Head of tourism office steps down

The head of the Durango Area Tourism Office has announced that she will be stepping down. Executive Director Mary Hart announced last week that she would resign from the position effective Dec. 19.

Hart was hired in April of 2002 following the split of the Durango Area Chamber Resort Association (DACRA) into the Durango Chamber of Commerce and the new Durango Area Tourism Office. Bob Kunkel, chairman of the DATO board, commented, "Mary accepted a very challenging situation, in as much as DATO was basically a start-up tourism-promotion organization that needed a completely new business plan and an aggressive new approach to marketing the Durango area, and we needed it yesterday."

Kunkel noted that during Hart's 20-month tenure, Durango tourism was negatively impacted by many external factors. He cited the Sept. 11 terrorism attacks, the local wildfires and extended Western drought, shakeout in the U.S. airline industry, the prolonged downturn in the U.S. economy and the war in Iraq as hits on local visitation.

"Tourism promotion in good times is as tough and competitive an industry as any," Kunkel said. "The DATO board is very grateful for the commitment, dedication and sacrifice that the entire DATO staff has demonstrated getting our organization through some very challenging times."

DATO and local tourism are also poised for a strong future according to Kunkel. "Right now the organization is running well," he said. "DATO is on solid ground financially and strategically, the 2004 business and marketing plans are written, submitted and approved, the budget year will start with approximately $125,000 in marketing reserves, and all the latest tourism trend data suggests that the public's interest in vacation travel is rebounding."

The DATO board expects hiring a new executive director to take several months. Current staff will handle day-to-day marketing and operations until that time.

City unleashes Durango Dog Park

A citizen-based push for a local off-leash area paid off last week when the Durango Dog Park opened at the base of Smelter. The park is the result of a collaborative effort that began early this year and included work by the Durango Dog Park Initiative, the city of Durango and Trails 2000.

Cathy Metz, Durango parks and recreation director, explained that there were few improvements to the park and the park gained City Council approval early this summer. However, access, parking and approvals for the Department of Health and Department of Energy took time. The 10-acre park is on a reclaimed tailings pile across the river from the whitewater park and the wastewater treatment plant. Consequently, the Department of Health and Department of Energy had to sign off on it. Trails 2000 also came on board to facilitate access by building a trail beneath the U.S. Hwy 160 bridge. Dog owners are asked to park at Schneider Park on the west end of 9th Street and follow a dirt trail to the park.

All told, the park cost less than $2,000, according to Metz. "We wanted to keep the improvements low in cost and the group wanted to keep it natural," she said.

Metz also said that the area is enjoying success despite cold temperatures. "The word's out and it appears to be popular already," she said. "We'll certainly see more people out there as it warms up, and we get closer to next summer."

The city asks people to adhere to the following rules:

•Owners must visually supervise and have voice-control over all dogs.

•Aggressive dogs are not permitted.

•Owners are legally responsible for any injury or destruction of property their dogs cause.

•Owners must have their dogs on leashes when entering and leaving the area.

•All dogs must be properly licensed, vaccinated and wear a collar with identification tags.

•Owners must respect other users.

Grandview passes another hurdle

The Durango Planning Commission moved the Grandview development a step closer to realization last week. On Wednesday, Dec. 10, the commission adopted the Grandview Area Plan by a vote of 3 to 1.

The Southern Ute Indian Tribe has requested annexation of 682 acres for its proposed 2,211-unit development. A central component of the tribe's Grandview development is the donation of land to Mercy Medical Center, which plans to leave its undersized building in downtown Durango and relocate to an expanded facility.

On Nov. 24, the Planning Commission delayed a decision because of a property line discrepancy with adjacent subdivisions, said City Planner Greg Hoch. To solve the problem, the tribe removed the contended sections of the property from the annexation petition and resubmitted it for approval Dec. 10.

Planning Commission member Jay Wheeler lodged the one opposing vote, saying that he was opposed not to the development per se but to the accelerated process. He advocated taking more time to discuss the ambitious plan with the community.

The community will have an opportunity to discuss the Grandview Area Plan when it goes before the Durango City Council during its Jan. 5 meeting.

Fort Lewis honors Sam Maynes

Fort Lewis College will present Durango attorney Frank E. "Sam" Maynes with its Distinguished Service Award for the 2003-04 academic year at winter commencement ceremonies this Saturday.

President Robert Dolphin, Jr. said Maynes is being recognized for his advocacy and continued support of important issues to southwestern Colorado and Fort Lewis College.

"Sam has been a pillar of the community for many years," said Dolphin. "He was a long-time member of the Fort Lewis College Foundation Board and a dedicated friend of the college. He provided superior counsel and guidance on numerous issues."

Maynes, who has practiced law in southwestern Colorado for more than 40 years, is the senior partner in the law firm Maynes, Bradford, Shipps & Sheftel. His practice includes acting as general counsel for the Southern Ute Indian Tribe and the Southwestern Water Conservation District of Colorado, and as counsel for the San Miguel Water Conservation District, the Dolores Water Conservancy District, and the Animas-La Plata Water Conservancy District.

Many water project opponents take a somewhat different view of Maynes. He played a key role in gaining the federal Dolores Project for Colorado, which created McPhee Reservoir on the Dolores River. He has also been an outspoken advocate for the Animas-La Plata Water Project

compiled by Will Sands





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