Chapman expansion in the works
Dreams of a larger Chapman Hill facility are no longer on ice.

On Tuesday, the Durango City Council approved buying three-quarters of prime Florida Road real estate to the north of the existing rink for $420,000. The purchase of the so-called Coutlee parcel is expected to close Friday.

“It provides an opportunity for looking at long-term plans for Chapman Hill,” Durango’s Parks, Open Space and Trails Director Kevin Hall said Tuesday. “Chapman is a very popular facility in the community, and there’s been a longstanding desire to expand over time, and this will assist in this process.”

The city began negotiations on the land during the Florida Road construction in 2010. “The city needed a construction easement from the property owners, and they said, ‘Why not just buy the parcel from us?’” said Hall. Prior to that, the land was zoned for seven townhomes.

The sale price was based on appraised value, with funds coming from the city’s half-cent parks and open space tax.

Among the imminent needs at Chapman is an increase in parking. During busy winter months, when hockey and skiing are in full swing, overflow cars park across Florida Road at Christ the King Lutheran Church or along Florida Road. However, the new parcel could ease this, adding 80 spots to the hill’s existing 61.

Long term, the idea of another sheet of ice has been circulating, although Hall said no plans have been made. “Obviously, there’s some interest in another rink,” he said. “Whether it’s there or somewhere else has yet to be decided.”

One thing that would need to be worked out if and when that happens is relocating the Durango Gun Club, which leases land from the city directly to the north of the rink. Hall said the city has been keeping Gun Club members abreast of the situation. “If anything were to happen with that land, we would need to find them a new home,” he said.

Airport rebounds, should stay strong
After some turbulence in May, the Durango-La Plata County Airport has regained a comfortable cruising altitude.

In June, the airport reported a 6 percent increase in enplanements over June 2011, a rebound from May's numbers, which saw a 5 percent dip from 2011.

"It was the first little down month we've had in a long time, but we're rocking and rolling now," said airport manager Ron Dent. He said the June increase most likely would have been higher had hot weather not forced carriers to reduce passenger loads.

Despite this, Dent said he expects the upward trend to continue, especially with Frontier adding twice-weekly flights to Las Vegas in October and United increasing its seatload in August. "July looks like a good month. Obviously we had some heat issues, but we're going to see some pretty strong growth," Dent predicted.

While this will mean more convenience for local flyers, it may not necessarily equate to screaming deals. "We're not expecting any big fare drops, not with jet fuel over $3 gallon," said Dent. What most airlines have done instead of lowering prices is cut capacity, which means more people are chasing the cheaper seats. But that doesn't mean there aren’t some deals to be had. "The other day I saw a Durango to Seattle for $300, so there are some very good fares out there," he said.

La Plata/Junction travel plan finalized
Free-ranging four-wheelers in La Plata Canyon will be a thing of the past under new rules handed down by the San Juan National Forest.

Last week, the Columbine Ranger District released the final version of its La Plata Canyon-Junction Creek Travel Management plan. Effective immediately, motor-vehicle use across the 52,800-acre national forest area northwest of Durango will be restricted to designated routes, and cross-country travel is prohibited. The new regulations do not affect snowmobiles or nonmotorized uses.

The Forest Service undertook the travel management process for La Plata Canyon and Junction Creek in early 2011 as part of former Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworth’s 2004 mandate. Back then, Bosworth named off-road vehicle abuse public lands enemy No. 1, citing more than 60,000 miles of renegade roads. He ordered regional offices to stop this spread and confine motorized travel to designated roads and trails.

“Unregulated motorized use is one of the biggest threats to public land nationwide,” Nancy Berry, recreation forester with the Columbine District, said at the time. “There has been a big increase in motorized use and there have been problems. Now, the goal is to get the use onto designated routes and keep people out of delicate areas.”

La Plata canyon was a unique case when it came to planning because the main road that bisects the canyon is owned by la Plata County, not the Forest Service. Also known as County Road 124, the 10-mile road is only open to highway-legal vehicles, which over the years has forced ORVs to create rogue trails that parallel the road in order to avoid fines. However, the new routes have harmed delicate alpine and riparian areas.

Other areas in La Plata Canyon have taken a beating as well. Up until 2010, cross-country motorized travel was allowed in La Plata Canyon.
However, citing extensive damage, the Forest Service issued an emergency closure to all ORV cross-country travel in 2010, limiting it only to certain roads.
In addition to addressing abuses, however, the Forest Service was also tasked with addressing the fact that ORVs could not legally travel from one side of the road to the next and inadequate trailer parking.

The plan to transfer ownership of La Plata Canyon Road to the Forest Service, as well as several other rules on ORV travel, were laid out in the plan. Key points include:
- Seasonal closures for the Junction Creek road system
- An allowable distance for travel off-route to access day-use parking and dispersed camping at 300 feet (except where dispersed camping is prohibited)
- Net gain of 18 miles of motorized routes and a net loss of 37 miles of administrative-use roads
- Approximately 17 miles of trails, 40 miles of open roads and 18 miles of administrative-use-only roads are motorized use
- Dirt bikes, ORVS and nonstreet-legal motorized vehicles are prohibited on Junction Creek Road below Animas Overlook
- Transfers jurisdiction of about 10 miles of La Plata Canyon Road and Lewis Creek Road from La Plata County to the Forest Service, pending county approval
- Decommissioning and rehabilitating user-created routes.
A copy of the final decision is available at
– Missy Votel

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