Abbey Theatre to change hands

Durango's independent cinema and a top music venue is changing hands again. New owners are taking over the Abbey Theatre effective immediately, and their plan is to bring the theater's focus back to film, according to current and future manager Kathleen Costello.

Durango's single-screen, independent cinema has been serving up alternative entertainment since 1997. Longtime local Tom Bartels founded the Abbey mainly to screen independent, off-beat films. Early last year, Bartels announced that he was selling the Abbey to another longtime local, Paul Fidanque. Fidanque undertook an ambitious remodel of the theater which included the addition of a balcony, a new bar and upgraded sound and technology, among other things.

"I think that overall there have been a lot of positive changes," Costello said.

In addition to the upgrades, Fidanque also remodeled the Abbey's mission. Rather than being an indie-movie theater that occasionally hosted concerts and community events, the Abbey became a concert venue that occasionally screened films. Costello said that new owners Brad and Erika Merlino are interested in returning to Bartels' original vision.

"The venue is an outstanding one for the community, and it will remain that venue," Costello said. "But the goal for the future is to go back to more to film and host only larger musical acts."

Costello added that being that music venue has come at price for the Abbey. "Music is tough business in this town," she said. "To be exclusively a music venue is difficult, and intermixing it with film hasn't had the desired effect."

Brad and Erika Merlino took over management control of the Abbey on July 1. Costello said that the new changes should become apparent over the next month or two.

Durango Green Map to be released

The long-awaited Durango Green Map is at the printer and will be distributed throughout the community in the coming week. The map highlights local businesses, organizations and individuals that are considered "green" and have made positive environmental impacts. The goal is to help consumers locate conservation resources within the community.

Similar maps exist in more than 250 towns and cities throughout the world. Durango's map will highlight such categories as local and organic food, green organizations, recycling, green business/service/consulting, re-use businesses and others. Roughly 100 businesses, organizations and individuals applied for inclusion, and 75 met the qualifications. The Durango Green Map was made possible by the Fort Lewis Environmental Center through a grant from the Fort Lewis Foundation that was funded by First National Bank of Durango.

"It has been a long haul, and I am very excited for the map's release," said First National Bank of Durango marketing, products and client relationship manager Angie Beach.

The map will encourage locals and visitors to support local businesses that are striving to bring sustainable practices into the workplace; find organizations that offer services related to the environment; locate local and organic food; and connect with others who value a healthier world.

The Durango Green Map will be made available to the public free of charge. The map will be inserted into the July 8 issue of the Durango Telegraph , and copies will be available at the Durango Chamber of Commerce, Durango Farmer's Market, Durango Natural Foods, First National Bank of Durango, the Fort Lewis College Environmental Center and Nature's Oasis.

Durango fills vehicles with biodiesel

The City of Durango has joined the growing number of consumers that are running their vehicles on alternative fuels. On Tuesday, biodiesel, a clean-burning fuel made from domestic renewable resources like vegetable oil, was blended into the fuel that fills City vehicles. Currently, 80 municipal vehicles, a large portion of the fleet, are operating on a blend of biodiesel and diesel.

"This is an important step for the city in terms of our commitment toward environmental health, conservation and energy efficiency," said Assistant City Manager Greg Caton. "It is critical that the city take a leadership role in this important issue."

Caton added, "On the output side, it should burn cleaner and more efficiently. On the input side, using a renewable fuel source is a big positive."

The program is a 90-day pilot, and staff will monitor fuel economy, oil samples and exhaust emissions. All of the city's diesel vehicles will be using the B20 fuel, which is 20 percent biodiesel and 80 percent diesel and is the most common blend of biodiesel. The cost increase is $.25 per gallon.

"This is just one step in the direction of reducing our dependence on fossil fuels and foreign oil," commented City Council member Virginia Castro. "Council has been very supportive of exploring alternative energy solutions. This is the result of our leadership in examining options and we are pleased that we have had community support to go in this direction."

La Plata County enacts fire ban

Citing extremely dry conditions in La Plata County and the serious threat of fire danger, the Board of County Commissioners enacted restrictions on open burning this week.

The fire restrictions prohibit open burning, burn barrels and agricultural burning on private property in the unincorporated areas of the county. The use of a campfire, coal or wood-burning stove, any type of charcoal grill or open fire in any undeveloped area is also prohibited. The fire restrictions do not include charcoal fires in suitable containers or gas grills for barbeques at private residences or fires within designated campground pits with protective grates. However, residents and visitors alike are encouraged not to leave these fires unattended and to fully and carefully extinguish them after use.

The fire restrictions also apply to: welding and cutting operations; use of explosive material; and use of any internal combustion engine without a functioning spark-arrester. In addition, smoking is limited to vehicles, buildings, developed recreational areas and 3-foot-wide areas cleared of vegetation.

The fire restrictions will remain in effect until such time as the threat of fire danger in La Plata County has reduced significantly, as determined by the sheriff, local fire chiefs and/or County director of emergency preparedness.

Meanwhile, area firefighters were busy last week as thunderstorms moved through the area. Lightning triggered more than 40 small fires in the area over the weekend, and 21 more were reported Monday.Thanks to a quick response, all fires were contained at less than half an acre.

Cooler weather, higher relative humidity and some precipitation have also helped stall the growth of three small fires burning on the San Juan National Forest that are being managed under the Wildland Fire Use strategy.

However, Allen Farnsworth, fire use manager, noted that the recent precipitation could provide a false sense of security and stressed that fire danger remains high. With this in mind, he urged local residents to heed fire restrictions.

"While the recent moisture has kept these fires and others from spreading, the rains have been widespread and primarily at the higher elevations," he said. "Fire restrictions are in place at the lower elevations because the moisture content in the fuels is still critically low, so folks should continue to be really careful with fire."

County planning gets a new name

Don't try calling the La Plata County Planning Department. After July 1, it will no longer be in existence. Citing a change in the services provided by the department, the Board of County Commissioners has elected to change its name to the La Plata County Community Development Department.

County Manager Michael Scannell explained that a new Development Services Division was created recently within the department. The new division is an effort to improve customer service, streamline the engineering review on new development projects and better meet demands for services.

"The name change to La Plata County Community Development Department more accurately reflects the functions and services now provided by this department," Scannell said.

compiled by Will Sands





News Index Second Index Opinion Index Classifieds Index Contact Index