River Trails Ranch clears first hurdle
The controversial River Trails Ranch got the go-ahead from
the Durango Planning Commission on Tuesday. The board unanimously
recommended that the City Council annex the 245-acre Animas
Valley ranch into city limits, a step that would facilitate
the proposed development of 800 homes on the property. However,
the council will have the final say on the project and is expected
to consider the plan sometime after Aug. 15.
City Planner Greg Hoch said that he had no indication which
way the four-person Planning Commission would go. “I had
no idea how the vote would turn out,” he said. “The
staff never asks Planning Commission how they expect to vote.
Our study sessions are always oriented toward factual information
rather than positions.”
However, Hoch said that there was obvious consensus that River
Trails Ranch would be an appropriate extension of Durango. “I
listened to the four commissioners provide their explanations,
and while each one expressed their own opinion, they seemed
to reflect a consensus that this property was a logical extension
of urban boundaries,” he said.
During Tuesday’s meeting, developer John Wessman also
announced provisions for affordable housing. The city has always
said it would require some component of affordable housing,
and this week Wessman said that one-third of the 800 units would
be earmarked for work-force housing. The details would have
to be worked out should the development gain approval.
“It’s more significant than any other development
proposal that we’ve ever had, and what was advanced became
a condition of approval and in many respects raised the bar
for future developments,” Hoch said.
If the proposal receives annexation approval by the City Council
later this summer, development review will follow.
Animas-La Plata takes out KSUT
As crews work to reroute a major gas pipeline around Ridges
Basin to make way for the Animas-La Plata project, a worker
made a misstep last Monday. A piece of heavy equipment inadvertently
pulled down some powerlines, cutting off power to Smelter Mountain
and blanking one of public radio station KSUT’s frequencies
for more than an hour.
La Plata Electric Association spokesman David Waller said,
“Monday afternoon at 1:15 p.m., a crew who was rerouting
the gas line pulled down two spans of line. They actually broke
two poles and put the line on the ground.”
As a result, power was down for about 90 minutes, primarily
on Smelter Mountain. One of the side effects of the accident
was that KSUT’s main Durango frequency 89.5 was down.
“KSUT lost its main Durango frequency of 89.5,”
said KSUT Executive Director Beth Warren. “Fortunately,
we have 90.1 which serves La Plata County.”
A-LP Projects Manager Pat Schumacher said, “Apparently,
that guy is no longer working for the crew.”
Local fire danger on the rise
Local fire danger is on the rise as temperatures continue to
climb, rain eludes the area and afternoon winds dry out vegetation.
The danger was born out earlier this week when lightning triggered
a small fire north of Durango near Rockwood. Dubbed the Bear
Creek Fire, the blaze started last Monday and only grew to a
quarter of an acre before crews had it contained that afternoon.
While danger of local wildfire is growing, Ron Klatt, fire
management officer for the Columbine Public Lands Office, stressed
that a relatively wet spring has made conditions different than
the banner 2002 wildfire season.
“In 2002, there was very little green-up and a fire could,
and did, start most anywhere,” Klatt said. “This
year, with the good green-up, fires haven’t spread as
quickly and have been much easier to control.”
Fuel moisture levels from both live and dead vegetation have
been gathered once a week from seven designated sites on public
lands in Southwest Colorado, and the results are used to determine
fire danger. The average current moisture content of perennial
grasses and gambel oak is about normal for this time of year.A0Ponderosa
pine needles, however, are extremely low in moisture and would
be considered at a critical threshold for tree torching and
Consequently, local land managers have yet to impose fire restrictions.
“We’re reluctant to impose fire restrictions when
the occurrence of human-caused fires is minimal,” said
Mark Lauer, fire management officer for the San Juan Public
Lands in Durango. “This year only six out of 65 fires
have been human caused. At this time last year, 29 of the 42
fires were caused by humans.”
However, without some substantial moisture in the coming week,
fire restrictions are imminent. “Fire restrictions will
go into effect on lower elevations of the San Juan Public Lands
the week of June 23 if Southwest Colorado does not see some
significant moisture before then,” Lauer said.
Haflin Creek Trail reopened to public
On the up side of the local fire picture, the Forest Service
reopened the Haflin Creek Trail last Saturday. The popular trail
located on the east side of the Animas Valley had been closed
because of lingering dangers from the Missionary Ridge Fire.
San Juan National Forest crews have cleared downed logs and
debris from the trail and removed standing, burned trees along
the trail for 4.8 miles from the trailhead on County Road 250
up to the Missionary Ridge Trail. Although trees that were expected
to fall in the near future were felled, many fire-damaged trees
remain along the route.A0The public is advised that trees in
the area could fall without warning as roots become unstable
during heavy windstorms or if the ground becomes saturated.
Crews are still working to repair the tread of the trail in
some places where it has been washed away by debris flows.A0Trail
users also are warned that the danger of debris flow still exists
during periods of heavy rain in the Haflin Creek and other steep
drainages in the burned area.
Six national forest trails remain closed to public access within
the Missionary Ridge burn area. They are Stevens Creek, Shearer
Creek, Runlett Park, Lake Eileen, North Canyon and Graham Creek
trails. Closure signs are posted at their trailheads.A0
Police apprehend teen-age burglars
The Durango Police Department apprehended two juveniles June
5 and charged them with seven separate burglaries along north
Main Avenue. The 14- and 15-year-old are suspected of breaking
into Dalaneys, Still Smokin’, Fiesta Mexicana, Fantastic
Sam’s and One Man’s Treasure, doing substantial
damage to the businesses and making off with between $1,200-$1,500
in stolen property and money.
Detective Russell Lammon made the arrests and commented, “They
hit two restaurants, then they hit Still Smokin’ three
times, and they hit One Man’s Treasure and Fantastic Sam’s.”
Lammon said that investigators noticed matching footprints
at all of the crime scenes and were eventually able to follow
a trail to the juveniles’ homes. There, they questioned
the youths who flatly denied it. However, after obtaining a
search warrant, officers discovered a missing cash register
in a home. Lammon said that on top of stolen property and money,
the juveniles did a great deal of damage.
“They caused a lot more property damage than what they
made off with,” he said.
Lammon added that it was incredible that two teen-agers could
inflict so much damage. “We’re talking about a 14-
and a 15-year-old, and these guys hit seven different places,”
he said. “Now that we’ve caught them, it’s
going to cut down our workload quite a bit.”
Formal charges for both juveniles will be filed by the District
Researchers find more lynx kittens
Colorado Division of Wildlife researchers have discovered two
more lynx dens in the San Juan Mountains near Durango and each
of the dens contain three lynx kittens. This finding brought
the total number of lynx kittens born in Colorado this spring
to 14, by five different females.
According to Gary Miller, research leader for the DOW, the
additional kittens represent a tremendous step forward for the
reintroduction program. “The researchers are still beaming,”
he said. “They have really poured their heart and soul
into the program, and it is nice to see it pay off. It has been
a long time coming, and it just goes to show that sometimes
it takes time for animals to acclimate.”
The reintroduction of lynx in Colorado began in 1999. To date,
129 lynx have been released. However, prior to this year, there
had been no documented breeding. An additional 130 lynx are
slated for release before 2007.