Paving plan draws stiff opposition

A plan for 2 miles of new blacktop is mixing emotions just northwest of Durango. The Forest Service has released a plan to convey Falls Creek Road, also known as County Road 205, between the Turtle Lake and Falls Creek areas, to La Plata County. The county’s plan to pave the popular recreation corridor is drawing strong reactions.

The Forest Service is currently gauging public comment on the plan. The road links up with the Falls Creek Subdivision through the Hidden Valley area, which contains several trails, vistas and archeological sites.

Ann Bond, San Juan Public Lands public information officer, explained that the Falls Creek Homeowners Association approached La Plata County commissioners in 2004 about the transfer. Commissioners initially denied the request, but late in 2005 approved it on the contingency that the Homeowners Association and Forest Service fund an upgrade of the road to county standards. In exchange the county would take over jurisdiction of the 2 miles and provide labor and equipment. Bond went on to explain the Forest Service’s perspective, saying the agency is not in the business of maintaining roads to residential developments.

“Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management roads are constructed to offer public access to public lands,” she said. “They are not constructed or maintained to offer residential access to private property.”

The idea of transferring ownership of the short section of road may not be as controversial as the county’s interest in paving it. A large contingent, including Turtle Lake and Falls Creek residents, has objected to the upgrade on the basis of safety and quality-of-life issues. Objectors contend that paving the road will lead to high-speed driving on a corridor currently dominated by recreation and wildlife.

“That valley is one of the most accessible, really peaceful, rural areas close to town,” said Randall McKown, a Falls Creek resident. “It would be a shame to degrade that for the sake of a single neighborhood.”

In response to public concerns, the Forest Service extended the deadline for public comments to this Fri., May 12. However, McKown and others feel the decision has already been made. “I think it’s a gesture,” he said. “I doubt they’ll keep an open mind. The Forest Service is trying to shed roadway responsibilities, and the entity foolish enough to shoulder that burden is the county.”

Commissioner Sheryl Ayers has stated publicly that the decision to take over and pave the end of Falls Creek Road has already been made and the public already had its chance to state objections. However, Commissioner Wally White has a somewhat different perspective.

“There seems to be a slight difference of opinion on where the commissioners stand on this,” White said. “I’m personally not sure it’s a done deal. While we did budget for the road, we have not yet signed an intergovernmental agreement with the Forest Service or the homeowners association.”

Assuming the Forest Service decides to proceed with the transfer, that agreement would go back before the public late this month or in early June, according to White.


Durangoans invited to shape future

Locals have another chance to shape the future of Durango. Citizens are invited to join the planning process at another community workshop on Mon., May 15. The workshop runs from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Durango Arts Center and will focus on the selection of a preferred growth scenario for the Durango planning area.  

Participants at previous workshops helped to define and refine three distinct growth scenarios. On May 15, workshop participants will learn more about the impacts of the different scenarios and be asked to identify aspects of each that should be incorporated into a preferred scenario. Additionally, the compiled results of the keypad polling survey carried out at the April workshops will be presented.  

The first scenario largely reflects current land-use plans. The second focuses on expanding commercial uses to the edges of the city to enhance Durango’s role as a regional commercial center. And a third “compact growth” scenario places a higher priority on the efficient use of land and the retention of future development potential.

During the Monday workshop, the environmental, housing, employment and transportation impacts of each of the scenarios will be compared and contrasted. Participants will then be asked to identify the strengths and weaknesses of each scenario in order to define their preferred growth scenario.  

The results of this workshop will be used to refine Durango’s future Land Use Map and help determine which growth management tools are appropriate for use in Durango.  

More information is available at the project website at

Native American Center taps director

The Native American Center has new direction at Fort Lewis College. Area native, Yvonne Bilinski, has returned to the Four Corners from Cornell University’s American Indian Program to serve as the center’s director.

“The opportunity to come to Fort Lewis College and the Native American Center is absolutely so exciting,” Bilinski said. “I sense a heightened state of ‘can-do-ism’ here. What a way to join the college.”

The Native American Center’s goals are to help Native American students succeed in school and develop personally. The center also assists the campus and larger communities in fostering a better appreciation of native cultures. Bilinski commented that the center is integral to Fort Lewis College.

“The existence of the center is crucial to the future of incoming and current students,” she said. “I look forward to working with a dedicated team of professionals who believe in the students, in the college, in what the Native American Center can evolve into.”

Approximately 18 percent of Fort Lewis College students are American Indian or Alaskan natives. Fort Lewis College offers students who qualify for such status full-tuition waivers to attend the college.


Mumps found in La Plata County

One of the big childhood viruses has landed in La Plata County. The San Juan Basin Health Department has confirmed a case of mumps in a La Plata County resident. A woman recently tested positive for mumps, and it is believed that she was exposed during a spring break trip to the Midwest.

The mumps virus is a common childhood disease worldwide and is a still a significant threat to health. More than a thousand cases of mumps have been reported in several Midwestern states during the current outbreak. However, the La Plata County woman is only the second confirmed case in Colorado.

Early symptoms of mumps include low-grade fever, headache and muscle aches. Enlarged salivary glands may follow within a few days in most cases. The health department recommends that all individuals born after 1957 verify that they are up to date on the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine.

For more information on the disease, visit

– compiled by Will Sands


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