujillo early Monday. “We have some good leads. Some
students and workers were up at that hour and saw them in the
Cars in the parking lot serving Palmer, Escalante and West
Hall dormitories sustained the most damage.
Police eventually arrested Brian Capobianco, 20, Ashby Cook,
20, and Justin Newmyer, 22, on Monday afternoon. Cook and Newmyer
are FLC students, and Capobianco is a former student. The three
were arraigned on charges of criminal mischief and held in La
Plata County Jail on $25,000 bail each.