Press "Enter" to skip to content

Briefs from the San Luis Valley

Brief by Marcia Darnell

San Luis Valley – August 2001 – Colorado Central Magazine

Lengthy Cleanup

The EPA announced a 100-year plan for cleaning up the Summitville mine site near Del Norte. The plan, estimated to cost $75 million over the next century, will include construction of a water treatment plant and a facility to store the cyanide-laced water at the old gold mine.

Phone Rage

Residents in Conejos County suffered another lengthy loss of phone service this summer. CenturyTel, the area’s phone service provider, said the problem is the result of the installation of fiber optic lines. Residents weren’t mollified, however, and have complained to the Public Utilities Commission and the attorney general’s office.

McNeils Honored

Cathy and Mike McNeil, ranchers and conservationists who live near Monte Vista, won a National Wetlands Award from the Natural Resources Conservation Service. The couple, profiled in the October, 1999, edition of Colorado Central, helped form the Rock Creek Heritage Project, which enhances and protects agricultural land and water. Cathy is a founder of the Rio Grande Headwaters Land Trust and works with the Rio Grande Soil Conservation District.

Municipal Conflict

South Fork town meetings have been particularly dramatic recently, as two recall petitions have been rejected by the town clerk. Petitioners are attempting to recall the town board members, who they say are conducting public business in private. Petition signers also disagree with many of the board’s actions, and say their comments are not welcome at meetings.

Biz Ban

And in another town conflict, the city of Monte Vista announced a moratorium on home-based businesses. Officials say it’s so they can revise zoning laws and update business tax rules.

Smoking Lamp Lit

The Alamosa city council voted down an ordinance which would have banned smoking in public places. Supporters of the proposal vow to take the issue to a public vote.


The Monte Vista Livestock Auction closed after a division of the Department of Agriculture questioned its adherence to federal law regarding payments to consignors. The auction barn closed soon thereafter, following an internal audit. The owners are talking reorganization.

Carlucci’s in Monte Vista, a clothing store, has also closed. The longtime downtown landmark succumbed to a recession brought on by low prices for area crops. The family will continue to operate its store in Alamosa.

In a surprise move, Tim Snyder resigned as Monte Vista school superintendent. The popular Snyder won statewide acclaim for his innovative sharing of resources between Monte Vista and the neighboring, poorer district of Sargent.

Natural Remedy

A quick exhibit of nature’s power burned only 35 acres of the Alamosa Wildlife Refuge. Lightning sparked a fire on the refuge, and rain from the same storm knocked it out, with a little help from human firefighters. Refuge manager Michael Blenden called it a “beneficial fire,” noting that it destroyed no wildlife habitat or restoration areas.

Dunes Update

Gary Boyce’s plans to stop the sale of the Baca Ranch were derailed by U.S. District Court Judge Wiley Daniel, who denied Boyce a restraining order. The way now appears clear for the feds to buy the 100,000-acre ranch and make much of it into a wildlife refuge, with the rest becoming part of Great Sand Dunes National Park.