River Trail makes more strides

The year 2005 was a groundbreaker for Durango’s urban trail network. After many years of disconnection, two large pieces of the Animas River Trail came together with the creation of the Main Avenue underpass. Progress is continuing on the hard-surface trail network this year, as it works its way through south Durango and closer to a connection with Grandview and Three Springs.

Following the opening of the underpass lat fall, the City has shifted its trail-building attention to other parts of town. “We’ve got a lot of work going on down south on the Animas River Trail,” said Cathy Metz, Durango Director of Parks and Recreation.

Construction is well under way on a new half mile of the Animas River Trail behind the Durango Mall. Completion on that segment is expected later this spring. From there, the trail is planned to cross over the Animas on a new pedestrian bridge just upstream of the Highway 550/160 High Bridge. It will then continue south past the Humane Society, Walmart, Escalante Middle School and the Escalante Crossing Development before linking up with the Rivera Bridge on River Road. Design and engineering for the new extension has been in development for a couple months. Construction of the new leg should begin late in the summer or early this fall.

“These are all projects we’ve had in various stages of design for a while,” Metz explained. “We’re basically taking these sections one at a time, but people are going to see a big chunk completed this summer.”

The extension of the Animas River Trail coincides with the Smart 160 Trail, which eventually hopes to link Durango and Bayfield via a 10-foot wide, hard-surface trail. The near-term goal will be a direct connection with the new Mercy Medical Center and Three Springs development in Grandview, said Metz.

“The work this year is setting us up to get there,” she said. “The Smart 160 trail was originally envisioned as extending between Durango and Bayfield. First, we’re going to try to get to Three Springs, and we’re currently taking a preliminary look at that next section.”

The work makes for an exciting time for all trails, according to Mary Monroe, executive director of Trails 2000.

“This is not a separate issue of hard-surface vs. dirt trails,” she said. “This is all about getting connectivity throughout town. It’s really important that we get these connections from sidewalks to parks to soft-surface trails. It’s a great opportunity for the community at large.”

In addition to the growing Animas River Trail, connections are popping up all over Durango. With the reconstruction of the Durango Skate Park this spring and summer, a new link to the Animas River Trail will be built to replace the long-used dirt trail north of the park. Goeglein Gulch Road is also getting a significant facelift this year with major improvements, including wider lanes, striped bike lanes and a separated, hard-surface trail that will safely take residents from downtown neighborhoods up to the College Mesa.

Local receives top wildlife honor

A local man has received high marks from the Colorado Division of Wildlife. Cary Carron, a Bayfield resident and district wildlife manager, has been honored with the DOW’s prestigious John D. Hart Officer of the Year Award.

As a district wildlife manager, or game warden, Carron makes sure wildlife laws are obeyed, works with homeowners and landowners, conducts basic field research, stocks fish, educates the public and more.

Carron, 49, grew up in Westminster, and after high school, he attended Fort Lewis College, earning a degree in biology. He then worked in temporary jobs with the DOW, and after taking the test for the fourth time he was finally selected to join the corps of game wardens. When the game warden job for the Bayfield area opened up in 1986, he jumped on the opportunity. Carron said he was attracted to the district because of the vast roadless tracts in the nearby Weminuche Wilderness Area. “I prefer to work away from the roads, I spend a lot of time on horseback in the roadless areas,” he said. During the past 20 years, he’s seen some changes and fewer people who are willing to hunt on foot. “All-terrain vehicles

have changed the sport drastically,” Carron said. “They can be a great tool if they’re used right. But too many people think hunting is getting on an ATV and finding something to shoot at.”

Carron has also watched development encroach into prime wildlife habitat. Because of his concerns, he’s served on the board of the La Plata Open Space Conservancy for the last five years.

Tom Spezze, southwest regional manager for the DOW, commented that nobody is more deserving of the award.

“Cary has always been a very dedicated and professional wildlife officer,” he said. “He’s a game warden’s game warden. Cary is certainly deserving of this prestigious award.”

Light snows slow global warming

Smaller snowpacks could yield a long term benefit, according to a recent report in the journalNature. A decrease in Rocky Mountain snowfall has slowed the release of heat-trapping carbon dioxide from forest soils into the atmosphere, according to the new study. The net effect is a decrease in global warming.

Scientist Russell Monson, of the University of Colorado at Boulder, has found that lack of snow decreases winter insulation and actually cools soils. With cooler soil, fewer greenhouse gases leave forests. Monson said that the overall picture for Western forests remains relatively bleak, however.   “This is a small amount of good news in a large cloud of bad news,” Monson said.” While winter CO2 emissions from forest soils have slowed, the lack of winter moisture is stressing the trees during the spring and summer and inhibiting the absorption of much larger amounts of CO2 during their growing season.”

The study was conducted at the National Science Foundation’s Niwot Ridge Long-Term Ecological Research site located west of Boulder.

Nature Studies names new director

Durango Nature Studies announced new leadership this week. The local nonprofit dedicated to education about the natural world has tapped Allison Pease as its new executive director. Pease will fill the shoes of Lisa Branner, who stepped down early this year to devote more energy to Venture Snowboards, the company she founded with her husband, Klemmens Branner.

Pease holds a BS in geophysical engineering from the the Colorado School of Mines as well as an MBA from the University of Phoenix. At Mines, she completed coursework in the Department of Ecology and Environmental Sciences. With her husband, Durangoan Steve Pease, she spent 12 years abroad living in Nigeria, Vietnam and Venezuela, working in corporate and nonprofit sectors. Pease is also a long-time DNS volunteer and board member and has served on numerous nonprofit boards, both in Durango and abroad.  

In existence since 1994, Durango Nature Studies is dedicated to increasing awareness of, knowledge of and respect for the natural world through hands-on learning experiences for all ages.

Lynx seen in Aspen and Telluride

Lynx released northwest of Durango are making the rounds. The cats have been seen in two Colorado ski towns this winter, first at Telluride and its companion town, Mountain Village, and more recently in Aspen.

In Telluride, state wildlife officials feared people were feeding the lynx. In Aspen, a female lynx suffered a leg injury and died soon after she was spotted.

“In all likelihood, the reason people saw it and the reason a person was able to snap a picture is because the animal was hurt and hungry,” Randy Hampton, of the Colorado Division of Wildlife, toldThe Aspen Times.

Some 204 Canada lynx have been released in the San Juan Mountains since the reintroduction program began in 1999. Prior to that, the last confirmed lynx sighting was near Vail in 1973.

– compiled by Will Sands