Brief by Marcia Darnell
San Luis Valley – August 1999 – Colorado Central Magazine
Workin’ on the Railroad …
The feds are giving $800,000 to the Cumbres & Toltec Railroad for track improvements. That grant was matched with $200,000 by the owners of the railroad and tourist site. This is great news for Antonito, home of the tourist train, as it will create 19 construction jobs and preserve the 79 jobs there now.
A new group, the Denver and Rio Grande Railway Historical Foundation, hopes to close a deal with the Union Pacific Railroad in August that will lead to the creation of a tourist train between South Fork and Creede. The group hopes to begin service in 2002.
Construction of a new Safeway in Alamosa is moving forward despite a pending appeal of its zoning approval. The Alamosa School District has granted an interim lease to Ortega Middle School, originally to be sold to Safeway. During the lease, the corporation can begin demolishing the building.
The zoning approval for the new store is being appealed by a group of residential neighbors, who have proposed a compromise: if the corporation develops the southern half of the property and leaves the northern half as open space, they’ll drop their suit.
US West Communications has sold access phone lines in our part of the state to Citizens Utilities. This leaves phone customers with hopes — and worries — about future service. US West is under investigation by the state Public Utilities Commission for an increase in the number of complaints about service.
A quarantine has been set on seed potatoes coming into the San Luis Valley to screen for late blight. The seed potatoes, the pieces that are sown to create a new crop, must be inspected and certified blight-free to be let into the Valley, which experienced blight last year and is taking steps to prevent its return.
Trees Safe (for Now)
A U.S. district Court judge has temporarily halted logging on land near Taylor Ranch, until after a trial in August. The proceedings will resolve the dispute between the owners of the ranch and Jaroso Creek Ranch, formerly part of Taylor Ranch. Jaroso Ranch people say the logging is destroying trees 100 to 450 years old, in violation of an agreement between the ranches.
A June rally at Taylor Ranch by members of Earth First! and other environmental groups resulted in eight arrests. Six were charged with second-degree trespassing, the other two released.
A large residential development is on for South Fork, although the town doesn’t want it. The town board earlier mixed plans by Land Properties Inc., for 1,135 homes and (surprise!) a golf course. The plan has been approved by the Rio Grande County Commissioners.
The proposed development is larger than South Fork is now.
After six months of sound and fury, voters in the Blanca recall election decided to keep local government as it was before. Mayor Myrrl Smith and the town trustees kept their jobs, by a very wide margin.
Municipal Judge David Marquez and Town Clerk Alice Sanchez were fired by the town board, for failure to perform their duties, days before the election.
The FBI is still investigating death threats mailed to Smith and others in the dispute.
Ski Lift to Rise
Wolf Creek Ski Area can go ahead with plans to add a triple chair lift, two parking lots, and some new ski runs. The San Juan-Rio Grande National Forest approved the plans, which are sure to be appealed by environmental groups.