Connecting to the silver screen
Now that Durangoans have joined hands along the River Trail, they are being asked to reach into their pockets to help fund a film documenting the occasion.   

A team of 12 local filmmakers, ranging from students to professionals, are working on a documentary on Durango Connect, when an estimated 9,000 people turned out on the morning of Sept. 27 to form a human chain along the 7-mile Animas River Trail.

“Our goal is to make this film the same way that Durango Connect was pulled off,” says Jack Turner, event organizer. “The idea is for folks to join together like they did for the human chain and create a unique project that could only be pulled off in Durango.”

 Turner says about $7,500 is needed by Nov. 24 to offset film production costs, such as studio and editing fees, music licensing, and stock footage. People can donate (and become a “contributing producer”) through Pledges start at $10 and contributors will not only appear in the closing credits but be rewarded with a T-shirt and entrance to the film’s premier.

If enough money isn’t raised by the deadline, the project will be cancelled and no money collected.

Filmmaker Rich Fletcher was among those shooting footage of the event. He says the concept is to juxtapose Durango Connect with a time when much of the world was in conflict. “There are armed conflicts and human tragedy across the globe. In our own country, we’re caught up in political squabbling 24/7 whether it’s about the national office or the county commissioners,” said Fletcher. “But on a Thursday morning, our community stepped away from the conflict to celebrate a greater good, even if only for a few hours.”

Turner said there isn’t any political slant to Durango Connect or the film, other than to offer a vision of hope. “I was with Sweetie Marbury and J. Paul Brown at the human chain,” he said. “Most folks would agree that those two are on opposite sides of the political spectrum, but there they were, having a great time with thousands of other people from all walks of life.”

Producers say the goal is to have the film completed in time for the Durango Independent Film Festival in February.

For more information, go to

When, if storms come, Silverton ready
It may be thousands of miles from the storm-ravaged East Coast, but the tiny burg of Silverton is fully equipped to handle almost anything Mother Nature can hurl its way.

On Wednesday, San Juan County officially earned “StormReady” status from the National Weather Service, one of 1,900 counties across the country to do so.

The StormReady program helps communities better prepare and respond to hazardous weather, including everything from avalanches to tornadoes and flooding. “It’s a grassroots approach to preparing for natural hazards and providing clear-cut advice to help save lives and property not just after an event but as it’s occurring,” NWS Warning Coordinator Meteorologist Jim Pringle said Tuesday from Grand Junction.

Pringle said the StormReady program began in 1999 as a way to better equip communities to deal with severe events. He said it’s a little known fact that the United States is the most severe weather-prone country in the world. “In a typical year, we see 10,000-plus severe thunderstorms, 2,500-plus floods and 1,000-plus tornadoes,” he said.

The high elevation of San Juan County makes it particularly vulnerable to heavy snow, avalanches, lightning strikes and strong winds, Pringle said. Furthermore, it’s remoteness also requires that local emergency personnel be self-sufficient, with the nearest hospital and/or ambulance an hour away in Durango.

To be recognized as StormReady, a county must have a 24-hour weather warning system in place, with at least two ways to receive NWS warnings and alert the public; be able to monitor local weather and flood conditions; conduct community preparedness programs; and ensure hazardous weather and flooding are addressed in emergency management plans, which include training official “Skywarn” weather spotters and holding emergency exercises. Another component is education, for example alerting visitors who might not otherwise know of the area’s unique avalanche and high-mountain lightning dangers.

Pringle credited the work of San Juan County Emergency Manager Kristina Maxfield and her department in procuring the StormReady designation. “They’ve got some capable people up there,” he said.  “They do an excellent job managing any type of natural emergency, particularly weather-related ones.”

Maxfield said it has been a broad-based effort ensuring residents and visitors alike are safe, not only in good times, but when major weather events hit our county. “San Juan County has a strong network of highly dedicated emergency services personnel who work tirelessly to protect the people of San Juan County.”

City rolls out new landscape rules
Durango might be known for its wild and rugged surrounding mountains, but within city limits, the City of Durango is looking to take a more refined approach to the landscape.

 From 6-8 p.m. this Thurs., Nov. 15, at the Rec Center, the city will be hosting a landscape design workshop to gather input and bounce ideas off residents for its proposed landscape regulations. The new rules are part of the city’s Land Use and Development Code , which is currently undergoing revision.

The workshop is open to the public and will be headed up by Todd Messenger, a city-hired consultant from Aurora-based Kendig Keast. Among the goals of the new regulations is that of “protecting and preserving the appearance and character of the city. Other topics of discussion will include recommendations on noxious trees and plants; xeriscaping; “walkability” of streets and neighborhoods; the use of natural buffers, such as hedges and trees; and landscape placement to maximize solar gain and/or cooling.

– Missy Votel