City secures vital Horse Gulch open space parcel

Though the future of Horse Gulch continues to hang in the balance, the City of Durango preserved a major chunk of it this week. Thanks to a grant from Great Outdoors Colorado, the City, in partnership with La Plata Open Space Conservancy, has purchased 223 acres from the Crader family for $700,000.

The Crader parcel is located on the northern end of Horse Gulch and stretches to the top of the eastern ridge. Although it is a large piece of property, it contains only small portions of the Mike’s and Secret trails. However, the parcel is a crucial Horse Gulch viewshed, fits within the criteria of the City’s Parks, Open Space and Trails plan and represents a major open space acquisition for Durango. In addition, the property has been deemed by the Colorado Division of Wildlife to have significant value as habitat for bear, mountain lion and wild turkey.

In February, the Durango City Council recognized these attributes and voted unanimously to put the parcel under contract and preserve a large piece of Horse Gulch.  “The opportunity to hike and mountain bike in Horse Gulch was an important reason why me and my family decided to move here and take the job at Fort Lewis,” Councilor Doug Lyon said at the time. “This is one of the first properties we should acquire. It’s big, and it’s important.”

Mary Monroe, executive director of Trails 2000, has called the Crader property a “perfect piece” and noted that its preservation will be an asset to Durango recreation. “The Crader property provides connectivity to the Horse Gulch trail network as well as to Three Springs and the hospital,” she said. “Preserving the beauty of the entire Telegraph system benefits all who live here, the college and the tourists who travel from far away places to experience this beautiful trail network.”

Great Outdoors Colorado recent awarded $234,500 in lottery toward the acquisition. The grant is among 55 awarded by the board to 36 outdoor community recreation projects. In all 43,617 acres of Colorado open space will be preserved thanks to the recent round of funding.

“At a time when people don’t have as many resources to travel, it is important to make additional dollars available to fund outdoor projects in and near their communities,” said GOCO Board chairman Norma Anderson.  

The Durango award brings the amount of City-owned open space to 383 acres in Horse Gulch. While that acreage will be forever protected from development, there are 1,500 acres of undeveloped land in Horse Gulch. Private and public ownership covers most of the area’s network of trails, and Horse Gulch remains one of Durango’s most endangered recreational resources.

Durango drinking water aces test

Durango drinking water has once again made the grade. The City of Durango recently received its consumer confidence report, which was drawn from regular testing throughout 2008. Based on the results, local residents should drink from their taps both early and often.

All drinking water, including bottled water, can be expected to contain at least small amounts of some contaminants. As water travels over the surface of the land or through the ground, it dissolves naturally occurring minerals and impurities. The City of Durango’s 14.7-million-gallon water treatment plant works to remove and minimize these threats before the water arrives in the tap. The recent report reveals that it’s been excelling at its job where barium, coliform, nitrate and all other contaminants are concerned.

Robert Ludwig, superintendent of the treatment plant, noted that Durango takes the duty seriously and is constantly working to improve local water quality. “The plant has been continuously upgraded to deliver the highest quality of product possible,” he said. “We continue to provide training and maintain highly qualified operators that strive for excellence in the drinking water field. We sample the water continuously that goes into the distribution system and sample the distribution system around town each week.”

Ludwig also noted that Durangoans are making a mistake if they pass up the tap for bottled water. Bottled water is hauled great distances, creates a massive plastic waste stream, frequently comes from another municipality’s tap and is marked up in cost.

“Water treatment is working to educate people on the harm of bottled water and the benefits of tap water from our own Weminuche Wilderness watershed,” Ludwig said. “Some might ask, ‘Why would you drink bottled water from Texas when you could have your mountain water from the tap?’”

The complete report can be found at and clicking on “Utilities.”

Pertussis spreads into the summer

The sick season is still alive and well in Durango. Pertussis, or whooping cough, is continuing to make the local rounds.

Each week an average of two confirmed cases of pertussis has been reported to San Juan Basin Health Department. La Plata County has had 47 confirmed incidents of the infectious disease since mid-December, including 21 new cases since April 1.

“The good news is schools are out and individuals are outside a whole lot more,” said Bari Wagner, Disease Control Nurse for SJBHD. “Since pertussis requires a closer, more sustained contact than some other types of infectious diseases – this means there’s less opportunity for the disease spreading than there was during winter months and while school is in session.”

Pertussis spreads when an infected person sneezes or coughs and another individual breathes in the bacteria. Symptoms usually develop seven to 10 days after exposure, and the disease begins with a cough that progressively becomes more severe until the person develops coughing fits. Vomiting, breathlessness, a change in facial color, and/or a whooping sound may follow the coughing fits. People experiencing any of these symptoms are encouraged to contact their physician.

D&SNGRR named ‘Top 10 Train Ride’

Local rails have gone into the international spotlight. The Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad has been named one of the World’s Top 10 Train Rides by the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW). 

SATW, the largest organization of professional travel journalists and photographers, recently polled its members to come up with the “Top 10” most exciting and scenic train rides in the world. The D&SNGRR was rated No. 3 in the world and No. 1 in the United States. Train travel, according to SATW President Bea Broda, “is romantic, scenic, a wonderful way to mix with locals and ... a very green way to experience a country.”

The top train ride in the world, according to SATW, is the Rocky Mountaineer, which offers two-day journeys through the Canadian Rockies from Vancouver to Banff or Jasper. In a side note, the Mountaineer has been criticized for contributing to an inordinate amount of wildlife death.

– Will Sands 



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