Work begins on Discovery Museum

Efforts to convert the abandoned 1893 Durango Power Plant into the Durango Discovery Museum has forged ahead. Renovation of the historic structure into the new home of the Durango Children's Museum began late last week, and completion is targeted for the summer of 2006.

The city has agreed to donate the powerhouse to the Children's Museum, assuming certain funding goals are met by the museum. Plans are for the historic structure to become the Durango Discovery Museum, which will offer hands-on learning experience highlighting the scientific and technological innovations made in the Durango area. The museum will put a special emphasis on the local development of electricity.

Construction began last week on the structure's roof, courtesy of a State Historical Fund grant and City of Durango funding. The new roof will be more historic in appearance and help to stabilize the building. The roof construction also is a kick-off that should trigger other projects.

"This is really the first step," said Jeff Vierling, Children's Museum board member and volunteer coordinator of the project. "The linch-pin has really been getting this roof started. We have several grants lined up for the reconstruction of the outside of the building."

In addition to the roof, asbestos will be cleaned up. During the next phase, stucco will be removed.

"We're just really excited to see it start happening," Vierling said. "It's great to see it come back to life."

Thus far, the Children's Museum has raised $1 million of the projected $5 million cost. "We've done really well with grants and will continue to pursue them," Vierling said. "We also really hope that with the construction beginning that the community will step up and help us raise the remainder."

Vierling concluded by saying that the project has been somewhat mislabeled as being only a children's museum. Once complete, the Discovery Museum will be an asset for the entire community, he said.

"The roof is really the first step toward a Discovery Museum that will serve all ages and include a lively riverfront events area and a museum that focuses on energy in the past, present and future," Vierling commented.

Great Old Broads celebrate 15 years

Great Old Broads for Wilderness, a Durango-based conservation group, will celebrate 15 years of advocating for wilderness at the end of the month. The group was founded in 1989 by a group of older women as a way to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Wilderness Act and to counter allegations that the elderly need roads to access wilderness.

Broads has stood up for wilderness throughout America since that time, fighting grazing impacts on fragile desert ecosystems, oil and gas leasing and exploration on public lands, off-road vehicle travel, and the continued expansion of illegal roads into wilderness-quality areas.

Libby Ingalls, board member, commented, "It was a voice that was missing, the gray-haired woman who's seen it all and been through it twice."

Broads boasts more than 2,500 members nationwide that participate in Broadwalks to garner attention for areas that need protection throughout the country.

"When you get the gray-haired old ladies in tennis shoes out there, it gets people's attention," said Rose Chilcoat, Broads programs director. "It's the voice of the elder. When an older person speaks, people still take time to respectfully listen."

Great Old Broads will be celebrating 15 years of Broadness at a Broadwalk Conference in Snow Canyon State Park near Saint George, Utah. The celebration begins Sept. 30 and will include hikes in wilderness study areas and talks by noted speakers, including Earthfirst co-founder Dave Foreman.

For more information visit

Red Mtn. preservation highlighted

What was once cause for alarm is now a reason to celebrate. This weekend, Red Mountain Heritage Day will commemorate the preservation of more than 7,000 endangered acres in the vicinity of Red Mountain Pass.

Preservation of the area became critical in the fall of 2002. At that time, landowner Frank Baumgartner had been marketing "mountain homesites any size" in the vicinity of Red Mountain Pass. He also had been making noise about reopening a gold mine. The situation reached a breaking point when Baumgartner flexed some muscle and bulldozed several historic structures on his property.

Now approximately two years later, Baumgartner's 1,600 acres have been placed in public hands along with approximately 5,400 additional acres.

"We've been able to acquire over 7,000 acres and get them into a protected status," said Ken Francis of Fort Lewis College's Office of Community Services. "We've also stabilized about nine historic structures up there."

The Red Mountain Project was created to purchase scenic mining claims, transfer them to public hands and preserve the remaining historic features from the 1880s mining boom. The effort has secured $14 million to date, is ongoing and plans to acquire another 3,000 endangered acres in the area. Negotiations are taking place on several targeted properties.

This Saturday, Sept. 18, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Heritage Day will showcase the project for its beneficiaries the public. Nine historic sites, including the rarely open Idarado Mine, will be open and staffed with guides.

"It's a celebration and outreach for the public to come out and visit the land that's now theirs," Francis said. "The idea is to have the people come out in the midst of fall colors and enjoy access to these lands that are now in public hands."

For more information on Red Mountain Heritage Day, contact the San Juan County Historical Society at 387-5488.

Pertussis strikes in La Plata County

Pertussis, or whooping cough, has joined West Nile virus and hantavirus as a local health threat. The San Juan Basin Health Department reported nine confirmed cases of pertussis in La Plata County over the past month. The disease is particularly harmful to young children and infants.

The disease is a bacterial infection that has been on the rise for several years. Symptoms include episodes of uncontrolled coughing so severe that they result in vomiting, difficulty inhaling (which produces a whooping sound) or periods of not being able to breathe at all. Pertussis lasts six to 10 weeks and is most severe in infants with a fatality rate of up to 1 percent.

Infants are generally immunized for pertussis at 2, 4 and 6 months of age, with boosters at 18 months and between 4 to 6 years. After the final booster, immunity gradually decreases, leaving older children and adults susceptible to the disease.Children under 7 years old can receive a pertussis vaccine, but there is no immunization available for adults.

For more information, call SJBHD at 247-5702.

compiled by Will Sands





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