NORBA passes Durango again

National mountain bike racing kicks off late next month, and for the second year in a row, the NORBA National Mountain Bike series is passing over Durango. The series culminated in Durango with the NORBA National Finals in 2003 and 2004. However, a three-year contract with Durango Mountain Resort was terminated last year in favor of Mt. Snow, Vt. This year, Snowmass Village near Aspen will be hosting the NORBA finals on Aug. 12-13.

NORBA first brought its National Mountain Bike Championships to Durango in 1986. In ensuing years, Durango would go on to host four additional NORBA races and eventually the first-ever internationally sanctioned World Mountain Bike Championships in 1990. However, a shift in energy and interest hit not long after that watershed year, and NORBA paid its last visit to Durango for more than a decade in 1992.

That changed in August of 2003, when Durango again hosted the NORBA National Finals. At the time, Jeff Frost, one of NORBA’s managing partners, credited Durango’s rich cycling heritage, strong community energy and a steady partnership with DMR for NORBA’s return.

“It’s really the heart and soul of mountain biking,” Frost said in August of 2004. “Durango was really the first stamp on mountain biking.”

The 2004 event marked this first year of a three-year contract between NORBA and DMR. At the time, Frost indicated that he expected the relationship to last much longer than three years. However, that contract went up in smoke when the finals were transferred to Mt. Snow for unspecified reasons.

Lauren Kasten, DMR communications manager, said that there were scheduling issues, but above all, the resort was disappointed to lose the finals.

“We’d love to host another NORBA event, but we want to host the finals not a mid-event,” she said. “We were voted the best race in the series two years in a row. I think we deserve the finals.”

NORBA did offer DMR the option of hosting an event early in the summer, and Kasten said that the resort considered it. However, the race would have conflicted with long-standing local events.

“Certain dates like mid-July don’t work for us because of other events like Music in the Mountains,” Kasten said.

In the meantime, the NORBA-sanctioned, five-race Purgatory Downhill Series will return to the resort. Open to all levels, the series runs from mid-June to mid-July.

Larson calls for Wolf Creek probe

On the heels of more allegations of illegal political influence, the Village at Wolf Creek could face a federal investigation. State Rep. Mark Larson, R-Cortez, said that he believes there is evidence of undue influence and pressure being brought to bear by the developer and it warrants scrutiny from on high.

A Texas development company, headed by Clear Channel Radio baron Red McCombs, has pitched the Village at Wolf Creek for 287.5 acres at the base of the Wolf Creek Ski Area’s Alberta quad. The “Vail-sized city” would include 2,172 units on 162 lots, 5,176 bedrooms and 222,100 square feet of commercial space including 12 restaurants, multiple hotels and a convention center.

Throughout the process, McCombs has been charged with misdealing and trying to exercise influence over the Forest Service and high-ranking members of Congress. Larson said that enough is enough and is hoping to mobilize Colorado’s Congressional delegation. “Based on what we’ve seen so far, a Congressional investigation is not only warranted, but needs to happen before the Forest Service issues its Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Village at Wolf Creek,” he said.  

Larson added that the Colorado Attorney General’s Office also needs to take a hard look at the dealings surrounding the Village at Wolf Creek. “This has gone on long enough,” he said. “We believe it’s time for the Colorado Attorney General’s Office to take a hard look at the legal and ethical issues raised by the developer’s behind-closed-door actions and influence.”

Meanwhile, one of the development’s outspoken opponents, Colorado Wild, said that it has unearthed more evidence of dirty dealings. The group alleges that a series of communications between McCombs’ attorneys and Mineral County staff show extensive behind-the-scenes participation in the county’s land-use approval process. The documents also appear to have been both deliberately excluded from a Colorado Open Records Act request.

“The county’s failure to include these damaging documents as part of the record of Colorado Wild’s case challenging the lack of meaningful public participation in Mineral County’s approval of the Village at Wolf Creek is highly suspect,” said Jeff Parsons, Colorado Wild Attorney.

The Rio Grande National Forest is expected to release the final environmental impact statement on the project in coming weeks.

Health-care fix moves forward

The push to bring health care to thousands of needy La Plata County residents is moving forward. Efforts are under way to ask voters to approve a locally operated health-service district. The district would be geared toward filling gaps in local health care.

The proposed district would assess a two mill property tax increase to address shortfalls in current local health care. Such an increase would generate $4.2 million annually and that sum would increase by 4 percent each year. The proposed levy would cost the average county homeowner about $40 a year. If approved, proponents say the district would increase access, affordability and quality of health care for all residents of La Plata County. Among the district’s goals are: partial funding of a community health center to address primary care for underserved residents; enhanced prenatal care and support; improved immunizations for children; in-home services for the elderly and disabled; inpatient mental health services; outpatient and emergency mental health services; and centralized health-care information.

The plan has received La Plata County commissioner approval and now awaits a district court order calling the election. Proponents are hopeful that order will occur in time for a May 2 election.

“We are hoping for a May 2 election,” said Bill Mashaw, a committee member, “which requires that we follow a set of fairly tight timelines. But we feel it is necessary to take the proposal to a vote of La Plata County residents in May so that our worsening health-care situation can be addressed as soon as possible.”

The service plan and election calendar are available on the committee’s website at  

Governor lifts Colorado fire ban

The fire ban on public lands imposed by Governor Owens on Jan. 9 is officially lifted. The ban, which was in place for one month, included many state parks.      

“The Governor’s ban was very successful in elevating the threat of wildfire in the public eye through strong leadership on state lands. Local state land managers at state parks, wildlife areas and other lands have worked within the criteria of the ban and should continue to be vigilant of the fire danger on the units they manage,” said Richard Homann, fire division supervisor for the Colorado State Forest Service.

While the fire ban has been lifted, the public is still encouraged to exercise caution with regards to fire danger. “Even though it’s February, the threat of fire is still very high. I urge all campers in our parks to be especially careful in light of recent fires and continued dry weather in certain regions of the state,” said Colorado State Parks Director Lyle Laverty.

– compiled by Will Sands



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