Crucial Red Mountain land preserved

Threats of development along the Red Mountain Pass corridor had a major setback last week. The Forest Service announced last Thursday that it has finalized a $2.5 million deal to purchase the 805-acre Ironton Park, located on the Ouray side of Red Mountain Pass.

The formerly private land has been widely used by the public for Nordic skiing, hiking, photography and more. "That site is just spectacular, and it's spectacular during all four seasons," said Bob Storch, forest supervisor with the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison national forests.

The acquisition was an effort by the Red Mountain Task Force and purchased from the Ironton Park Co. "This was an important acquisition for the Forest Service," Storch said. "It's an important piece of property for the Red Mountain project, and all those folks that were involved in this acquisition need to be recognized for their cooperation for making this happen."

The Red Mountain Task Force has plans to preserve 11,000 acres in that area. To date, 4,440 acres have been purchased and preserved. The group hopes to close on an additional 2,500 acres by the end of January.

Grandview receives surprise boost

The Southern Ute Indian Tribe's Grandview development plan got some unexpected help last Monday. At that time, Gov. Bill Owens announced that he is trying to stimulate the Colorado economy by allocating $111.3 million to projects throughout the state. Of that sum, $10 million has been earmarked to widen U.S. Highway 160 between Grandview and Durango.

The Southern Ute Indian Tribe has proposed developing 682 acres several miles east of city limits. It envisions a 2,211-unit development in a dense, walkable New Urbanism configuration. 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. However, a major stumbling block has been access along an already busy and dangerous Highway 160. The unavailability of Colorado Department of Transportation funds painted a grim portrait for the roadway's future. However, with Owens' Monday announcement, that obstacle has been removed.

The $111.3 million allocation includes $60 million for transportation projects throughout the state. "It is becoming increasingly clear Colorado is emerging from tough budgetchallenges," Owens said. "These funds will help address key priorities to protect some of our most vulnerable citizens, maintain Colorado's momentum on transportation and bring quality jobs to our state."

The funds will be pulled from the federal Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003, which provided $146.3 million to Colorado for essential government services. In June, Owens said he would lock up most of that money until the state's fiscal picture became clearer.Given an improved revenue outlook, Owens said that additional funds could be released to restore funding in key areas of the state budget.

"This one-time infusion of funds will help speed Colorado's recovery," Owens said. "It's the right thing to do for Colorado and the right time to do it."

Water Advisory Commission created

With an eye to planning for and meeting long-term needs, La Plata County has formed a Water Advisory Commission (WAC). Along with revision to its land use plan, the county is creating a comprehensive water plan for the county. In that spirit, the county commissioners formed the commission."The significant benefit of having such a commission is that it will assist the board in the development of a comprehensive water plan for the county," said La Plata County Spokeswoman Joanne Spina. "It speaks to water needs and meeting those needs in the future."

Spina added that the commission and the plan are particularly important at this time of unprecedented growth in the county. "The more development that occurs in the county, the more important the planning becomes," she said.

The county is presently seeking three community volunteers to sit on the commission composed of 11 stakeholders and one county representative. The volunteers will be charged with advising the Board of County Commissioners on water issues impacting the county.

The purpose of the WAC, according to the county, is as follows:

•Identify and inventory known and potential water supplies

•Consider options and opportunities to serve unmet domestic, agricultural and industrial water needs

•Assist in the coordination between water organizations

•Undertake efforts to encourage conservation of local water resources.

The county is still seeking three community members who have experience with water issues to serve as members at large. For additional information, call Eydie Engle at 382-6219.

FortLewis honored for architecture

Fort Lewis College's Student Life Center was recently honored for its visual appeal. Recreation Management magazine chose the building as a finalist for its Innovative Architecture and Design award and presented the 3-year-old center with an Honor Award for its ecologically-friendly design.

Student Life Center Director Jack Krider believes the publicity is good for the college and the Student Life Center. "This is one more thing that gets the Student Life Center and the college's name out there," he said. "More students will definitely consider Fort Lewis College as a college he or she would want to attend because of our nationally acclaimed facilities."

The judging panel gave careful consideration to such factors as recreational value, appearance (indoor and outdoor), originality of plan and design, craftsmanship, green architecture, functional and operation elements, and innovative design.

According to Recreation Management , the Student Life Center stood out because of its environmental sensitivity, high-efficiency mechanical systems and its permaculture landscape.

"Great stone work/masonry," noted judge Reed Voorhees, an architect and senior designer with St. Louis-based Jacobs Facilities Inc. "This is a beautiful project that harmonizes nicely into its surroundings. Well planned and detailed."

- compiled by Will Sands





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