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Briefs from the San Luis Valley

Brief by Marcia Darnell

San Luis Valley – September 1999 – Colorado Central Magazine

Housing Woes

Another ugly phase of growth is elitism. The Monte Vista city council unanimously voted to ban low-income housing and even duplexes in a new subdivision. However, there was some good news for trees: A group of 100-year-old cottonwood was saved when Monte Vista city officials decided a plan to replace storm drains — which would have meant demolishing the trees — was too expensive.

Done Deal

It’s final. The Nature Conservancy is the new owner of the 100,000-acre Zapata / Medano Ranch near the Great Sand Dunes. The property includes a bison ranch, golf course, restaurant, and lots and lots of plants and wildlife. The money from the purchase came from grants from GOCO, the Gates Family Foundation, the El Pomar Foundation, and public contributions.

A New Fight

It’s gone to a lawsuit. The town of South Fork is suing the Rio Grande County Commissioners over the county’s approval for a huge development (with golf course, o’ course) that the city said “no” to earlier. The proposed development by Land Properties Inc. is larger than South Fork is now.

South Fork charges that the commissioners failed to consider everything from environmental impact to designs. Of course, there’s also opposition to the opposition, from citizens who want the development.

An Old Fight

Gary Boyce lost again. His Cabeza de Vaca Land & Cattle Co. tried to sue the Closed Basin Project, administered by the Rio Grande Water Conservation District, but the suit was dismissed in U.S. District Court.

Judge Lewis Babcock dismissed the suit, saying the Closed Basin is a sovereign entity and can’t be sued. Cabeza had charged the Closed Basin with violating the Reclamation Act.

Surprise Sale

In a surprise move, the remainder of Taylor Ranch was sold last month to Western Properties Developers. This divestiture may or many not alter the lawsuits against the owners of the land known as La Sierra, but does make area residents wonder what will become of the property.

If the worst happens, San Luis residents may discover that trophy homes are much, much worse than a “No Fishing, No Logging” edict.

Bare Bear?

A South Fork man was mauled by a bear near Valley View Hot Springs in August. The South Fork resident is recovering, but DOW officials couldn’t find the ursine, who apparently had cubs.

Maybe Mama Bear was just there for a soak and didn’t want to be disturbed.

Blight Sighting

Despite last year’s dusting and this year’s vigilance, late blight has been found in the San Luis Valley. The potato fungus, believed to be responsible for the Irish potato famine, was unknown in the Valley until late last summer.

Thanks to last year’s warning, though, farmers are prepared to fight. The fungus is said to be in check for now.


Bonanza, the tiny (pop. 17) hamlet in Saguache County, may vote to un-incorporate in November. About half the town’s residents leave every winter, and elections have been canceled for lack of candidates.

Let’s hope “de-growth” is the beginning of a trend.

Missing Money

Lee Marks, the former recreation director of South Fork, was arrested on felony theft charges after money was found missing from a department program.