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Notes and Commentary for February 1995

Brief by Central Staff

Around Central Colorado – February 1995 – Colorado Central Magazine

Art ups and downs

SALIDA — An update on the local art and cultural scene would show some Seasonal Affective Disorder. Concerts Plus will not present concerts this winter. The Art of the Rockies Coöperative Gallery lost its home because the building has been sold. The Palace Hotel & Gallery is in a state of flux; the art on display was being removed as we went to press, manager Todd Sigmeir was quitting, and said “I don’t know what’s going to happen here.”

Even if Art of the Rockies is currently homeless, though, the organization is planning a summer show at the Steam Plant while looking for new exhibition space.

Discovery or deception?

CRESTONE — One version of the story, the account that appeared in the Front Range media, has it that Challenger Gold was drilling core samples in a search for gold along the west flank of the Sangres.

Surprise, they hit oil, supposedly never before known in this part of Colorado. Challenger is “finding something that no one ever thought was there,” said James Donaldson, vice president.

According to a Dec. 11, 1994 story in the Denver Post, the discovery also changes the known geology of the region. Before the Challenger discovery, there was only one major fault along the west base of the Sangres. Now there are two known faults, with the oil zone between them.

However, the Geologic Map of Colorado, published 16 years ago by the U.S. Geologic Survey, shows two major faults along the west side of the Sangres, apparently known then before they were “discovered” by Challenger.

Local historians also paint a different picture. Patricia Joy Richmond points out that oil was found in the area a century ago, with the Charles Spicer family reporting oil in some of their 5,200 drillings. “There was much speculation and stock options were sold,” she said, but it never amounted to anything.”

Chevron prospected more recently for oil, finding a few small pockets, but nothing worth commercial development. Thus local activists, who had organized into Goldwatch to keep an eye on Challenger when it began drilling in 1992, are wondering whether the company meant to look for oil all along.

It might appear that drilling is drilling, but oil drilling and mineral-exploration drilling are regulated by different agencies, and have different requirements.

For one thing, since oil is fluid, oil wells must be cased so that the oil can’t seep into aquifers and contaminate ground water. That’s expensive, and so a suspicious person might believe that Challenger Gold, a Canadian company, said it was drilling for gold just to avoid the more stringent rules of petroleum prospecting. Other local speculations: getting stock prices to rise, or maybe a tax write-off.

Big bust

CUSTER COUNTY — Part of the largest drug bust in Colorado history took place in one of the smallest counties in Colorado on New Year’s Day.

Police in Pueblo and El Paso counties had been watching people who owned a parcel between Colorado Springs and Pueblo. Last fall, the occupants bought land in the Eastcliffe subdivision near Westcliffe. Police had wanted to wait and see what developed, but on the last day of 1994, a routine traffic stop in Frémont County produced one of the suspects, towing a U-Haul trailer with half a ton of the ephierine used to make illegal speed.

The resulting raid at Eastcliffe came up with more than $100,000 in cash, several automatic firearms, and an estimated $400,000 worth of cocaine, heroin, speed, and marijuana. Most was buried, but some was in an insulated shed and in a recreation vehicle parked on the property.

Arrests followed five related raids in Frémont and El Paso counties. As police explained it, the suspects were from California originally, with part-time residences in Colorado Springs, a drug lab in Penrose, and the Custer County parcel for storing their drugs and weapons.