FLC takes national championship

The Skyhawks hoisted the national champion trophy last Sunday and brought a close to an exceptional season. The Fort Lewis College men’s soccer team won the 2005 NCAA men’s soccer Division II national championship on Dec. 4 after defeating the Franklin-Pierce Ravens (Rindge, N.H.) by a score of 3-1. The NCAA national title is the first ever for Fort Lewis College, and the win also caps off the Skyhawks undefeated season at 22-0-1.

Fort Lewis College President Brad Bartel commented, “Winning the national championship in men’s soccer is the single greatest athletic achievement in Fort Lewis College history. Being undefeated, ranked first in the nation and then winning the NCAA championship culminates a dream season for this exceptional group of student athletes. I know the entire FLC and Durango community is so proud of these young men.”

Junior Ben Gantenbein registered the game-winning goal from John Cunliffe’s assist at 81: 21. Cunliffe attempted a shot on goal, and Gantenbein was in place to scoop up the deflection from the Ravens’ goalkeeper. Junior Cliff Wilmes put the Skyhawks on the scoreboard first when he found the net at 26:45. Kieran Hall registered the assist, heading the ball to Wilmes who then headed it into the goal for a 1-0 lead.  Senior Cole Sweetser added an insurance goal on an empty net in the closing seconds of the game.

The game marks the last contest for seven Skyhawk seniors: defender Adam Beach, goalkeeper Nick Clark, defender Bryan Eisenbraun, forward Kyle Fredrick, defender Sean Flanagan, forward Ryan Parsons, and forward Cole Sweetser.

Cunliffe, Eisenbraun, Wilmes and Sweetser were named to the NCAA Final Four All-Tournament Team. Cunliffe was also voted the Most Outstanding Offensive Player and Eisenbraun was voted the Most Outstanding Defensive Player.

In 15 seasons of NCAA competition in men’s soccer, the Skyhawks have won nine league championships, advanced to the Final Four and NCAA Division II Championship Game twice (1999, 2005), and posted a 7-5-1 record in NCAA playoffs. Coach Jeremy Gunn came to Fort Lewis in 1999 and has won five league titles and four league Coach of the Year awards, including this season. The national title is Fort Lewis College’s first in a varsity, NCAA-sanctioned sport.

In honor of the milestone, there will be a championship parade down Durango’s Main Avenue this Sat., Dec. 10, beginning at 3 p.m. The parade will get under way in the 500 block of Main and end at Rotary Park, where Coach Gunn, President Bartel and senior captain Bryan Eisenbraun will all speak.


SW Youth Corps makes a change

A long-standing local stewardship organization is getting a new name. This week, the Southwest Youth Corps announced that the Durango-based nonprofit organization would now be known as Southwest Conservation Corps (SCC).

The group said the new name is more reflective of the work it accomplishes across the region. SCC, founded in 1998, empowers individuals to positively impact their lives, their communities and the environment. This year, SCC employed 152 people aged 14-25 and provided them with structured, safe and challenging work and educational opportunities. Built on the legacy of the Civilian Conservation Corps, SCC completes conservation, mitigation and habitat-improvement projects on public lands across the Four Corners region.  

SCC will celebrate its name change by handing out free hot chocolate on Main Avenue in Durango on Noel Night, Dec. 8.


Navajo president addresses the UN

The Navajo Nation has stepped into the international sphere. In a historic address before the 191 member countries of the United Nations, Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley Jr. recently spoke on behalf of the 370 million indigenous people of the world, announced the creation of a native people’s Internet portal and re-affirmed indigenous rights to sovereignty. Shirley returned from the speech in Tunisia late in November.

“Knowledge, combined with the wisdom of our peoples, is what creates true opportunity,” Shirley said. “This is why our people call for universal indigenous connectivity and the development of indigenous-specific ICTs (information, communications and technology).”

Shirley spoke on the final day of the weeklong 2005 World Summit on the Information Society, an international ICT conference with the goal of finding solutions to end poverty around the world. The United Nations Millennium Project

identified three things it believes can bring the world’s poor out of extreme poverty – information, communications and technology – known as ICT. The goal of the Tunisia meeting was to complete a blueprint to implement a UN-sponsored plan to use ICTs to end extreme poverty by the year 2025.

Last March, Shirley was asked to be the spokesman of the International Indigenous Steering Committee and addressed the UN in that capacity.

“The Navajo Nation has received a great honor,” President Shirley said following his address. “I think it’s awesome that the Navajo Nation is finding itself speaking out for the 370 million indigenous people of the world. At this juncture, we’re a player sitting at the table of the United Nations.”

Pair of bear cubs released into wild

Two bear cubs, captured last summer after their mother was killed, were released back into the wild north of Pagosa Springs on Nov. 30 by the Colorado Division of Wildlife.   “The biggest thing was to get them nice and fat before releasing,” said Mike Reid, district wildlife manager for the DOW. “We’ve done that, and they look to be in good shape.” The cubs – a male and a female – weighed only about 10 pounds when they were captured. Just before their release, they each weighed more than 100 pounds.

The bears’ mother wandered into Colorado from New Mexico sometime last year. Her ear tags indicated that she had been trapped in New Mexico after rummaging in human garbage and becoming a nuisance. Last summer at a campground north of Pagosa Springs, with her new cubs in tow, she continued foraging in dumpsters and was shot and killed by a campground owner.

“They took care of their garbage in the right way. But the bear had become too accustomed to human food,” Reid explained.

The cubs were captured two days later and transported to the DOW’s Frisco Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in the San Luis Valley. They were kept in a special holding pen away from people and fed a mix of typical forage food. The bears were eventually released about 40 miles north of Pagosa Springs near a wilderness area.

GOCO awards two local projects

Big money from Colorado Lottery proceeds is again being funneled into local projects. The Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) Board recently awarded its first grants of the fiscal year, and $360,000 has been earmarked for two projects in La Plata County.  

Of the funding, $200,000 has been awarded to the City of Durango to develop the 6.8-acre Dallabetta Park along the banks of the Animas River. Project components include river access, picnic areas, a handicapped-accessible fishing platform, parking, trails and restrooms. The city will partner with the Bureau of Reclamation to build the park, and the Southwest Youth Corps will aid in trail construction.  

In addition, the Town of Bayfield received a $160,000 grant to help develop a regulation baseball/softball facility at Joe Stephenson Park. The project was viewed as a critical response to Bayfield’s growing need for recreational programs.  

 – compiled by Will Sands


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January 25, 2024
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January 26, 2024
Paper chase

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January 11, 2024
High and dry

New state climate report projects continued warming, declining streamflows