News from the San Luis Valley

by Patty LaTaille

Census Shows Significant Migration

According to The Denver Post; “Walsenburg and other small traditionally Latino towns in southern Colorado are losing their historic cultural identity. As the older generation dies off and the younger generation moves to cities or resort towns where the jobs are, separations are tearing at close-knit Latino families that can trace their lineage back to Spanish conquistadors.”

Walsenburg has begun to attract retirees drawn by the small-town environment, slow pace, the desert climate and houses that sell for as little as $30,000.

Walsenburg is the county seat for Huerfano County, the oldest county (and one of the poorest) in the state. It was named after the Spanish word for “orphan” in describing a lonely outcropping of volcanic rock to the north of town.

“The census numbers show that five of the nine counties that lost Latino population are in southern Colorado. Old Spanish towns such as Blanca, Manassa, La Veta, Las Animas, La Junta and San Luis are among the 68 municipalities in the state to lose Latino population.”(Denver Post) There has been a major increase in the Latino population in urban areas, mainly Denver and Pueblo.


Election Controversy Reaching Climax

District Judge Martin Gonzales instructed Saguache County Clerk Melinda Myers to deliver the ballots of both the primary election in August 2010 and the following Nov. 2 general election to Secretary of State Scott Gessler, enabling Gessler to perform a hand count of the votes cast in the controversial Nov. 2, 2010 Saguache County election.

After receiving numerous complaints from county voters concerning the elections, Gessler reviewed complaints forwarded to the State Attorney General that resulted in a Grand Jury review of Myers’ election conduct.

Myers initially agreed to produce the ballots, but later declined, citing voter privacy issues. Gessler filed a lawsuit on March 15.

“This decision by Judge Gonzales affirms the public’s right to verify our elections in Colorado and stands as a victory for Saguache County voters,” Gessler stated, (according to the Valley Courier). “Improving voter confidence starts with an open and accountable system that preserves voter privacy.”


Thirty Years of Legal Wrangling Decided

The latest case concerning the rights of landowners to confirm their rights to access the Taylor Ranch for livestock grazing, firewood gathering and timbering under the Sangre de Cristo Land Grant was recently settled. This litigation may be considered to be part of the 30-year-old Lobato v. Taylor case, and comes from the Colorado Supreme Court’s 2003 ruling to confirm access rights.

The 2003 decision did not include Torcido Creek Road, which runs through the Mountain Lake Ranch Subdivision and is the only entry to the Torcido Gate. According to the Valley Courier, “The road was blocked with boulders last fall, prompting a group of Costilla County landowners to file a lawsuit in April.”

The Taylor Ranch consists of approximately 77,000 acres of mountain land and constitutes part of the Cielo Vista Ranch. The rights of the Costilla County landowners date back to 1844, when most of southern Colorado was part of Mexico.

The Colorado Supreme Court confirmed those rights in the landmark case of Lobato v. Taylor in 2003 after Jack Taylor, a North Carolina lumberman, bought the Taylor Ranch in 1960 and then closed off access. A lawsuit was filed in 1981 by neighboring landowners and was decided 22 years later. Now eight years later, the settlement will open the Torcido Creek Road and the Torcido Gate, once again providing Costilla County landowners access to the Taylor Ranch.


ASC Looking at Elementary School

Adams State College (ASC) is pursuing the final contract to purchase Evans Elementary School to hold college classes in during the Fall semester.

Classroom space is at a premium for the ever-increasing student body at ASC. Since renovations are not yet completed on the McDaniel Building, the college is facing a shortage of classrooms.

ASC is hiring an architectural firm to see how the building can best serve the needs of the students.