Silverton takes on technological divide

Silverton and San Juan County are demanding release from the dark ages. This week, the two governments filed a formal complaint against Qwest for failing to complete the final 16 miles of a state-funded fiber-optic line and open Silverton to standard telecommunication services.

In 2000, the State of Colorado funded a fiber-optic connection for Silverton, and all of Colorado’s county seats, through the Multi-User Network for Telecommunications Project. Qwest Communications Inc. was paid $37 million by Colorado taxpayers and given a 10-year contract to build and maintain the statewide network. However, Silverton and San Juan County were never connected, and Qwest simply ignored a 2005 deadline. In the last five years, Operation Linkup – a group of Silverton residents, businesses and government agencies – has fought to hold Qwest to the original agreement.

 “Our very survival as a community is at stake,” said Greg Swanson, head of the San Juan County Development Association. “A reliable fiber-optic connection to the rest of the world is just as important to Silverton’s future as any rail line or highway in the past. Our telecom infrastructure must be on an equal footing with all other Colorado counties or our citizens can’t possibly have equal access or a uniform level of service.”A single radio link providing dial-up internet access has been Silverton’s only telecommunication contact to the outside world for the last 50 years. Town and county officials say this “primitive” telecom infrastructure is having a debilitating effect on local economic growth and business development. In addition, an avalanche took out power to a Qwest radio relay tower in 2004 causing a 24 hour interruption of all telecom services including intra-county emergency 911 services.“We’re not second-class Colorado citizens,” said Willie Tookey, San Juan County Administrator. “We’re not willing to be the only county seat left behind a fiber optic divide.”

FLC’s new president takes her post

Fort Lewis College’s new president is hitting the ground running. Dene Kay Thomas moved to Durango this week and promptly got to work on her “Let’s Talk Fort Lewis College” campaign.

Thomas has put a priority on meeting with students, alumni and area community members during her first few months in office. To that end, a number of events are planned that the public is welcome to attend and talk with the new president.

On July 4, Thomas will be one of the featured readers in the American Voices event at Buckley Park beginning at 11 a.m. Later that same day, she will ride in the Stars and Stripes Parade through downtown and stop by Maria’s Bookshop afterward for a meet and greet with the community.

On Monday, Thomas and her family will take part in another Durango tradition: riding the train to Silverton. Prior to departing at 9 a.m., she will be giving out free coffee and donuts to fellow riders and members of the community in front of the depot. Thomas will also host a community reception at the Rochester Hotel on July 9 and greet the public at the Durango Farmers Market on July 10.

Thomas was the president of Idaho’s Lewis-Clark State College since 2001. During her tenure, she reversed declining enrollment, restructured the college to better meet its mission and increased the visibility of the college through an energetic public relations and marketing initiative.

La Plata County enacts fire restrictions

Continued dry and windy conditions led La Plata County officials to take precautions this week. On Tuesday, county commissioners officially enacted fire restrictions and banned open burning on all areas south of U.S. Hwy. 160.

The ban prohibits open burning, burn barrels and agricultural burning on private property in the unincorporated areas of La Plata County and on any property owned by La Plata County. The use of a campfire, coal or wood-burning stove, any type of charcoal grill or open fire in any undeveloped area is also prohibited.

The restrictions do not apply to charcoal fires in suitable containers, gas grills at private residences, or fires within designated campground pits with protective grates. Residents are asked not to leave these types of fires unattended and to fully extinguish them after use. The fire restrictions also apply to welding and cutting operations, and use of explosive material is prohibited. Lastly, smoking is limited to vehicles, buildings, developed recreational areas and 3-foot-wide areas cleared of vegetation.

The fire restrictions were enacted by the commissioners upon the recommendation of Sheriff Duke Schirard and the chiefs of the local fire districts. A violation of the fire restrictions shall constitute a class 2 petty offense punishable by a fine of up to $300 for each violation.  

Dalai Lama summit to meet July 9

The Dalai Lama will leave a mark on the Four Corners next week. A summit, being held at the request of the exiled Tibetan leader, meets in Telluride on July 9. The free public event, “Meditation, Neuroscience and the Language of Mental Life,” will feature a panel discussion by professors from Emory, Stanford and The University of Michigan.

The conference comes at an important time in human history. Neuro-imaging and other medical tools are exploring questions of mental life that interface with Buddhist tradition.  

Led by Thupten Jinpa Langri – Tibetan scholar and translator for the Dalai Lama –  psychology, neuroscience and religious scholars will attempt to create an “encyclopedia of the language of mental life.”The event is free, but expected to fill up quickly and pre-registration is required. Contact or (970) 708-5149 for details.

– Will Sands




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January 25, 2024
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January 26, 2024
Paper chase

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January 11, 2024
High and dry

New state climate report projects continued warming, declining streamflows