Roads to replace Log Chutes trails

One of Durango’s most popular trails systems may be going back to its roots. Logging is set to return to the Log Chutes area next summer, and several miles of singletrack will go back to being active logging roads as a result.

The Forest Service is currently taking public input on its proposal to thin nearly 900 acres approximately 5 miles north of Durango. In an effort to reduce the risk of wildfire, the agency has proposed a combination of hydromowing and cutting by hand. The hand thinning will require the presence of logging trucks and 3.25 miles of trail that were once old roads are scheduled to be cleared, bladed and reconstructed. Another 1.95 miles of new, temporary roads also are proposed to create access for logging and mowing.

Pam Wilson, fire information officer, explained that turning trail back into road is the most cost effective way to conduct the project. She added that when the Log Chutes Trail System was created it was with the understanding that logging would someday return to the area.

“Both of the trails we’re looking at reopening are old logging roads,” Wilson said. “At the time that trail system was set up, it was with the understanding that they might be reopened some day.”

She added that the agency plans on closing only small sections of Log Chutes at a given time and allowing hiking and mountain biking to continue throughout next summer. When the work is complete, the Forest Service plans to reseed and rehabilitate the roads.

“Over time, they’ll probably evolve back into trails,” Wilson said. “Our intent is not to do away with trail use, but there will be an interruption for a couple years.”

Local advocacy group Trails 2000 has been involved in the planning for the thinning of the Log Chutes area. Bill Manning, the group’s executive director, commented that the work will have an impact but is a necessary evil.

“It’s going to be a shock to the trail community to have some of those old logging roads refurbished as new roads,” he said. “But it’s good community planning to do this type of fire mitigation near our neighborhoods. The Missionary Ridge Fire reminded us that this is so.”

Manning added that the Forest Service has been accommodating in terms of allowing trail use during the next summer and that people should consider recent history before reacting too strongly to the loss of the trails.

“We all think of that hillside as pristine, but it’s an old logging area,” he said. “The trails we enjoy out there are mostly old logging roads. Down the road, these bladed logging roads will again become trails. If you think about the history it does take a little sting out of it.”

The Forest Service will accept comments on the Log Chutes proposal through Nov. 30. For more information, call 884-1422.

New film festival making strides

Efforts to host a film festival next March are taking strong steps forward. The Durango Independent Film Festival, which will replace the now-defunct Durango Film Festival, has gained an important ally and is kicking off a major fund drive.

The Community Foundation Serving Southwest Colorado recently agreed to be a sponsoring organization for the festival. The foundation is an umbrella organization that holds a tax-exempt status. Lon Erwin, executive director of the foundation, said foundation supporters believe the film festival as an important asset for Durango.

“We met with the principals and were very impressed,” Erwin said. “They have things in place that a lot of new organizations don’t always have.”

Michele Malach, one of the festival’s board members, said the affiliation with the foundation is an important step. “Now we can concentrate on putting on a great event,” Malach said. “So as people start considering year-end donations, we hope they’ll consider supporting the film festival.”

The festival is planning to raise $108,000 for the 2006 event, scheduled for March 1-5, and is continuing to accept film entries. So far, the festival has received about 200 entries, including shorts, documentaries and feature films. About 60 films will be accepted. As part of its community activities, the festival is also sponsoring a special movie event Dec. 7. The 1965 French film, “Battle of Algiers” will be shown at the Abbey Theatre. The film was shown to U.S. military officers and advisors at the Pentagon before the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003.

For more information on the festival or to volunteer, go to

City looks into employee housing

City of Durango employees could get a leg up when it comes to purchasing their own home. This week, Durango City Councilor Renee Parsons introduced an ordinance that could provide city employees with interest-free down payment assistance.  

Parsons commented that housing for city employees became an issue for her early in her term.

“One of the first events I attended after being sworn in was a City of Durango employee breakfast,” she said. “The only people who were there were the cops. They immediately hit me with the fact that they can’t afford to live in town and are driving 30 to 40 miles every day to work.”

The ordinance is similar to one adopted in nearby Mt. Crested Butte. As proposed, the city would establish a $150,000 affordable housing pot. City employees could receive interest-free loans of up to $30,000 to apply toward the purchase of a home within city limits. Employees with seniority would be given preference and have 15 years to repay the loan. Upon sale of the home or the end of employment, the balance of the loan would be due, plus 10 percent of the home’s appreciation.

“This is just one of many innovative ideas for employee housing,” Parsons said. “Unlike some others, this is not a huge investment. It requires some up-front money, but that gets paid back.”

The ordinance is now in the council’s hands to consider. “We’ll see where it goes from here,” Parsons said.

Arkansas hunters pay stiff fines

Trash hunting resulted in stiff penalties last week in Durango. Three men from Arkansas who illegally killed two deer near Vallecito Reservoir have paid more than $20,000 in fines to the Colorado Division of Wildlife.

Frank Kelly, Lonnie Blakemore and Gerald Harp, all of Arkansas, paid the entire fine of $22,192. In late October, Blakemore killed a small buck near Vallecito. However, later that afternoon, Blakemore saw a large buck and also shot it, even though he’d already filled his license. Kelly agreed to cover the second kill with his license, which is illegal. The next morning, Kelly saw a large buck and killed it. But he no longer had a valid license, and Harp agreed to place his tag on the deer. The men were given two choices: post bond at the La Plata County jail to secure their appearance for a court date later; or admit guilt and pay the fines.              

The two large deer were confiscated by the DOW and the meat was donated to a local food bank. Blakemore was allowed to keep the first deer because it was shot and tagged legally.

– compiled by Will Sands



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