Landowners lose trail right-of-way suit
Another step was taken on the path to extending the city’s Animas River Trail.

On June 21, District Court Judge Jeff Wilson ruled in favor of the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, allowing the company to grant the city access to develop a section of the trail north of 32nd Street.

The case centers on whether or not the railroad actually has the right to give the city access to its right-of-way through private property.

In the summary judgment, the court found that the railroad’s right-of-way is “more expansive than a typical easement” and that it has “exclusive use and control of the right of way for so long as they continue to operate a railroad thereon.”

The defendants, Tim Wolf and others, have 45 days to file an appeal of the decision. At the July 3 City Council meeting, Wolf, who owns property north of 32nd Street along the Animas River, said he would appeal. “I’m still here and this lawsuit has not been finished,” Wolf said.

At issue on the July 3 agenda was the approval of a $400,000 expenditure paid to the railroad for right-of-way access on sections of the Animas River Trail from 32nd Street to just south of the Iron Horse, which did not specifically include the area on the defendant’s property. Council members voted 3-0 to approve the expenditure.

City Attorney David Smith said at the meeting if the easement cannot be provided to the city, the railroad is obligated to refund the city’s money.
“We’re all going to have to wait and see what happens in respect to the litigation,” Smith said.

– Tracy Chamberlin

Pro Challenge announces 2012 lineup
The USA Pro Challenge is still several weeks away, but the starting line is shaping up to be a star-studded cycling affair.

On Wednesday, race officials announced the lineup for the seven-day stage event, which takes place Aug. 20-26 in Colorado. Among those lining up at the starting line in Durango on Mon., Aug. 20, will be 2011 USA Pro Challenge Champion Levi Leipheimer (USA), 2011 Tour de France Winner Cadel Evans (Australia) as well as three-time national road champion George Hincapie (USA). Coming off his record 17th Tour de France, Hincapie is expected to close out his storied career with the Pro Challen

Evans, who competed in the inaugural Pro Challenge last year, said he looks forward to the fans as well as the challenging course. “After winning the Tour de France last year and seeing the enthusiasm of the fans, I didn’t think anything could match it, but then I came to Colorado,” he said. “Seeing the huge crowds that were along the route was remarkable. The course and the mountains were beautiful, but incredibly challenging, and I can’t wait to take them on again.”

The Pro Challenge, which takes place on the heels of the Tour de France and the 2012 Summer Olympic Games, will feature 16 of the world’s most elite professional cycling teams. Comprised of UCI Pro, Pro Continental and Continental teams, the race is expected to draw some of the top talent in the sport. The inaugural race in 2011 included the full Tour de France podium for the first time in the history of a U.S. race.

“After the 2011 USA Pro Challenge, we had such an overwhelmingly positive response from the teams that it was difficult to narrow it down to 16 teams for the 2012 edition,” said Shawn Hunter, CEO of the Pro Challenge. “The USA Pro Challenge is building a reputation for having the highest caliber teams in the world, creating fierce competition in the Colorado Rockies. I can’t wait to see what these teams have in store for us this August.”
More than 1 million spectators turned out to watch the seven-day race in 2011, making it one of the largest cycling events in U.S. history. This year’s 683-mile course includes three mountain passes, each exceeding 12,000 feet in elevation, with more than 42,000 feet of vertical gain.

In addition to the aforementioned three big names, the race will also include Colorado resident Tim Duggan (USA) of Liquigas-Cannondale, who recently took first in the National Road Race Championships and will be competing in London. RadioShack-Nissan-Trek riders Frank Schleck (LUX), third overall in the 2011 Tour de France; Chris Horner (USA), who took first last year in the Amgen Tour of California; and fan-favorite Jens Voigt (GER) who came in sixth overall in last year’s Paris–Nice also will be competing, as well as the Slovenia National Time Trial Champion Janez Brajkovic, from Astana Pro Team.

The full team rosters will be announced closer to the race. For a full list of participating teams, visit the Pro Challenge website at .

Crews recover body of Canadian climber
The body of a 45-year-old climber was recovered Tuesday morning from the flanks of Windom Peak, north of Durango. Canadian Martin Pigeon, 45, of the Montreal area, was in his second week of a three-week quest to conquer 20 Colorado peaks when he slipped during a storm Sunday on Windom Peak. Pigeon and his climbing partner, Yves Marcoux had climbed nearby fourteeners Mount Eolus and Sunlight Peak earlier in the day and were on Windom Peak when thunderstorms rolled in.

According to La Plata County Search and Rescue, Pigeon and Marcoux were descending when rain, hail and lightning hit. Pigeon was a distance below Marcoux the last time Marcoux saw him, about 4 p.m. Although the standard descent route from Windom is on the north side of a ridge, Pigeon apparently took the south side of the ridge. When Marcoux reached camp to find Pigeon not there, he contacted another climber from Alaska who had a satellite-texting device, which relayed a text to local authorities.

Meanwhile, Marcoux returned to Windom to search for his friend, and at around 8:30 p.m. Sunday found Pigeon’s body at the base of a cliff at about 800 feet below the summit. It is estimated that Pigeon fell about 230 feet.

More storms moved into the area Monday, delaying recovery attempts until Tuesday morning. At about 8 a.m. Tuesday, La Plata County Search & Rescue was finally able to remove Pigeon’s body via helicopter.  

Dan Bender, spokesman for La Plata County Sheriff’s Office, said seasonal monsoons have officially begun in southwest Colorado, bringing wind, rain, hail, lightning and cold temperatures to the mountains by mid-day. Bender reminded anyone in the high country to be prepared for sudden changes in weather conditions.

– Missy Votel