Golf swap comment period period extended

All eyes are turning on the Chris Park land exchange. Following a request from Congressman John Salazar, the Forest Service has extended the public comment period on the controversial proposal. The agency has also released its appraisals – a key component of the swap – for public review.

The Glacier Club took another step toward its controversial expansion south of the popular Haviland Lake Recreation Area on Aug. 11. At that time, the Forest Service granted preliminary approval to the land swap proposed by the private golf club, located north of Durango. The exchange would trade 265 acres of San Juan National Forest north of the club for three private forest inholdings. The club proposes to use the parcel to add nine holes to its 27-hole course and develop 125 executive homes. In exchange, the Forest Service will gain control of the inholdings: 160 acres in Hermosa Park, east of Purgatory; 160 acres near Mitchell Lakes, north of Hermosa; and the 10-acre Iron Clad mining claim, in the Weminuche Wilderness southeast of Silverton.

However, the land swap has stirred public emotions since it was first proposed several years ago. The Forest Service’s recent proposed approval has set off a chain of controversy in recent weeks, which led to Salazar expressing serious reservations about the trade. In a letter last week to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Salazar asked that the comment period for the land swap be extended. He also named several major concerns about the proposal. First, he asked that the Chris Park group campground and event site not be impacted.

“If this goes forward, the public will no longer be able to enjoy the site as they now do by looking out at a panorama of forest,” he wrote. “Instead they would look out at a golf course and rows of buildings, severely diminishing the community value of this site.” Salazar also expressed reservations about the creation of an access road that would bisect Chris Park. “Despite opposition, the Forest Service included it in their preferred alternative,” he wrote. “This concerns me in that it appears the Forest Service is not being very responsive to the public on this matter.”

Salazar concluded that he does not feel that the Forest Service’s preferred alternative has addressed public concerns with the exchange. “I am deeply concerned that on this matter the Forest Service is not being responsive to the public’s concerns as expressed by both the general public as well as local and federal representatives,” he wrote.

Several days later, the agency announced that it would extend the public comment period an additional 30 days. The Forest Service also emphasized that it is currently studying four different alternatives on the exchange, and one of them is “no action.”

“What we are seeing is a healthy public discourse on this proposed exchange, with a debate on the relative merits and values of each parcel and the finer points of each alternative,” said Matt Janowiak, Acting Columbine District Ranger.  

The agency also made its appraisals public this week. The numbers are at the core of exchange and offer a glimpse of the reasons for the preferred alternative. According to the appraisals, the agency values Hermosa Park at $1.36 million, Mitchell Lakes at $1.28 million and the Iron Clad claim at $20,000. On the flip side, the appraiser found the Chris Park parcel to be worth $2.52 million. The appraisals can be found online at: to the extension, members of the public can now comment on the exchange through Fri., Oct. 30. Written comments can be mailed to Cindy Hockelberg, Columbine Ranger District, P.O. Box 439, Bayfield, Colorado 81122. Comments also can be faxed to the attention of Hockelberg at (970) 884-2428. And comments can be submitted via e-mail to:


La Plata County continues visioning

The future of La Plata County goes on the air this week. La Plata County and Durango Community Access Television (DCAT), Chanel 22, will host a live call in show this Thurs., Sept. 17. The program will discuss the ongoing visioning process being undertaken for the La Plata County Comprehensive Plan Update and look for public input.  

A community vision is a critical component of the Comprehensive Plan, according to La Plata County. It defines the shared values residents have in common and articulates community desires for the future. So far, the county has received input at 23 public events, including six open houses. Additionally, the County has received more than 200 adult and youth surveys.

“The community so far has really turned out for these events, and it’s great to see so many citizens caring about our future,” said Commissioner Joelle Riddle. “The DCAT broadcast will be another great opportunity for the community to ask questions about the visioning process so far, and I hope folks take advantage of this opportunity to be involved.”

The live show will air at 7 p.m. Sept. 17. Those interested in asking questions during the broadcast should call 259-2802. Questions can also be emailed to


Another case of swine flu confirmed

Swine flu has officially made another appearance in the region. This week, the San Juan Basin Health Department received confirmation of another positive H1N1 test in La Plata County when a 48-year-old male was briefly hospitalized. 

Cases are not counted as official H1N1 cases unless there is a positive state lab-confirmed test. These tests are only requested if a person is hospitalized with flu-like symptoms.

“We know H1N1 is here,” said Lynn Westberg, director of SJBHD. “At this point in the flu season, if someone is experiencing flu-like symptoms, it’s likely the H1N1 flu strain. So people don’t need to be tested. Community members should proceed as if they know it is around and use the basic health precautions we have all committed to memory.”

The health department encourages people to: wash hands frequently; keep hands away from face; cover sneezes and coughs with sleeve; avoid others with respiratory illnesses; and stay home if ill – especially if accompanied by a fever of more than 100 degrees; and stay home 24 hours after the fever breaks.

Since July 21, there have been seven tests of hospitalized patients in La Plata County sent to the state lab for H1N1 testing. Of those, four were positive including this latest case.


Local writer, photographer honored

Local pens and lenses have received regional recognition. Durango residents Will Hobbs and Claude Steelman have both been honored by the Mountains and Plains Independent Booksellers Association as recipients of 2009 MPIBA Regional Book Awards.

Will Hobbs’ Go Big or Go Home was chosen as the winner in the Children’s Chapter Book category, and Claude Steelman’s Colorado’s Wild Horses was chosen as the winner in The Arts.

The annual awards honor outstanding books that are set in the region. A significant aspect of the book must relate to the mountains and plains region, which encompasses the Rocky Mountain West as well as Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Texas. The awards will be presented Sept. 25.

In addition to Hobbs and Steelman, noted Utah writer Terry Tempest Williams was selected as the winner in the Children’s Picture Book category for her work, The Illuminated Desert.  Williams will speak at the Durango Public Library on Oct. 17 in conjunction with the 25th Anniversary of Maria’s Bookshop.

– Will Sands




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January 11, 2024
High and dry

New state climate report projects continued warming, declining streamflows