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Briefs from the San Luis Valley

Brief by Marcia Darnell

San Luis Valley – December 2004 – Colorado Central Magazine

Pumpkin Fish

A truck overturned and dumped a lot of pumpkins into the Conejos River. No one was hurt, and the colorful Halloween veggies floated downstream, making a unique holiday display. One local wit has proposed making the “pumpkin regatta” an annual fundraiser.

In other veggie news, the San Luis Valley is shipping spuds to Mexico. This year, Colorado is expected to ship 10 percent of its tater crop over the border, and the new market is expected to grow rapidly in the next few years, perhaps to as much as 30 percent.

Salazars for SLV

Locals hope the election of the Salazar brothers to the U.S. House and Senate will mean more tourists to the Valley. The story of John’s and Ken’s childhood here will hopefully lure the curious to check it out.

Other election outcomes: Monte Vista will need a new mayor, as Raina Bowsher was recalled, and HD 62 will be represented by Rafael Gallegos, a Democrat. Dennis Murphy, former mayor of Del Norte, is a Rio Grande County Commissioner.

The election process was smoother here than in other parts of the state. Saguache County had some problems with absentee ballots going out late, but in Alamosa early voters faced short lines or no lines, and there were no reports of fraud.

Old is New

Costilla County is improving and preserving simultaneously. The 120 year-old courthouse is being restored with new adobe bricks made in the traditional style. Grants are being sought to completely restore the structure, but the new bricks should commingle nicely with the old, crumbling ones in the meantime.


The Village at Wolf Creek, the controversial development near the ski area, was approved by Mineral County. The 2,000-unit development won’t happen soon, though. Lawsuits are already being filed by environmental groups concerned about the construction’s effects on water and habitat.

Lake Found

Intrepid searchers from the U.S. Geological Survey have found the location of the San Luis Valley’s prehistoric lake. Evidence of the shoreline of a body of water rests in the San Luis Hills east of Sanford. The scientists say that 250,000 years ago, everything in the Valley below 7,650 feet was under water. Further research could provide valuable information for today’s water problem — the shrinking aquifers.

Railroad Ties

It’s still a bumpy track for the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad. Richard Gomez, the executive director of the railroad, was fired. He started the job in May 2003. Happily, the railroad got a $400,000 grant from the feds to restore one of the train’s engines.

Brief Briefs

* Retired geology professor Edward Ryan has donated his large collection of mineral and fossil specimens to Adams State College. The array is appraised at $150,000.

* A streaker showed his stuff at ASC during halftime. Jason Giese of Buena Vista was charged with indecent exposure.

* The Zapata Homeowners Association will pay $695,000 for the wildfire at the Dunes in 2000.

* Folklorico dance group Semillas de la Tierra (profiled in the February, 1998, edition of Colorado Central) has a new director. Joey Montoya says she intends to keep the dances authentic.

* ASC is staying dry. The college withdrew its request to the city council for a liquor license for catered events.

* Valley bard Elva Valdez has died. The 63-year-old singer and songwriter was known for her celebration of the Valley and its culture.

* Artist Tom Lockhart (profiled in the December, 1997, edition of Colorado Central) won the silver medal in the 2004 Arts for the Parks competition. His entry, “A Season of Change,” depicts part of Yellowstone at sunset.

* Jeannie G. Reeser was appointed to the board of trustees for Adams State College. Reeser is a state representative for HD 32.

* The Colorado Division of Water Resources shut off irrigation ditches from the Rio Grande on Nov. 1. Fall precipitation has upped the amount of water owed to New Mexico under the Rio Grande Compact.

* Valley native Mark Konishi is the new deputy director of the Colorado Division of Wildlife.

* Seven Mile Plaza boasts a Vietnam veterans memorial.