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Briefs from the San Luis Valley

Brief by Marcia Darnell

San Luis Valley – December 2000 – Colorado Central Magazine

Walrus Update

Those readers who knew Ray James will be amazed to hear that he is now a certified fitness instructor. Yes, prison does strange things to people. Ray hopes to be back in Colorado in the spring of 2002.

We’re a Star

A documentary filmed in the Valley has won an Emmy. “America’s Byways: Los Caminos Antiguos” won a Heartland Emmy Award in the Documentary/Historic category. Made by Great Divide Pictures for Rocky Mountain PBS, the film includes interviews of several Valley residents, including Virginia McConnell Simmons (profiled in the August, 1999, Colorado Central) and Rick Manzanares, curator of the Fort Garland Museum (April, 2000).

Doin’ the City Swap

The Alamosa airport and city library are being divvy-ed up. Alamosa County and the city of Alamosa currently manage the entities jointly, but on Jan. 1, an intergovernmental agreement will take effect, giving the city the library to manage, while the county gets the airport.

Government officials hope this move will make management easier for both assets, and cut the cost of maintenance for the airport, since the county has all those big, shiny trucks to take care of things.

Water Proof?

Eighty fish were put into the Alamosa River and lived. The Rainbow Trout were exposed to the water — which was contaminated with cyanide from the Summitville mine site in the early ’90s — for 96 hours. All the fish survived, leading the state health department to conclude that the cleanup of the river is succeeding.

Alamosa Riverkeepers, an environmental group, disputes the claim that the water is safe, however. They say the study was inconclusive, since the fish were kept near the surface of the water and that the short test period doesn’t prove anything about long-term effects of pollution.

Gold H2O

Meanwhile, the state health department is under fire for leniency against Battle Mountain Gold. The Costilla County Conservancy District and the People’s Alternative Energy Services filed suit against the department for not penalizing the company heavily enough for its violations of water quality control. The mining company received a discounted fine for its release of contaminated water into the Rito Seco between 1997 and 2000.

Recall Roundup

The election results brought big results for the Moffat School District. Every member of the school board was recalled. The vote was apparently the result of the board’s refusal to recharter the Crestone Charter School without stricter guidelines.

City Scrapes

And some buildings in downtown Alamosa are being recalled. The Sands restaurant has been torn down to make way for a parking lot and Ortega Middle School has turned to rubble, making way for a new Safeway. The old Wards building will be razed, too, as soon as the city’s paperwork is completed, to create more parking.

Planning is under way for a new library and community center (location unknown) and an upgraded or new senior center.

Ah, Wilderness!

Hard on the heels of the Sand Dunes National Park designation, President Clinton signed legislation to create the Spanish Peaks Wilderness Area (east of Alamosa, west of Walsenburg). The 18,000-acre area includes the twin peaks and more than 250 volcanic dikes.