Stop ‘Dino Train’ in its tracks
To the editor,
Ah, the train! The Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge RR makes great contributions to Durango’s history and economy. Departing from its historical operation and image, the company recently submitted a Land Use Permit Application to La Plata County for a dinosaur train and theme park. The proposed operation would last all summer.

The company wants approval to run up to four “Dinosaur Trains” every Friday, Saturday and Sunday, from May through August. Destination: a theme park located just north of Durango past the Iron Horse Inn.

As currently operated, trains idle in town at the Depot; the smoke hangs over the area on all but the windiest days.

Consider the additional air pollution that would come from adding as many as four round trips for Dino Trains traveling to the dino theme park on Friday – Sunday during the summer. Add the smoke from the trains idling while waiting to take visitors back to town. Neither the added pollution nor the idling issue is even mentioned in the proposal. How much more pollution would this operation add to the existing haze in the air? Asthmatics, cyclists, hikers, runners or those who just want to see the scenery and breathe easy would be adversely affected. Even if the Dino Train started out small, the proposed permit contemplates growth into an all-summer-long operation. If granted as submitted, the permit would allow the maximum traffic.

Got Culture? The “theme park” location is visible from the historic train tracks and Hwy 550/San Juan Scenic By-Way. The plan describes inflatable dinosaurs, tents, bounce houses, fake dino digs, a tattoo parlour, retail sales and food tents.
Recently, The Durango Herald reported that Smithsonian Magazine’s “20 Best Small Towns in America” list named

Durango No. 6, saying, “We think any best place worth traveling to should have one quality above others: culture.”

Durango also has had very favorable press in True West Magazine, Outdoor Life, Men’s Journal, Outside, etc.  If the train company is granted a permit to run the Dino Trains and theme park, anyone traveling the San Juan Scenic By-Way or taking the historic train ride to Silverton would see a herd of inflatable vinyl dinosaurs, bouncy slides, fake dino digs and tents populating the valley floor. Would travel writers and visitors still be as favorably impressed with Durango’s sense of adventure, our culture and natural scenic wonders? Big vinyl puffs, bounce houses and the rest of the theme park trappings (and resulting haze from the additional trains) would detract from Durango’s history, charm and natural scenic appeal.

It’s not that Durango can’t or shouldn’t change. However, not every business idea is a good one, particularly when it imposes additional air pollution that everyone breathing would “pay” for. The other cost is difficult to nail down, but this type of theme park would undercut the historic cool of the train and the town at the same time it contributes more haze to the air, and the combined effect would visually detract from the very qualities that make Durango attractive to residents and visitors alike.

I request that the County Planning Department say “no” to D&SNGRR’s proposed Seasonal Use Permit for the “Dino Train and Theme Park” development.

Perhaps the company can offer many of the same Dino activities at the train station grounds in town and capture some tourist dollars. If for some reason this does not fit with the company’s plans for the in-town property, and the County Planning Department doesn’t agree that it is appropriate to entirely reject this proposal, the County could greatly reduce the impacts by limiting the “Dino Train” and it’s theme park installation to a couple of special weekends (so that the theme park is only up for a short period of time), specify the use of diesel trains, and require that their engines be shut down while waiting in the valley for the customers to return to the depot.

 If you are concerned, you may contact us at; for a copy of D&SNGRR’s proposal and to send your comments to the County Planning Dept., email

– S. Ulery, Durango

Easy math makes solar a no-brainer
To the Editor,
I am responding to Ann Flatten’s letter (Telegraph, April 26) regarding information given her by her LPEA Director. She made unsubstantiated claims of rate increases that would result from LPEA using more solar power. Colorado House Bill 10-1001 states, “the maximum retail rate impact is 1 percent of the total electric bill annually for each customer.” This is Colorado law and is enforced by our Public Utilities Commission. For an average residence with an $80 per month electric bill, the increase could legally be no more than 80 cents per month – maximum!

LPEA has been told by our electricity supplier, TriState, to expect a 14 percent increase in our wholesale price next year, due in large part to increased costs for producing coal-fired generation. And with that increase, all we get is a promise for future increases. With solar production, the promise is that the cost of that power will not increase for the next 20 years.
Fourteen percent rate increase for coal-fired generation versus 1 percent for solar; that is a no-brainer for me.
– Harry Riegle, Durango

Oust LPEA’s good old boy mindset
To the editor,
The failure of the “dis-enfranchise” agreement to pass the city vote recently has shaken the foundations of LPEA’s long-standing ownership of the local energy debate. Change is in the air.

For many, a fee or tax that can only be voted on by homeowners (not renters or other home inhabitants) was reason to strike it down. At the risk of sounding like my tea partier pals, we did have a revolution around this issue. In the end, most voters did not support the disenfranchisement of the electorate.

The agreement also woefully ignored the future – for another 20 years. Locking the city into an agreement that rejected renewable energy opportunities was justification to discard a dated and non-transparent arrangement. The agreement was doomed to fail, since it grated the sensibilities of my freedom-loving neighbors and ignored a future embraced by my sustainable friends.

Jeff Berman’s decision to “expose” LPEA’s long-standing crusty modus operandi is educating many on what is possibly the region’s most conservative entity. In his recent op-ed piece, he points to a litany of good old boy practices and strongly hints that the board does not adequately reflect the perspectives of many of the citizens it serves.

All this is happening in the midst of an LPEA board election. It is time to bring some long overdue evolution to a board that exudes a perspective grossly out of step with our future. There are four highly qualified candidates running for four of 12 LPEA board seats: Bruce Baizel, Britt Bassett, Heather Erb and Kirsten Skeehan. They are amazingly qualified candidates, combining broad understanding of technology, innovation and comprehensive energy strategies.

La Plata has huge renewable energy production potential; we need an LPEA board that recognizes this potential and does something about it.

With the failure of the city franchise agreement, Mr. Berman’s whistle blowing and the possibility of four new LPEA board members, we may finally be able to show the world that Durango and surrounds embrace the future. Please vote in the LPEA election.

– Erich Bussian, Durango