Lynx suffer Telluride setback

Efforts by the Colorado Division of Wildlife to reintroduce Canada lynx into the San Juan Mountains have suffered an unexpected setback. The agency believes that people in the Mountain Village area near Telluride might be feeding three Canada lynx, which were introduced near Durango and migrated to the resort town. Feeding the animals could endanger the lives of these rare cats.

“For the good of the lynx, we urge people to stop providing food to these wild animals,” said Perry Will, Montrose area wildlife manager for the DOW. “Eating human food can make the animals sick and threaten their ability to live in the wild.”

DOW wildlife managers suspect that the lynx are being fed because these normally elusive cats are being spotted frequently in the resort development and are restricting their movements to a small area. Normally, lynx travel a large area, a trait that is essential to their survival in the wild.

“A female and her two kittens are now staying almost exclusively in the Mountain Village area,” said Tanya Shenk, a DOW biologist and lynx specialist. “Given the number of sightings I am concerned that people are feeding these lynx.”

Feeding any wild animal is a major problem for several reasons. First, wild animals become habituated to human food easily and lose their ability to hunt. The animals also lose their fear of humans, increasing the chances an animal will attack. Artificial feeding causes animals to bunch up, and the close contact increases the incidence of disease. Lastly, the animals should not eat food meant for humans; it could cause illness and death.

The Canada lynx remains an endangered species in Colorado. The DOW’s efforts to re-establish the cat to its historic range have been enormously successful. The DOW is tracking 110 lynx that were released and fitted with radio collars. With numerous kittens accounted for, it is estimated there are about 200 Canada lynx living in Colorado.

Spanish Trail preservation in works

Two national agencies are looking to the public for help as they develop a plan for the Old Spanish National Historic Trail, which passes through Durango. In that spirit, a public meeting will be held Tues., Feb. 28 in Durango.

The Bureau of Land Management and the National Park Service are developing a comprehensive management plan for the Old Spanish National Historic Trail. The 2,700-mile trail ran from Santa Fe to Los Angeles beginning in 1829 following longstanding American Indian travel routes. The trail came through Durango on La Posta Road, approximately 2 miles south of Bodo Park, and then passed through Ridges Basin, where the Animas-La Plata Project is under construction, before heading west.

The scoping meeting will introduce the trail and the management plan and allow the public to comment on issues, concerns and opportunities related to the Old Spanish National Historic Trail. The route was designated as part of the National Trails System in 2002, and the BLM and Park Service are trying to preserve the surviving elements of the trail. The agencies hope to preserve trail resources, provide access to trail sites and tell the story of the trail and its role in American history.

The Durango meeting will take place from 5: 30 to 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 28 in the La Plata County Fairgrounds Extension Building. Comments can also be submitted via the National Park Service website at:

Skate park construction begins

The Durango Skate Park marked the end of the season early this week. The much anticipated upgrade to the local park began Feb. 21. The skate park is expected to be closed for six months.

The construction is surprising, giving that the long-awaited expansion hit an obstacle in late December, when construction bids came in too high. The project’s cost, estimated at around $1.2 million, was about $430,000 more than what the city had budgeted, and the work was put on hold. However, earlier this year, the Durango City Council committed to the project and gave it the green light.

Kennebec Construction, working closely with California Skate Parks, will undertake the 16,000-square-foot expansion. The new park will include a new bowl, street course and lighting. Also included in the construction is a paved access drive and parking area and a hard-surface trail that will connect the upper Schneider Park parking area and the Animas River Trail. Construction should be completed by early August.

The original skate park opened in 1997, and at the time it was the first facility of its kind to be funded and subsidized by a municipality. The park, designed on a “bar napkin” by local skater Pet Sakadinsky, was used as the benchmark for more than 100 skate parks in Colorado. While the Durango Skate Park was workable at the time it was built, the consensus among the city, park users and residents is it’s high time for an upgrade.

Junction Creek Road fix in works

Junction Creek Road may become safer for cyclists and pedestrians in coming years. La Plata County has improvements scheduled for the busy rural road and will discuss them during an open house this Thurs., Feb. 23.

The proposed road improvements are tentatively scheduled for the summer of 2007. The goal is to provide a safer road including a wider driving surface with paved shoulders and guardrails. Work would begin at Durango city limits and extend to the end of the pavement near the terminus of the Colorado Trail. The upgrade was inspired in part by bicycle and foot traffic from the Colorado Trail spilling down Junction Creek Road into Durango.

The La Plata County Engineering Department and Bechtolt Engineering will discuss the proposed improvement from 5 to 7 p.m. on Feb. 23 at the La Plata County Fairgrounds. For more information, call 382-6363.

FLC champions honored in Denver

Local athletes got high marks in the Colorado State Capitol on Tues., Feb. 21. The Fort Lewis College men’s soccer and cyclocross national champions were honored by

Gov. Bill Owens and the Colorado General Assembly.

Fort Lewis coaches, players and administrators were present for the ceremony. Honorary legislation was introduced by the Senate and House of Representatives, and Lt. Gov. Jane Norton read a proclamation by Gov. Owens on the west steps of the capitol.

Several Skyhawk coaches, players and administrators participated in the ceremony at the capitol, including FLC President Brad Bartel; members of the Board of Trustees for Fort Lewis College; head Men’s Soccer Coach Jeremy Gunn; Skyhawk soccer players Ben Gantenbein, Tom Donley and Nick Kirchhof; Skyhawk cycling coaches Rick Crawford and Dave Hagen; and Skyhawk cyclists Jon Belcher, Eric Ranson and Chantel Shoemaker.

– compiled by Will Sands