Collision injures safety volunteer

In an unusual twist, a Durango Mountain Resort volunteer charged with controlling skier and snowboarder speed was struck by a speeding snowboarder last Saturday. The Mountain Safety volunteer in his 50s was taken to Mercy Medical Center with what was believed to be a broken femur, according to DMR Spokesman Matt Skinner.

“We had a 21-year-old snowboarder collide with an over 50-year-old mountain safety volunteer,” said Skinner. “The on-hill diagnosis was that he may have had a broken femur.”

An added twist was that the snowboarder was skiing illegally with his roommate’s pass. The La Plata County Sheriff’s Office cited the snowboarder for theft of services and reckless endangerment.

Skinner said that according to the Colorado Skier Safety Act, the volunteer will have to seek reparations on his own. “Under the Skier Safety Act, collisions as such must be settled between the two parties,” he said.

Skinner would not release the name of the snowboarder.

FLC education chair to step down

In the wake of a pending lawsuit, an investigation into a civil rights violation and the resignation of seven staffers, the dean of the Fort Lewis College Education Department has announced that she will retire. Virginia Engman said her decision to leave the position is not related to the recent turmoil.

“I’m retiring because I can,” Engman said. “I want to spend more time with my husband and do some traveling.”

Engman’s retirement will take effect June 30, but she said she will stay on for another six to 10 months on a transitional contract.

Fort Lewis College’s teacher education program has traditionally been considered one of the college’s greatest assets. The program touts itself as having national pre-accreditation with the Teacher Education Accreditation Council as well as approvals from the Colorado Commission on Higher Education and the Colorado Department of Education.

However, late last year, five grievances were filed against dean Engman, seven staff members resigned, and a civil rights investigation was under way. Engman did not comment on these issues because of potential legal ramifications.

Durango Kmart to close its doors

The blue-light will be going out permanently at the Durango Mall. The Kmart Corporation announced that it will close 326 under-performing stores nationwide as part of its Chapter 11 financial objectives review. Durango’s Big Kmart is one store that has been targeted.

A store in Gallup, N.M., also will be closed, as will Colorado Kmarts in Alamosa, Colorado Springs, Greenwood Village, Denver and Lakewood.

In light of the bankruptcy and efforts at reorganization, Kmart said that it considers the value of its common stock to be highly speculative and cautions equity holders that the stock may ultimately be determined to have no value.

Environmental health study begins

Durango’s San Juan Basin Health Department has been selected from more than 30 nationwide applicants to participate in a program to assess the environmental health of the local community.

This PACE–EH (Protocol for Assessing Community Excellence in Environmental Health) program will assemble a team of interested individuals with a concern for living and working in a healthy environment. A community environmental health assessment tool will be devised to develop and implement a community action plan.

“What we’re trying to do over the course of the next eight months is form a PACE team composed of stakeholders throughout La Plata County,” said Wano Urbonas, the department’s environmental health director. “Then we’ll go through a series of tasks in trying to look at a comprehensive overview of the environmental health needs and desires of La Plata County.”

Urbonas said these needs could range from everything from air and water pollution to West Nile Virus and food safety. “We don’t want to decide,” he said. “We’re looking to the community to tell us what its needs are.”

Eventually, the community action plan will be presented to the county commissioners.

Beginning in February, PACE-EH team meetings will be held the second Monday of each month at the health department and are open to the public.

Lynx program gets financial boost

The Colorado Wildlife Heritage Foundation has committed to raising $500,000 over the next two years to be used by the Colorado Division of Wildlife’s lynx reintroduction project.

“The lynx project is a great opportunity for people who want to make a difference to see the results of their effort and contributions within their lifetime,” said Karin Ballard, executive director of the Colorado Wildlife Heritage Foundation.

The money will help fund the project in the future, as an additional 180 lynx are released in the San Juan Mountains in an effort to establish a viable breeding population. The project is expected to cost $2 million over the next three years. The remaining funding will come from Great Outdoors Colorado and the DOW Nongame Check-off fund. The money will help fund the importation of lynx from Canada to Colorado, their care in a Del Norte holding facility where they are brought to the best possible condition before they are released, and research necessary to ensure that the lynx recovery project succeeds.

Four lynx captured in eastern Canada arrived in Colorado earlier this month, the first of up to 50 lynx the DOW will reintroduce in the San Juans this spring.

Durango police begin bar education

In an effort to continue stringent DUI enforcement in 2003, the Durango Police Department is taking an educational effort inside Durango’s bars. A couple of nights a week, one or two Durango police officers will be working inside local drinking establishments with the sole purpose of DUI education. All but a few local bars agreed to permit the education efforts.

These short, voluntary presentations will be geared toward explaining DUI laws, intoxication and awareness of the ramifications or the prevention of driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Sgt. Doug Embree said that in spite of past efforts, Durango remains “one of the top producing DUI cities in Colorado.”

During 2002, DUI enforcement efforts by the Durango Police Department resulted in 489 DUI or Driving While Ability Impaired (DWAI) arrests. Fifty-four of those arrests were a result of accidents that involved 11 injuries. One recent DUI-related accident resulted in three fatalities.

Colorado skier visits up dramatically

In the first of three reports tabulating skier visits for Colorado, skier visits increased 18.35 percent over last year to a total of 2,912,801, according to Rob Perlman, President and CEO of Colorado Ski Country USA.

Contributing to the best first-period results in more than five years was the above-average snowfall throughout in November, which allowed many of the resorts to push up their opening dates and offer additional terrain and facilities. The abundant snowfall continued during December, while resort operators saw an increase in season pass sales as the result of the pent-up demand for more typical snow conditions than have been seen in recent years, Perlman said.

Additionally, the resorts worked collaboratively during the early season to promote the state’s optimal snow conditions in a strong public relations effort. Several resorts also surpassed records in terms of skier visits during the first part of the season.

“Although our first period results are on pace with 1997-98, which was a record season for the state at nearly 12 million skier visits and 12 percent ahead of our five-year average, we are cautiously optimistic about the remainder of the season, looking at the current economic and politicalA0landscape,” said Perlman.

Destination resorts, like Durango Mountain Resort, saw an 18.27 jump in skier days as compared to a 19.52 percent increase for Front Range resorts.






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