|The Brush Off: Nate Swanson and John Meade
work diligently to paint a Main Ave light post last Friday
afternoon./Photo by Todd Newcomer.
Status quo suggested for Little Molas
The call has gone out for Little Molas
Lake campground to remain primitive and free of new fees. An
18-member task force has issued recommendations on what to do with
the popular recreation area, which is to primarily leave it as it
Little Molas entered the
spotlight last year when the Forest Service announced plans for a
$700,000 renovation of the campground near Molas Pass. A major
public objection was the new fees that would be associated with the
improvements. The Forest Service eventually withdrew the decision
and brought a diversity of interests together and created the
Little Molas Task Force.
"The main reason the
decision was withdrawn was we realized we had not adequately
involved the public," said Columbine District Ranger Pauline Ellis.
"It gave us a chance to step back and get more input."
Last Monday, the task
force submitted a lengthy report that called for leaving Little
Molas in a primitive and fee-free state. Task force member Kitty
Benzar explained the group's conclusions, saying, "We've all had
this kind of recreation opportunity available to us all of our
lives, and we want to make sure we have this opportunity available
to everyone into the future. We were thinking about the long-term,
and we were thinking about future generations."
San Juan County Planner
Bev Kaiser agreed with this sentiment, saying, "Little Molas Lake
is unique because it's primitive and becoming a unique type of
Kaiser also said that
the Town of Silverton and San Juan County have additional concerns
and forwarded them in a letter to the Forest Service.
"From a town and county
perspective, we also recognize the need to replace the 13 camping
facilities that have been lost in this area," Kaiser said. "We just
don't think it should be done at Little Molas."
Ellis said that the
Forest Service will weigh the task force recommendations in the
coming month and try to balance them with impacts that she said
need to be addressed.
"The most pressing
matter certainly for us is that there are impacts at Little Molas
from it being loved to death," Ellis said.
She added, "We need to
check the working group's ideas against factors that in our
experience need to be addressed today and tomorrow. We also have to
ensure that whatever we do at Little Molas stands the test of
The Forest Service is
currently accepting public comments on improvements to Little Molas
Lake campground. A decision on the campground's future is expected
at the end of August.
DMR director of marketing resigns
More management changes are afoot at Durango Mountain
Resort. After three years at the post, Scott Fortner has stepped
down as director of marketing. He said he plans to pursue other
opportunities both in and out of the resort industry. Fortner
came to DMR after 12 years in Silverthorne, where he was employed
as marketing director at Loveland Ski Area, and worked in marketing
at Copper Mountain Resort and special events at Breckenridge
Ski Resort. Fortner also served as the winter tourism representative
for the Durango Area Tourism Office and was a member of the
Colorado Ski Country New Business Development Committee. Fortner
said he plans to stay in Durango while pursuing other interests.
Clean-up planned for uranium mine
The Forest Service is currently
preparing to address radiation hazards at an abandoned local
uranium mine. The Forest Service has found that mine openings at
The Graysill Mine, west of Purgatory and near Bolam Pass and
Hermosa Creek, poses physical dangers and are a source of radon,
the toxic gas released by decomposing uranium.
"An inventory of all the
mines on the forest and how hazardous they may be was completed in
1995," said Kay Zillich, abandoned mines coordinator. "We are
working our way through the list, and the Graysill Mine is one with
radiation risks that we don't want to ignore."
Zillich said that the
mine has a dozen open shafts and associated waste rock piles, and
an extensive analysis of hazards has been conducted. "The analysis
assumed that a family would camp there for two weeks, sleeping
inside the mine and eating fish out of Hermosa Creek," Zillich
said. "They found that there is some radiation exposure because of
the waste piles, but it doesn't exceed EPA standards, and there is
no real impact to Hermosa Creek. Exposure to radon inside the mine
was the leading concern. Consequently, we're going to close the
The Forest Service is
considering several options for closing the vertical mine shafts,
including the construction of walls and the use of foam and
explosives. There are also plans to place a protective surface over
radioactive waste piles near the road.The Forest Service plans
to begin work in July.
Fee Demo program suffers a blow
Opponents of the Recreational Fee
Demonstration Program are celebrating a major victory. On May 19,
the U.S. Senate unanimously passed S.B.1107, which would allow the
Fee Demo Program to expire in the Forest Service, Bureau of Land
Management, and Fish and Wildlife Service as scheduled at the end
The bill would allow
only the National Park Service to retain its entrance and other
fees. On the public land managed by the other three agencies, new
fees have met with widespread opposition. Critics of Fee Demo say
that it amounts to double taxation, among other things.
"We are thrilled that
the members of the Senate recognized that Americans can tell the
difference between the national parks and our other public lands,"
said Robert Funkhouser, president of the Colorado-based Western
Slope No-Fee Coalition.
In contrast, Fee Demo
faces an uncertain future in the U.S. House of Representatives. On
May 6, a house subcommittee held hearings on a bill that would
require all visitors to federally managed land to buy an "America
the Beautiful Pass." Being on Park Service, Forest Service, BLM,
Fish and Wildlife, or Bureau of Reclamation land without the pass
would be a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to $5,000 and/or
six months in jail.
However, Funkhouser said
he is certain that the passage of S.B.1107 will tilt the balance
against Fee Demo. "The Senate has stood up loud and clear in
defense of Americans' right to access their own land without being
taxed twice," he said. "We are hopeful that the House will do the
compiled by Will