Durango bounces back from burn

Durango is putting the pieces back together following last Friday’s devastating fire in the 700 block of Main Avenue. Though the blaze destroyed three businesses – Seasons, Le Rendezvous and Half-Price Tees – and injured nine local firefighters, the local community has stepped in to help fill the void.

Despite widespread rumors (from as far away as China) of greater Main Avenue destruction, the Durango Fire and Rescue Authority and other supporting agencies were able to contain the damage to the three businesses. After the smoke was gone, the local community stepped in to help those displaced by the blaze.

On Mon., Feb. 25, the Durango Business Improvement District formally established the “700 Block Disaster Relief Fund” at First National Bank of Durango. The fund was launched with $10,000 seed money from concerned citizens Fritz Geistler and Christina Erteszek, and the Durango Chapter of the Colorado Restaurant Association contributed a $10,000 matching grant.

In addition, Durango Coffee Co. and Ultrasteam Professional Cleaning announced that for the next two weeks, 5 percent of revenues will be donated to the fund; Nature’s Oasis donated $1,000 from its emergency care fund; and East by Southwest is planning a disaster relief dinner for Sun., March 9.

“The purpose of the fund is to assist with the needs of the people directly affected by the fire,” said John Wells, BID presiding officer. “The employees of these businesses are, in essence, now unemployed and may need assistance with living expenses and necessities over the next several weeks.”

The money raised will go to the employees of the three businesses who are out of work. The Durango Workforce Center is also providing a March 4 workshop for displaced employees to help deal with the financial and emotional aftershocks.

Meanwhile, Seasons, Le Rendezvous and Half-Price Tees are also looking to the future. The building’s owner has announced plans to rebuild, and Karen Barger, the owner of Seasons, said she hopes to be back up and running by next December. In the wake of the fire, Barger also offered her thanks. “I want to thank everyone in the community and around the world who have expressed their prayers, concerns and well-wishes. This community is unique for how close we are and the support we give each other.”

Donations to the “700 Main Avenue Disaster Relief Fund” can be made in person at the First National Bank of Durango or mailed to the Business Improvement District, P.O. Box 1405, Durango, CO, 81302. Checks should be made payable to “700 Main Avenue Disaster Relief Fund.” Employees from any of the three businesses who are in need of support should visit: www.downtowndurango.org.

Oil and gas stakeholders group forms

La Plata County residents now have an official seat at the oil and gas table. This week, Rep. John Salazar, D-Colo., announced the formation of the “Northern San Juan Basin Stakeholders Group.” The group will provide the general public an opportunity to be involved in the ongoing discussion related to energy development in the Northern San Juan Basin.

After touring the HD Mountains in 2006, Salazar asked the San Juan Public Lands Center to consider setting up working groups. He was particularly concerned about the development of the Fruitland Outcrop formation, which has imperiled lives and property near Bayfield in the past. The San Juan Public Lands Center was responsive to Salazar’s request. Formation of a Technical Working Group was included in the Record of Decision for the Northern San Juan Basin Coal Bed Methane Project

In addition to the working group, Salazar asked the agencies to set up a Stakeholders Working Group to allow citizens and local governments to be involved in the ongoing monitoring and direction of energy projects. After consulting with other stakeholders including Archuleta and La Plata counties, the San Juan Citizens Alliance, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, and the La Plata Energy Council, the BLM and Forest Service have agreed to set up the new working group.

“I encourage anyone who is interested in energy issues to participate in this group so that the public’s voice can be heard in the process,” Salazar said.  “The issues surrounding oil and gas drilling can be contentious. I believe the best way forward is to bring all the stakeholders to the table to have their input and concerns heard by the federal land agencies.”

The Stakeholders Working Group will hold an open house in coming days. That first meeting is set for Wed., March 5, from 4-8 p.m., at the San Juan Public Lands Center.

FLC marks International Women’s Day

Fort Lewis College celebrated International Women’s Day this week by inviting influential women from the Durango community to discuss women’s issues with students and other attendees.

International Women’s Day has been celebrated on a global scale since 1910. The day is a time for asserting women’s political and social rights, reviewing the progress women have made in the last century, and a day for celebrating women, past and present.

The theme for the day is chosen by the United Nations, this year revolving around “Women Shaping Progress.”

“We’re recognizing issues around the world and realizing that these issues are here in Durango, at the college and everywhere,” said Caroline Keene, a student-organizer of the event.

The Fort Lewis celebration spanned three evenings of films and panel discussions, each revolving around a specific theme, including immigrants’ rights, sexual violence and safety, and women in politics. Panelists included representatives from the Durango City Council, the Unity Project, Alternative Horizons, Compañeros and others.

A free concert will bring the celebration to a close this Fri., Feb. 29. The show is set for 6 p.m. in the FLC College Union Building and will feature local artists The Noodles (appearing with The Quails), Antibodies, The Huckometers and Oaty-Paste.

Squawker Classic just around corner

Though snowdrifts are still haunting many of Durango’s streets, bicycle racing season is just a few short weeks away. The Fort Lewis College Cycling Team will hold its annual Squawker Classic road racing events March 15-16.  

The weekend kicks off with the “Bread/East Animas Team Time Trial” on the morning of March 15. Teams of four riders will race along County Road 250 starting in town and finishing high on Old Shalona just before the railroad tracks. Racing action will continue that afternoon with the “Morehart Neighborhood Criterium” taking place in the historic downtown residential area. The course is a fast, spectator-friendly circuit utilizing Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Avenues as well as Eighth, Ninth and Tenth streets. Racing concludes Sunday with the “Coca-Cola Road Race.” This new event includes a spectator friendly start/finish on historic Mill Street in Bayfield. Racers will ride a course south on the Buck Highway toward Ignacio and return to Bayfield on county roads 517/518/516.

Minor traffic delays can be expected during the time trial and road race. The criterium course will be closed to traffic from noon-5 p.m. Mill Street in Bayfield will be closed to traffic from 7 a.m.-1 p.m. on March 16.

– Will Sands



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