Briefs from the San Luis Valley

Brief by Marcia Darnell

San Luis Valley – November 1998 – Colorado Central Magazine

No Heat in the Valley

It’s the end of an era at Great Sand Dunes National Monument. This is the last year for the Tabasco Extreme Heat SK, in which participants (really!) race up the dunes in snowshoes. The event is being canceled because there’s a new superintendent in town and his interpretation of wilderness policy is, in a word, “No.” Andrew Bielecki, the race director, argues that the nature of the dunes (wind, sand and water) leaves no evidence of the race, and therefore is not harmful to the wilderness. However, his words were like dust in the wind. Tom Sobal from Leadville has won the race the last three years.

Hogs Impending

Costilla County commissioners have approved the Rancho Ambiente Special Metropolitan District, to allow a hog farm. The area, west of San Luis, would house 40,000 hogs on 5,000 acres. The issue is before district court for approval as a ballot measure in November. The operation is proposed by Bowman Farms of Wray, which says it will install a waste treatment system designed by Bion Environmental Technology. The Bion system is supposed to be much cleaner than other operations, and the commissioners visited two Bion facilities before approving the plan.

County residents are split over the issue, one of jobs vs. pollution. Whether they will prize economics over lifestyle is uncertain. A cultural note: “Ambiente” means “environment” in Spanish.

Group Gearing Up

Citizens for Colorado Water, the grassroots organization doing battle against Stockman’s Water Co., is growing like a well-watered weed. Donations and endorsements by businesses and individuals have already raised a healthy portion of the $1 million the group says it needs for the war. Additional funds are coming from the sale of bumper stickers and buttons. Signs urging people to vote “No” on ballot initiatives 15 and 16 are ubiquitous, and politicians stumping in the San Luis Valley are wisely voicing support.

Spoiled Produce

Enko Produce, the baby carrot producing plant in Center, went under after only 10 months. The company was foreclosed on in August, leaving creditors and the community, which needed the jobs, in pain. Heartache and disappointment — it’s all part of life in the San Luis Valley.

Other Business

–The Costilla County commission heard arguments from North American Corrections about allowing a prison in the county. The company must deal with the state first, though.

–In Alamosa County, the Denver and Rio Grande Railway Historical Foundation is planning to renovate the engine and business car which rest next to the Chamber of Commerce (formerly a depot). Organizers hope to draw tourists to the train and, consequently, the town.

Nature News

–The Colorado Wildlife Commission has plans to reintroduce lynx in the western Valley. The plan awaits final approval, expected in November. If the lynx adapt well, wolverines may follow, according to the CWC.

–Another agency, another verdict: No new whooping cranes will be introduced to the flight path which includes the Monte Vista Wildlife Refuge.

–Whether it’s a sign of nature’s success depends on one’s political viewpoint: Cattle ranchers in the Valley say that elk herds are hindering their business. The growers, who run cattle on national forest land, say too many elk and fewer permits are threatening their livelihood.

–The first battle in the blight war has been won by the humans. Crop dusting and some hot, dry weather have stopped the potato blight in its tracks. Round two begins next year.

No Fat Lady Singin’

The Alamosa City Council voted to rezone the old Ortega Middle School so that Safeway can buy the property and build a mega-store. This action follows months of public debate and polling by the council. Now that it’s settled, though, many are calling for a reversal. It’s not over ’til the first shopper squeezes the melons.

One Outta Three

Conejos County voters recalled one of their three commissioners, Lucy Cordova. The other two survived the vote, which was counted twice due to the closeness of Cordova’s un-election. The commissioners were under fire for canning Public Health Nurse Lois Booth, allegedly without cause. Booth has filed suit against the county. Cordova may run for reelection in November.