Twin Buttes open space gifted to City

Durango added a prime piece of open space to its collection last week, when 290 acres were donated by Ed and Florence Pauls as part of the Twin Buttes development. The section includes much of the Buttes themselves, adjoins another recently acquired 200-acre parcel and promises to provide a scenic, wildlife and recreation corridor between Durango and Lightener Creek.

The Twin Buttes development gained preliminary approval in 2009, and the Durango City Council inked the final approval on the clustered 600-unit development on Tuesday. Though controversial, the project has received accolades for its commitment to sustainability, conservation and use of renewable resources.

“Twin Buttes has really raised the bar for development in the Durango area,” said Greg Hoch, director of Durango Community Development. “It’s a model development for Durango and Colorado and it hasn’t gone unnoticed. To have this land gifted to the city has been a tremendously significant part of the whole process.”

Last week, the City of Durango took ownership of 290 acres donated outright by Ed and Florence Pauls.

“We have come to a point in our lives that we wanted to turn over our remaining part of the ranch to Durango for park space,” the couple wrote in a statement. “We enjoyed the trails on and around the ranch a great deal, and as firm believers in parks, we would like to present the Twin Buttes to the City of Durango.”  

The City will craft a management plan for the 290-acre piece and the adjoining 200-acre Cliffrock parcel, which the City bought in December 2009. A substantial trails network is in the works.  

“The trails system has been laid out conceptually,” said Kevin Hall, Durango’s Parks Open Space and Trails development manager. “Whatever we do, we’re going to work to meet the habitat preservation goals set out by Twin Buttes. That is prime deer and elk habitat, and we want to create an established loop system where people will stay on the trails.”

The City also hopes to link up the new open space with the Overend Mountain Park and the Lightner Creek drainage and provide connectivity to several of the region’s existing trails.

“When this is all said and done, we should have connectivity between town, these new open space parcels and the Lightner Creek drainage,” Hall said.

Hoch concluded that the City has had its eye on preserving Twin Buttes for several decades. The Pauls gift has made it possible.

“This is a parcel we’ve always said has high significance for its value as a viewshed, as wildlife habitat and as open space,” he said.


FLC building certified LEED Gold

Fort Lewis College now has another gold feather in its cap. The new Biology Wing of Berndt Hall recently received LEED® Gold certification and became the second building at the college to receive the green honor. Animas Hall, the College’s newest residence hall, was certified last year.

LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and is designated by the U.S. Green Building Council. Buildings pursuing a LEED certification are built to high environmental standards in areas such as energy use, lighting, water and materials, and a LEED Gold standard is the second highest certification available. Some of the environmentally friendly aspects of the new building include maximizing open space, planting water efficient landscaping, using energy from renewable sources, and using regional and recycled building materials.

The new biology facility at Fort Lewis College was completed in February 2010 and stretches more than 33,000 square feet, almost three times larger than the old wing. The majority of the funding

for the approximately $17 million building came from the state but only after a long and bumpy road.

The funds were originally set aside in Colorado coffers in 2000, but the project went on hold because of the economic downturn after 9/11. In 2007, state money was again available and construction began, but the bottom fell out of the economy again. In late 2008, Gov. Bill Ritter froze funding for the project. However, the old wing had already been demolished. After a few nervous weeks, the Governor’s office announced that the funding for would be made available, and construction moved ahead.

“I am thrilled to be the dean that got to watch this building become a reality,” said Maureen Brandon, dean of the FLC School of Natural and Behavioral Sciences. “The Biology Wing is a modern, spacious facility for our teaching and student research labs.”


Wildcat Mining appeals to public

Wildcat Mining Corp. took its expansion plans public this week. The company hosted an open house and meet-and-greet on Tuesday and restated that it is under new management and will take a greener and gentler approach to mining in the La Plata Mountains. Many members of the Durango public remain unconvinced.

Wildcat Mining is currently seeking a permit to expand its operations from approximately 10 acres to more than 274 acres, reopen dormant mines along Ohwiler Ridge on Deadwood Mountain and restart an abandoned mill. In spite of this giant expansion, Wildcat maintains that it is now under new management and will follow “green” practices in its new operations.  

Roger Tichenor, Wildcat’s new president, stated, “This is a new chapter for the Mayday Idaho Mine Complex. We have an opportunity to continue the legacy of mining in La Plata County and produce precious and strategic minerals used in everything from cell phones, to solar panels, to spaceships. The high-grade resources in these mines will be a benefit to La Plata County, the state of Colorado and our nation as a whole.”

Wildcat’s most recent chapter was less-than-rosy, however. In the last four years, the company has been penalized for numerous infractions, including blasting an illegal adit and building an unpermitted mill inside. Other violations included cutting an illegal road through the banks of the La Plata River; damming Little Deadwood Creek; and constructing an illegal tailings pond.

“Wildcat has faced multiple violations already,” wrote Lisa Giovanniello, of Mayday, in a recent letter to the Telegraph. “Unfortunately, to this day there have been little or no repercussions. Keep in mind that all of this has been done under the watchful eye of our federal, state and county officers.”

– Will Sands




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