Briefs from the San Luis Valley

Brief by Marcia Darnell

Regional news – July 1999 – Colorado Central Magazine

Kennedy Visits

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. visited the San Luis Valley on Cinco de Mayo, to speak at a fund-raiser for Alamosa Riverkeepers. The conservation group was recently accepted into the national Riverkeepers organization. That, and the appearance by Kennedy, means a lot of attention for the group and its mission, to clean up the Alamosa River. The river has been officially dead since ’93, a result of toxic runoff from the Summitville Mine site.

A Shift in the River?

Meanwhile, plans are afoot to rechannel the Alamosa River to cut down on erosion and improve plant habitat.

The river was bulldozed in 1970, making it wider and straighter. This has led to a drop in the water table, as well as some pretty unhappy cottonwood and meadows.

New Growth

The Monte Vista Co-op, which is part of Farmland, has made a deal with the regional landfill to use 50 acres for an organic composting business. In addition to aiding growers, this business will provide another way to dispose of cull potatoes, those runty spuds nobody wants.

Buzzing Again

They’re baaack! Those low-level training flights that Crestone residents have been protesting for years. The Air National Guard just received approval to make fly-overs at 300 feet above the Valley floor. The Open Space Alliance, a Valley group opposing these flights, may join in a lawsuit brought against the U.S. Air National Guard by the Western Legal Environmental Center in Taos.

Among other issues — noise pollution and the trauma suffered by livestock — Valley residents say they’re unprepared to cope with a crash of a jet and the ensuing fire from its fuel.

Test Cases

Another 29 lynx were released in the Southern mountains last month, and their welfare will determine if more cats will join them. Officials at the Colorado Division of Wildlife will monitor the cats’ adjustment. If more than half of them die — starvation has claimed most of their predecessors — future releases will likely be canceled.


It may be a step up, or a tumble downward, but Alamosa may get a Wal-mart superstore. Acreage west of town has been sold to the marketing giant. Alamosa already has a Wal-mart and Kmart. Development of the parcel will mean extending streets and making other city improvements.

To a Higher Court

Members of an Alamosa neighborhood have appealed a judge’s decision to allow a new Safeway in their area. District Judge Robert Ogburn had okayed the city’s rezoning of the area to allow a new, large store at the site of an old middle school. Residents object to the noise, traffic and pollution that would result from the store.

Yet a Higher Judge

In the battle over taxes, the referee will be the voters. The city council of Alamosa, in a tiff with the county over sales tax distribution, voted to put the issue on the November ballot.

The current 2-cent sales tax is split, with 1.2 cents going to the city, .8 to the county. The county wants more, or all, of that and the city says it needs it to pay for a water treatment plant. Now it’s up to the voters.

Tunnel Plans

Building plans continue farther west. CDOT is thinking about building a new tunnel east of Wolf Creek Pass. The proposed tunnel is 700 feet long and will add shoulder to a weak portion of U.S. 160.

Bucking Broncs

A rift between Monte Vista and its rodeo, the Ski Hi Stampede, could result in the PRCA event moving elsewhere.

The 75-year-old rodeo pays rent on Ski-Hi Park in Monte Vista and has made considerable improvements to the facility. Last year, the city presented the organization with a new lease and a new set of conditions for remaining at the park. The organization has filed suit for $85,000.