Friday, May 30, 2003  content presented by Telluride Today .com About The Watch

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Rumour About Town: the Valley Cows Are on Their Way

Herd 'em up and move 'em out. Maybe.

That is the tentative word from cattle caretaker Dewey Campbell, the rancher in the photo above who has already spent a month tending the Valley Floor and its intricate network of irrigation ditches, in addition to fixing fence.

When the celebrated black and white Holsteins arrive depends on when the Fruita dairy, where they reside the other five or so months of the years, can hire three trucks. Everyone is moving cattle at this time of year, Campbell pointed out.

The heralded Valley Cows are currently being sorted and examined at the Raymond Dairy to see if they are ready for the long drive to San Miguel County and ready for the high altitude, Campbell said.

"We won't know until the very last hour how many will be coming," he added. After being examined for their physical conditions, age and weight, the cows will be loaded on three trucks and moved to the Telluride valley.

Why the annual spring move to Telluride? "Well, [the dairy] has dealt with us for twenty years and they figure they can trust us and this is a relatively safe place to bring them," he said. "They stick with what they know."

Campbell, who lives in New Mexico when he is not in San Miguel County, has been tending ditches and cattle on the Valley Floor for the past 15 years.

SAR Rescues Stranded Hiker At Midnight from Greenback Mountain

Saturday evening San Miguel County Search and Rescue crew worked late into the dark, night hours to save a stranded and likely hypothermic and growing colder hiker, Jamison Williams, from the side of Greenback Mountain.

Williams, a visitor from Washington, D.C., and a friend had been hiking from Telluride to Mt. Sneffels when they took a wrong turn down a couloir on Greenback. Though his friend was able to extricate himself, Williams fell about 400 feet further and, unable to climb back out, he was stranded on the east side of the mountain. Furthermore, he was cold and wet, clad in all-cotton clothing, and not prepared to spend the night, in the estimation of Search and Rescue leader and San Miguel County Sheriff's Commander Eric Berg. A weather forecast indicated overnight freezing termpertures and possible snow at the 12,000-foot elevation where the victim was located. 

Williams' friend ran to town and placed the call for emergency help.

With freezing temperatures predicted for the night Berg mobilized the county's rescue team. Using a Bell 47 Soloy helicopter, piloted by Devin Felix and provided by Olathe Spray Service, two SAR members were flown onto the side of Greenback Mountain at dusk. From the ridgeline, rescuers descended and then rappelled down the steep slope to the victim. They stabilized the victim and taught him how to ascend a fixed line using prussiks. From there the three managed their way up to the ridgeline where the helicopter, flying in the dark, retrieved them from the mountain.

The mission was completed at midnight.

Last Big Piece of Telluride Parking Plan Set to Go into Effect

Permit Parking in Residential Neighborhoods Starts Mid-June

By Seth Cagin


Telluride’s new commuter parking lot, Carhenge, will be given its finishing touches next month – a new chip-and-seal surface. At around the same time, on June 16, signs will be posted in many of the town’s residential neighborhoods, heralding the implementation of a permit parking system on those streets.

And with those two actions, the Town of Telluride will have reached a major milestone in its long effort to control traffic. A plan that has been in the works at least since the adoption of the town’s master plan in 1987 – and was envisioned long before that – will have finally come to fruition. 

With the fateful steps being taken next month, Telluride Special Projects Director Lance McDonald said this week, all of the major elements of the town’s parking plan will be in place. Enforcement will begin with a month of education, and the plan will very likely be tweaked to assure it is working properly; additional measures – for example, extending the boundaries of permit parking zones – could be implemented if needed.  But for the most part, Telluride will finally have all of the requirements of a comprehensive parking plan, as long identified by a series of town commissions and planners: a commuter parking lot linked by public transit to the central core; pay parking and restricted parking in commercial areas to accommodate shoppers and tourists; and permit parking in residential neighborhoods to force commuters into the parking lot, preserve residential parking for residents and reduce traffic congestion.

The question now: Will it work?

McDonald, who has worked on the town’s parking problems for more than a decade, is confident.

“People look at the parking lot and think it isn’t being used, but they need to realize that there was no reason for people to use it until we implemented permit parking in the residential neighborhoods,” he said. With the start of restrictions in residential neighborhoods, commuters will have nowhere to park other than Carhenge, and a couple of blocks on East Colorado Ave.

Telluride first sought a comprehensive parking solution in order to “pedestrianize” the town, control air pollution, and to preserve limited downtown parking for business patrons. Over the years, the goals have changed, McDonald said. The air is much cleaner today than it was years ago despite more traffic due to other measures the town has taken, including lowering the speed limit, paving streets and keeping the streets cleaner. Parking meters installed in the commercial core a couple of years ago largely solved the problem of making downtown businesses more accessible to shoppers.  Today the primary goal is to reduce congestion, McDonald said.

The initial phases of implementation of the town’s parking plan have gone as planned over the past couple of years, McDonald said. Permit parking in the Warehouse District and Oak St. Zone is effective, as is pay parking in the commercial core. The implementation of permit parking in the “G” zone represents a large and critical step, however, because the zone is so large.

Residents in the “G” zone, which covers most residential neighborhoods in the center of town, will be entitled to two parking permits per legal dwelling unit. Permits will be issued by the Town Marshal’s Department. Residents are also entitled to temporary free permits for guests. Permits are not required before 8 a.m. or after 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday, or on Sundays. Given the fact that town residences are required by zoning to have off-street parking, there should be plenty of parking to accommodate residents and their guests, McDonald said. But if there is not, the regulations could be modified.

The fundamental goal, he emphasizes, is not to restrict residents but rather to direct non-residents to parking designated for them.

“Sometimes people feel like we’re trying to ‘punish’ commuters by forcing them into a parking lot or that we’re trying to ‘punish’ residents by making them get a permit,” he laments. “But actually all we’re trying to do is to make things easier and better for everyone by reducing congestion and giving everyone a designated place to park.”

Enforcement will begin with a month of friendly education and warnings, said Sherry Salters, a code enforcement officer with the Telluride Marshal’s Department. Strict enforcement and ticketing will begin on July 1.

The Telluride Town Council adopted the latest phases of the parking plan on April 1, following a work session last November.

Candidate’s Forum Set for June 11

The Telluride Watch will sponsor a candidate’s forum on Wednesday, June 11, starting at 5:30 p.m. in the Telluride Conference Center in Mountain Village.


Town of Mountain Village

Slate of Nine Candidates Running for Mountain Village Town Council

Four Spots Open

By Elizabeth Covington


Just beating Tuesday’s deadline for declaring an intent to run in the Mountain Village Town Council race, Granita homeowner Sandy Wickham became the ninth candidate running for four seats.  The record number of candidates hints at a far livelier-than-usual campaign for a Mountain Village election, with at least some of the candidates having chosen to run due to strong feelings – pro and con – related to a proposed Ritz Carlton Hotel in the Mountain Village core. The Ritz Carlton has drawn fire primarily because the development application seeks a significant height variance.

In addition to Wickham, candidates are incumbents Jonathon Sweet and Rube Felicelli, Jeffrey Fasolo, Dan Garner, Kevin Holbrook, Joseph Price, Jonathon Greenspan, and Karl Ribel.

Felicelli has served one four-year term since elected to council June 1999; and Sweet has served two years. He was appointed to his June 2001 to fill out the term of former Mayor Andy Hanley.

Seated councilmembers Davis Fansler, Bob Trenary and John Bennett are up for election in 2005.

To run for council interested candidates must have submitted a letter of intent to run by May 27, must be registered to vote in the Mountain Village, and must have been town residents for 120 days prior to the election.

Residents and individual non-residents who own at least a 50 percent interest in real property located in the town of Mountain Village are qualified to vote in the June 24 election.

"It is no longer a company town," commented Felicelli of the changing of the guard that marks this spring's election.

"Up to now it has primarily been the developers, the people who started Mountain Village and the realtors [in Mountain Village town government]," concurred candidate Dan Garner when asked why he was running. "More Mountain Village homeowners need to be involved in local government."

This year the departure of former Telluride Ski and Golf Co. employee Linda Rogers and of real estate broker and developer Dave Flatt, each of whom has served two four-year terms and is prohibited by town ordinance from running again, has left two seats vacant.

Garner, who is “mostly retired” but continues to do "a little consulting," said he was running because "there are issues which to be addressed. We don't want taxes to get out of sight and things that others don't necessarily find important. A lot of homeowners encouraged me to run."

Jonathon Greenspan, a 15-year resident of the region and currently serving on the Mountain Village Metro District Board, is running because he wants to incorporate "good practices management" strategies into his local government. "I want to improve upon the stimulation of youth in the Village, to get people to co-exist with the other municipalities in our areas, and to have more cooperative youth programs between our towns," he said.

Greenspan owns SUNRISE, a resource recovery company.

A retired IBM executive who has lived in the Mountain Village for three years, Joe Price said he is running in order to bring "balance" to the current council. Business owners and homeowners need to be represented on council, he said.

Moreover, "I have time to give something back to local government, which I have not had before. I would like to serve," he added.

Incumbent Felicelli, a real estate broker with Telluride Real Estate Corporation who has lived in the Mountain Village since 1991, feels like he has started a number of important projects in his first term, which he would like to see through to completion. Included are addressing the height of the new hotel ("How do we want the Village to look," Felicelli asked.); how to make the Village core more viable; and how the town is spending its money.

"How can we tighten our budget," Felicelli said. "I believe in service to your community and I believe that one person can, and that I have, made a difference."

The other incumbent Jon Sweet, who currently works for Wells Fargo Bank, said he wants "the Village to be more family focused, focused on being a fun place families to live and visit."

The only woman running in the race, Sandy Wickham, a retired registered dietician, has lived full-time in the core of the Village since 1999.

"As a full-time resident I feel an obligation to participate in the municipality," said Wickham. "I waited until late [on Tuesday] to see if another female would run. I thought there should be at least one female voice on town council."

In addition, Wickham feels full-time residents, who are a minority in the Village, "especially in the core," need a voice on council.

Kevin Holbrook moved here six years ago. A realtor, resident of Fairway Four, and the next president of the Telluride Association of Realtors, Holbrook feels that "as a young property owner" he wants to give a voice to others like him. "Instead of second homeowners running in the Mountain Village, I feel like there is niche, folks like myself and my wife, people who will be here in the next ten, fifteen, thirty years. We should have a voice"

Karl Riebel, manager of family-owned Alpine Title, and has lived in Mountain Village since October 1996, is currently president of three homeowners associations including West Depot, Gold Dust Crossing and Parker Ridge.

“I am running because I’m interested in being involved in the community around me,” said Riebel.

Jeffrey Fasolo was unavailable for comment.

Uncompahgre Valley


Ouray County Considers Proposal for Natural Gas Service

Kinder-Morgan Seeks Pipeline Approval

By Christopher Pike


The first public step toward making natural gas available to residents of Ouray County began last week at the Ridgway Town Hall with a presentation by Kinder-Morgan, Inc. representatives to a joint meeting of local planning commissions on the topic of constructing a pipeline as early as Spring 2004.

The May 21 meeting revealed details of the firm’s preliminary route and service plan, which projects groundbreaking by this fall. Kinder-Morgan has applied for a special use permit from the towns of Ouray and Ridgway and from Ouray County to lay 25 miles of line from Montrose to the Ouray by way of Log Hill Mesa and Ridgway, serving a sixty-mile distribution system extending to nearly all residential housing and retail establishments. The company is currently seeking a permit to complete survey parcels along the route and determine the exact location of the line. If all goes well, negotiations with landowners “should be completed by September,” said one official.

The planners from Ridgway, Ouray and the county asked questions about installation costs to customers (between $400-$1,000 for the connecting line to residence); pricing ($5.85 per 1,000 cubic feet); length of time of construction (between three and six weeks in a given neighborhood); safety and emergency response capability (15-30 minutes); and whether it is necessary to clear-cut a fifty-foot service corridor through pinion and juniper trees via Log Hill Mesa with parts of the existing County Rd. 1 right-of-way easement potentially available as an alternative. 

The fifty foot standard, KM representatives said, is federally mandated. Other concerns raised at the meeting include wildlife impacts and wetland studies (application under review by the Division of Wildlife); storm erosion; fire mitigation; revegetation; geohazards (report due in a few weeks), and disruption of traffic and agricultural operations during construction.

According to a Ouray County staff report dated May 15, the $18 million project, which got a go-ahead from the Public Utilities Commission earlier this year, is slated to begin construction in at least two locations. One end will proceed along Ouray County Rd. 17 one-half mile south of the north town limits of Ouray; the other will proceed northwest of Montrose. The two trenches will then traverse in northwesterly and southeasterly directions respectively to a point on the Ouray- Montrose county line, roughly 1,900 feet west of State Hwy. 550. The pipeline will extend from the county line south along County Rd. 1 over Log Hill Mesa to Log Hill Village, then down a water utility easement into Pleasant Valley, and extend along C.R. 24 to downtown Ridgway. From there it will run south toward Ouray, west of the Uncompahgre River.

The one-hour meeting drew over sixty members of the public but was not an official public hearing, thereby limiting discussion to members of the commissions and KM representatives.  

The May 15 Report concluded that the application and accompanying documentation lacked “sufficient detailed information (including missing parcels) in order for staff to determine the impacts on surrounding properties and the existing infrastructure.” Both Ouray County Planner Greg Moberg and Ouray County Planning Commissioner Barbara Van Houte requested more details from KM prior to the application’s first public hearing on June 24, when the public can ask questions.

“KM wants a corridor without specifics of where to locate,” said Van Houte. “We’re requesting more visuals. Special use permit applications require more.”

KM’s Natalie Shelbourn said during her presentation that KM has set goals to minimize the impact of the project on business owners. “We are mindful of the tourism aspect,” she said. “We plan to have other community meetings on our progress.”

Public skepticism about the project has focused on the reasons for going through Log Hill Mesa and the negative impacts of a fifty-foot service corridor. A letter to the editor of the Ridgway Sun and Plaindealer on May 7 by Steve Rush, a Log Hill Mesa resident and a former county road committee member, addressed vegetation impacts of the proposed corridor.

“The clear-cut and trench operation is intended to be done on private property, which lies adjacent to the county road easement,” Rush wrote. “Picture if you will, next time you drive County Rd. 1, a dirt scar twice the width of the road you are on. A scar across Log Hill Mesa effectively equivalent to a barren Interstate 70. Of course, they would compensate me ‘well’ for the 50-foot loss of trees and wildlife habitat. And though I would no longer own the land, I could use it for anything. Except planting trees…. Apparently Ouray County is not in the position to grant Kinder Morgan the right of way to bury their pipeline within the county road easement. Some sort of inconvenience and conflict with their own drain culverts… I would like Kinder Morgan to explain to affected landowners and county residents how it is a win-win to clear-cut a section of the Uncompahgre Plateau 50 feet by 12 miles in order to allow us the opportunity to purchase gas from them.”

Alan Staehle, an alternate member of the Ouray County Planning Commission, asked KM representatives about the necessity of the fifty-foot clear cut.

“It’s about efficiency; (this) cross-country pipeline extension is the industry standard. Can we reduce it? Yes. But it is subject to negotiations,” said Tim Atwater, a senior right-of-way agent for Kinder-Morgan.

Planning commissioner Carey Skoumal said that “lots of people don’t want this on Log Hill Mesa. Why not run the line along Hwy. 550 from Montrose through Ridgway and then to Ouray?”

KM Project Manager Andy Shaver answered that the company tries to avoid constructing transmission systems in a public right of way. The Log Hill route would allow service to more potential customers. 

In a telephone interview, Rush said that he believes that installation costs may run higher than KM is suggesting. 

“It may or may not be that cheap,” he said. “At my home they would have to run it a thousand feet. It could cost between $5,000 and $7,500.”

25th Annual 'Gathering of the Tribe' Highlights Activists and Filmmakers


"Film is as powerful an activist as anyone," declared local biodiesel guru and environmental rap star Charris Ford at the Nugget Theater Saturday evening before the short French Fries to Go played to a packed crowd.

The film, a part of last year's festival, was shown again this year to make the point that indeed film is a powerful activist. To wit: As a result of Ford's efforts and the impact of the film, Telluride this weekend became the first municipality in the United States to run a 100 percent biodiesel-powered city bus. By contrast, other cities run buses powered by 20 percent biodiesel. 

Filmmakers, photographers, climbers and lovers of all things mountainous and wild congregated over Memorial Day Weekend for the annual "gathering of the tribe," in this case the silver anniversary of Telluride Mountainfilm Festival.

The 25th anniversary festival offered a chance for all members of the tribe to "strengthen my rope of resolve," as festival director Mike Shimkonis put it at the Monday afternoon picnic.

Among the gathering were inspirations like Vanessa Schulz, the articulate, knowledgeable and impassioned filmmaker who created Cost of Freedom, the well-told and emotional story of wolf B36F, a she-wolf who was relocated to Idaho as part of the Fish and Wildlife Service's plan to reintroduce the North American grey wolf to the continental United States.

There was also Joe Linklater, the chief of the Gwich'in, a First People tribe of 285 who live in the Yukon town of Old Crow, and whose livelihood and culture depend on the annual migration of the Porcupine Caribou herd. The herd of 150,000 would be decimated if oil drilling is allowed on the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

"For the last 15 years we have tried to speak to everyone in America," said Linklater, an articulate and dedicated leader, whose tribe has made a commitment to save its culture.

"They tell us that constantly that what happened to them will happen to us," Linklater added in response to a question about how other tribes who have chosen oil and the jobs the industry brings, instead of retaining their culture and its ties to the land, have advised the Gwich'in to proceed.

If the national standards for vehicle miles per gallon were raised by three miles per gallon, the United States would save one million barrels of oil a day, Linklater argues; Drilling ANWR's coastal plain, by contrast, according to even the most optimistic projections, would yield roughly half that amount, or 600,000 barrels a day.

There was also Mountainfilm regular Paul Watson, captain of the high seas and defender of oceans. An original founder of Greenpeace and now director of Sea Shepherds, Watson talked about his most recent work to preserve the Galapagos Islands, a global heritage site. Increasingly subject to poaching, overuse and destruction of plants and wildlife, the Galapagos need our attention now, urged the witty and to-the-point Watson.

Winners of this year's awards included: The Cloggers of Putneyville for Best First Work; The Beast Within for Best Independent Documentary; and The Ballad of Arthur Muldoon for Celebration of Community Award.

The seven top award winners were Mountain Men: The Ghost of K2 for Best Mountaineering Film; Yenisey River Expedition for Best Adventure Film; Ape Hunters for Best Environmental Film; and Pale Male for the Human Spirit Award. War Photographer and Robert Capa: In Love and War shared the podium for the Voice of Humanity Award; and Best of Festival was given to Amandla!, a moving story about the power of song during South Africa's shadow days of apartheid.

Wildlife Biologists Discover Four Lynx Kittens in Southwestern Colorado

Significant News for Lynx Reintroduction Program


Researchers from the Colorado Division of Wildlife made a rewarding discovery last Wednesday when two baby lynx kittens were found huddled with their mother at a remote site in southwestern Colorado. A second pair of lynx kittens were found Sunday high in the San Juan Mountains. All four kittens and their mothers were determined to be in good health.

The sighting of the kittens represents the first documented reproduction since the DOW’s lynx reintroduction program began in 1999.

“These lynx kittens represent an enormous milestone in species recovery,” said Greg Walcher, executive director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, in a press release.  “To be able to say we actually left Colorado a better place than we found it, we must be willing to do more than just say we care about endangered species. We must be swilling to actually work toward recovering these magnificent animals.”

Since making the decision to reintroduce lynx in Colorado, the DOW has released 129 cats, 41 in 1999, 55 in 2000 and 33 this spring. The lynx, originally captured in Canada and Alaska, were equipped with radio collars that allow remote tracking. The San Juans were chosen as the area for reintroduction because of the availability of habitat and prey.

As of last spring, DOW researchers had determined that introduced lynx were finding adequate prey species and had settled into suitable habitat, but they had no documentation of reproduction. Carnivore researchers in Colorado and elsewhere suggested that breeding may not have occurred because the density of lynx was too low. They recommended releasing more lynx to determine once and for all if the wild cats could still thrive in the state. The DOW plans to release 50 more cats in each of the next two years and up to 15 lynx in 2006 and 2007.

“The first step toward recovery was the reintroduction of lynx into Colorado,” said Colorado Governor Bill Owens. “The next step is a population sustaining itself in the wild. This is an encouraging and important step toward the ultimate goal of recovery of the lynx here in Colorado.

Wildlife biologists found the first set of lynx kittens in a den amid downed timber on a steep hillside at 10,600 feet in typical lynx habitat. Both of the kittens and their mother were in excellent condition. The researchers were at the site for only 11 minutes while they weighed, photographed and PIT-tagged the kittens and took hair samples for genetic work in an attempt to confirm paternity. While they worked on the kittens the mother remained nearby, making deep, low vocalizations until the researchers left. The kittens both weighed 380 grams, still had their eyes closed and made no vocalizations. They were believed to be about seven days old.

According to the DOW, Canadian researchers have found that brief interruptions by humans do not disturb the bond between the mother and kitten and have not caused abandonment. Researchers will not visit the den site again, but will continue to monitor the cats’ movements through aerial telemetry. In the fall they will snow track the cats to see if the kittens are still with the mother. Kittens typically stay with their mothers until they are 10 months old.

The second set of lynx kittens were found snuggled with their mother on a rugged mountainside at 11,200 feet, the highest lynx den ever found in North America, says the DOW. The pair, believed to be only a few days old, were also weighed and tagged by researchers.

Tanya Shenk, the DOW’s lead lynx researcher commented that the kittens were within the core area of southwestern Colorado where the DOW has been releasing lynx, adding that the kittens appear to be in good health.

While finding kittens is a significant milestone, live births are the first step toward recruitment. Recruitment into a population would require the kittens to survive through their first year of life and produce offspring of their own. To achieve a viable population of lynx, enough kittens need to be recruited into the population to offset the mortality that occurs in that year and hopefully even add more so that the population can grow.

The DOW is currently tracking 63 lynx of the 84 that are possibly alive. Another 45 are confirmed dead from human-caused mortality from gunshots and vehicle collisions. The status of the remaining cats is unknown, although two are thought to have slipped their radio collars and a number are now missing because their collar batteries have died and researchers can no longer pick up their radio signals.

Those who make lynx sightings are encouraged to report their observations to the DOW by calling Shenk at 970-472-4310 or emailing her at <>.

Much like a bobcat, lynx are small with ear tufts, facial ruffs and short tails, but they have several distinguishing characteristics. Their feet are quite large and look out of proportion to their body and they have a black tip on their tails, as if they were dipped in ink. Their fur is grayish-brown in the winter and reddish in the summer and they lack distinct spots or striping. Lynx tracks are much larger than a bobcat, about five inches across. The individual toe pads and footpad are rarely visible because of the large amount of fur lynx have on their feet.

One telltale sign you’ve spotted a lynx in the Colorado is if you notice either a radio collar or a 12-inch antenna that lays across the cat’s back.

Colorado’s lynx program has been paid for primarily with Colorado Lottery money through the voter-approved Great Outdoors Colorado program and the DOW’s Nongame and Endangered Species Checkoff on the Colorado income tax form. The Colorado Wildlife Heritage Foundation is working to secure additional funding that is needed to keep the program operating. To learn more about helping lynx recovery in Colorado, call the Heritage Foundation at 303-291-7238.

‘I Get to Meet All of the Cool People, So Who Knows What Will Happen?’


Koffee with Kandee


Mark Galbo, tall, dark, and handsome, and way too hip to have lived in Monticello, Utah, which is, as we all know, at the end of the soon to be renamed Route 666. The locals in Monticello used to say, it's not hell but you can see it from there. This is a story of one man's musical journey from San Francisco to Utah to Norwood.


Kandee DeGraw: How long have you been teaching music at Telluride Music?

Mark Galbo: Since October of last year.

KD: Busy?

MB:  Pretty much, it is the off-season so it slows down a little bit for me as well. But we pretty much have two days and are considering a third day, if we have the demand for it. We teach all levels of people, different people, all different styles. We do guitar, mandolin, bass guitar and fiddle.

KD: How many students are you with right now?

MD: I think I have 23 students.

KD: You commute from Utah?

MD: No. Thankfully we just moved to Norwood, cutting my commute down. Now it is 34 miles, instead of 134, basically. So that is a little easier.

KD: Yeah. You know I am from Monticello.

MD: You said that. You graduated high school there, but then bolted immediately.

KD: How did you like it?

MD: For us it was good. We moved there from San Francisco, which is a little odd. My mother-in-law owns a coffee shop there. We thought we would be there for a year, but it turned out to be five years and we had three babies while we were there.

KD: Utah does that to, yah.

MD: We, my wife Jessica and I, were pregnant when we moved there and really thought we would get out after a year or so, but... we didn't. Five years, three babies: my four-year-old, Miles, my two-year-old, Samson, and my two-month-old girl, Arabella Blue.

KD: Then you made the leap to Norwood. Do you like it there?

MD: I've been there a few days. I think I do like it. For me it is its proximity to Telluride. I don't know too much about Norwood, other than that it is physically beautiful. I've also had a chance to meet some nice people. I understand there are a lot of artists spread out around there.

One of the nice things about what I do is that I meet all the cool people wherever I go. It usually doesn't take too long. The artists find me, the musicians find me, and they tell their friends and before too long I plug into what is cool about a location. Although in Monticello that only went so far.

KD: There is cool in Monticello?

MD: Yeah there is some cool stuff. It is a little less cool now that we moved away. (laughs) There isn't much going on there and I had something going on. I still go back there and teach once a week. I don't know how long that will last.

What drew me to Telluride and Norwood area? I taught and played and performed at blues festivals for 15 years and kinda heard an advertisement for the Blues and Brews Festival. I heard a lot of the artists and I thought, "I know those people." So I got the number and didn't do anything with it, but then my wife called and got Steve Gumble on the phone and he said he was interested in establishing an acoustic workshop type program. He said similar to Augusta, which is a festival in West Virginia. That is one of the festivals I have taught at for 15 years.

I wrote up a little idea of what I might do and started working with the festival four years ago. So that was how I really began to get out to this area. I worked each year with David and Karen Lamb. They donate a guitar to my acoustic competition and every year David would say, "I want to do a lesson program here." And I would say, "Oh, that's a good idea." Then the next year would come and he would say, "I want to do a lesson program here." And I would say, "Oh, that would be a good idea." And this past year he said, "I want to do a lesson program, look at the room I've built downstairs." And he showed me a teaching room and showed me a list of students.

I asked him if he thought it would be worthwhile for me to drive over here. So they thought about it and made the decision to do that. So my involvement with the community started through Blues and Brews, which connected me to David, and like I said, I get to meet all of the cool people, so who knows what will happen? Another aspect of what I do is that I produce artists, recording artists, and I engineer. I don't have a studio right now, but that is a big part of what I do. Typically through the lessons I meet people who might want to record professionally or whatever they want to do. That has begun to happen, I have worked on a few projects here, including a great forthcoming CD by Eamon Alger.

KD: What has been your training?

MD: I have been teaching for 21 years. My training is a combination of formal training – I do have a music degree from the State University of New Paltz at New York, it is a teachers college – and kinda just the school of hard knocks as well. When I graduated college I moved to New York City and played in the subways and clubs. I was able to study with some of the great jazz teachers of New York City.

Then I went out to Los Angeles. My goal there was to learn about the recording industry, cause a lot goes on out there. I went to a recording school, purchased some equipment and then immediately quit the school and just started recording. I guess I have been recording now for about 16 years. The New York City jazz thing was a big thing for me. I learned a lot there. You would be on your way to do your laundry and you would come across someone who plays guitar better then you will ever play and they are playing on the street. You know what I mean? It was good.

I started actually studying when I was 20, which is pretty late. I was always kinda behind even to begin with. But beginning in New York City I never had an attitude, but if I did it would have been taken care of by being in New York City, because there is just so much talent there. Another thing that I have been fortunate enough to do is to be involved with these acoustic festivals and literally sit at the feet of these acoustic masters. It is a big part of what I do.

I have lost a couple of friends the past few years, older players, John Jackson. He had a big influence on me; he passed away last year and he was 77. If you look at the development of the blues in this country if you are 77 – and he started playing when he was three and he learned from a convict in Virginia – that means he was around in the formative stages of that music. To have a longstanding relationship with him and learn from him was amazing. And then when they pass away, the music is the through-line.

That is one thing for me that I have always felt, I have never had a big personal stake in the music, other than I make my living doing it. In other words the music to me is so overwhelming and I think that is why I think people can relate to me, because I don't have much of trip. The sound, the music, the sphere and the art of that, is what I connect to. I shy away from situations where there is competition or attitude or something like that. I feel a part of that tradition, the country blues tradition.

KD: And that is what, if you will forgive this, strikes a chord with you?

MD: Well, yes it does. But also my ears are pretty wide open, certainly as a producer, and as a teacher it is in my professional interest to have a wide variety of expertise in music, just a broad appreciation. I was in Vermont for several years and the scene that I was in there was ... it was just after Phish had left cause they were from Burlington. I was in that whole scene back then. I was in a great rockabilly band, so I loved the whole electric band, R&B, rock ’n’ roll thing and I knew a lot of younger musicians who were in the whole funk band scene. I really like it all.

The first thing I ever learned on the guitar was the rhythm part to a Sly and the Family Stone song…(He plays air guitar for a moment.) I have pretty broad tastes. And professionally to make a living, whether it is performing or teaching, writing or recording you can't just focus on one style of music otherwise you are turning away 95 percent of people who come to you. That is part of what I do. The nuts and bolts of music... I don't like to use the word theory cause that freaks people out, but the nuts and bolts of music is all the same no matter what you're playing. There are twelve notes, here you go.

I am lucky enough to have a good understanding of the theoretical aspects of music and how to communicate that through all the various styles. One thing I would like to say is that, to me, and I said this to David when he was considering working with me, I've been teaching a long time and I think I am a very good teacher, but really what I do is create community because that is what music is so good for. I call it instant community. That is one thing that I stress and another reason why I feel very fortunate to be in Telluride. I feel fortunate that there is a big fat hole for what I do, which I didn't really understand. With all of these great artists and festivals and all of the stuff that is going on, why aren’t there four of me already. There was none of me. That is what I am told. I hope I am not dissing somebody. I don't know anyone who...

KD: …consistently teaches?

MD: Maybe that is a good word, consistently. With my focus on community and this community, it was a natural fit. I got busy really quickly. Now Monticello is Monticello, but I was there four or five years teaching and I had between eight and nine students the whole time. It is Monticello, I understand that. But here within two months I had 20 or 25 students. You can't beat that. It is a focus of mine to create and encourage musical community. This community is already going strongly in that direction.

KD: If people want to find you they just call Telluride Music?

MD: That's right. They can schedule there. I also teach in Norwood and can be reached at 327-4456. There is one other thing I want to mention. I have an instructional book, Beginning Fingerstyle Blues Guitar,which has been out for ten years and has sold over 30,000 copies. It was my first book, which I co-wrote with Arnie Berle, who is a famous jazz educator from New York City. He has written over 50 books. I went and I studied saxophone with him and he saw that I was teaching at the Augusta Festival and said that his publisher needed a book on this particular topic which he didn't have expertise in, but he appreciated the style and he knew how to write. I wrote that book and through that opportunity have this second book coming out this summer. Which is a lead guitar book.

KD: What's the title?

MD: Melodic Arpeggios for Lead Guitar.

KD: Do you have anything else going on?

MD: There is an instructional video I've done on fingerstyle blues guitar and I do have a CD, which I released in the last year entitled Canon, my take on American traditional music. It is my fifth CD. It's been well received and highlights what I do in the performance aspect of my career. Both of those can be found on my web site, <>. Also there is the Telluride Acoustic Blues Camp, if anyone is interested in that, we are in our third year. We have some great artists coming this year.

KD: What is that all about?

MD: Well, it runs concurrent with the Blues and Brews. We do a four-day event. We typically have 40-45 students and they can take classes in various styles of blues guitar, it is specific to the blues, or they can take harmonica and study blues vocals. I have Phil Wiggins who is a world renowned harmonica player coming, among others. That is Sept 11-14. That is another exciting event that people should know about.

Watch Sports

Two Ways to Silverton: Cyclists Beat the Train

Some ‘Tour de France’ Moments

By Elizabeth Heerwagen

In the battle of man versus the machine, the Iron Horse Bike Race attracted both elite pro cyclists as well as recreational enthusiasts to Durango on Saturday. The field of 1,500 riders set out to cycle the 5,500 foot and 47 miles climb from Durango to Silverton, matched up against a hundred-year old opponent, steam-powered train, on its course along the historic narrow gauge railroad.

The rivalry between the cyclist and the train originated thirty years ago in a challenge between the Mayer brothers, one an avid cyclist and the other a railroad engineer. Although it took cyclist Tom Mayer a few attempts, he eventually beat the train piloted by his brother, and thus started the race between peddling legs and the steady old steam engine.

A number of Telluride cyclists journeyed to Durango to compete in the Iron Horse this year. Although I joined the pilgrimage, I took the easy route to Silverton, allowing the train to chug up the hills for me. Sitting comfortably in a leather cushioned seat, I watched the smooth procession of bikes – including Telluride competitors – stream out from Durango. 

Traveling alongside the bicyclists, I saw a broad range of competitors, including people on tandems, recumbents, single speeds, even one fellow rolling along on his cruiser until a broken chain forced him back to town.

On the road and speeding along the first 11 miles of flats, citizen rider Jackie Major of Telluride experienced the excitement of her first bike race. Riding in the draft of the peloton made her heart beat faster, she later reported; she felt like she was being “sucked into a vacuum,” and gripped herself for a possible crash at any moment.

After those first 11 miles, the train track diverged from the road and I lost sight of the cyclists. I opened a book, leaned back in my seat and relaxed to the steady rhythm of the train trudging up the river valley. Meanwhile, the riders faced the daunting task of their first hill climb to Purgatory. Iron Horse veteran John Pryor reported that at the 11- mile mark he remembered the pain of past races and muttered to himself, “I can’t believe I’m doing this again." In his ninth consecutive Iron Horse, Prior tried to beat his time from the past year, but finished of this year’s race angry with himself for coming up three minutes shy of last year's time.

Back on the train, I got a glimpse of some slow-moving citizen riders struggling up the steep grade, and recognized the pain of the race. Earlier that morning, the professional men had hammered up this first hill following the fast-paced lead of Tom Danielson, the overall race winner. Walker Ferguson, a Telluride High School graduate, rode with Danielson to the top of Purgatory at 8,900 ft. After the climb, Ferguson lost the lead riders and rode the rest of the race by himself, “riding my own race,” he said. He remained close behind the three pro men leaders and completed the race with an impressive fourth-place finish and a time of 2:12 30. For Ferguson, the race was a training tool for future mountain biking races as a member of team Subaru/Gary Fischer.

After the climb to Purgatory, the race course rolled along before the second steep climb to 10,660-foot Coal Bank Pass. For Lee Roufa, riding in the Masters 35-39 category, the highlight of the race was staying with the main group until the Coal Bank climb. Although the lead riders edged ahead of Roufa on the climb, he stayed with the second group and finished in Silverton in 11th place with a time of 2:37.

While the excitement built on the road, my train ride became rather monotonous. On the road cyclist J. Michael Brown made his decisive move up Coal Bank and feeling strong, he picked up the pace, put up an attack, and soloed the rest of the race.

According to Brown, “it was one of those Tour de France moments when you look over your shoulder and nobody is keeping up.”

Riding in the Masters 50-54, Brown had not “done a road race in over 10 years,” but put in an impressive 10th place finish with a time of 2:54 59. He believes that the combination of being older, wiser and training with a heart rate monitor allowed him to perform as well as he did twelve years ago.

While Brown was putting up his attack, I was riding on a train car full of Louisiana tourists clad in Denver Broncos sweatshirts and the conversation was relaxed.

After a quick descent from Coal Bank, the riders headed up the third and final climb, to Molas Pass at 10,900 feet. John Haggerty, riding in the Masters 35-39, pushed up Molas with four other riders. In a battle for fifth place the group was chasing the pack leaders in a battle for fifth place. However, the final climb up Molas wore on Haggerty who lost the pack and rode Molas by himself. Haggerty later described the race as being “a little tough for me,” but nonetheless he claimed tenth place with a time of 2:36.

Before my train rolled into town, many of the cyclists had arrived in Silverton. Karen Bockel and Christy Kopasz beat the train with impressive performances in the women’s professional category. In a close race, Bockel came in first among the women with a time of 2:45 26. Not far behind Bockel, Kopasz descended the final six miles from Molas, and finished the race with an exciting ending sprint.

Kopasz said later that on the sprint, she noticed an opponent moving ahead of her and thought, “This is ridiculous, I’m being dropped on the descent.” With the pressure mounting, she tucked, sat tightly on her opponent’s wheel, and prepared to make her final attack. In the last mile, she made a move, passed the other racer, and sprinted to the finish line, arriving in Silverton with a time of 2:47 04 and a fourth place finish.

When the train rolled into Silverton with a time of four hours, I disembarked and headed for the finish line, to find Bockel and Kopasz sitting on the tailgate of a truck, relaxing and chatting after their strong finishes.

Bockel resumed her tight racing schedule and headed off to the World Cup in Montreal this weekend.

As riders continued to descend into Silverton over the next few hours, I felt surprisingly drained from my four-hour train ride. Even though I did not have to ride the 47 miles to Silverton and climb a total of 5,500 ft. over three mountain passes, I feasted on chicken fried steak at the Handlebars Saloon. Next to me, Telluride rider James Guest talked about his experience in what he described as “a brutal race.” Nevertheless, Guest who achieved a time of 2:56 in Masters 35-39, “can’t wait till next year.” 

The Iron Horse Classic is a race that not only tests the physical strength of the human body, but the mental willpower of its participants. While competitors vary in their reasons for tackling the strenuous mountain course, there is a general consensus that as Jackie Major put it, “you cover a lot of ground and feel that, wow, I’ve really accomplished something.”

While I did not feel that I accomplished any great feat by taking the train, I did share with the riders the truly memorable experience of the Iron Horse.


Film Festival Announces Sondheim as Guest Director; Ted Turner to Receive the Silver Medallion Festival Poster Will Be Created by Gary Larson


The Telluride Film Festival has announced that Broadway legend Stephen Sondheim is the guest director for its 30th annual event, which takes place this coming Labor Day weekend.  Festival guest directors curate and present special festival programs.

Sondheim’s credits as a lyricist and composer include Company (1970), A Little Night Music (1973), Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (1979), Sunday in the Park with George (1984), which won the composer a Pulitzer Prize; Into the Woods (1987), Assassins (1990) and Passion (1994).  He wrote the scores for Alain Resnais’ Stavisky and Warren Beatty’s Reds; and won an Oscar for the song “Sooner or Later” which he composed for Dick Tracy.

The festival also announced that Ted Turner will receive a Silver Medallion at this year’s festival, and that Gary Larson has been selected as the festival poster artist.  Turner, the founder of CNN and other cable networks, and a major stockholder of AOL Time Warner, Inc., is being recognized for the role he has played in film preservation.

“Ted Turner is a true visionary who has transformed the entire landscape of film appreciation and preservation,” said festival co-director Tom Luddy. “When he purchased MGM in 1986, then sold off all the assets with the exception of the film library, which contained all the pre-1948 Warner Bros. titles, he demonstrated a unique foresight.  Ted anticipated the value of American’s film heritage – the genre films and programs, as well as the prestige titles – for coming forms of distribution and exhibition in cable television and home entertainment.  In so doing, he acted to ensure the safe keeping of the entire MGM, Warners and RKO library, and set the example for other studios, eventually, to follow.”

Poster artist Gary Larson of The Far Side renown returns to Telluride following the showing of his film Tales from the Far Side II, which premiered here in 1997.  Previous poster artists have included David Salle, Ed Ruscha, Jim Dine, Francesco Clemente, and Julian Schnabel.   The original work will be printed in poster form and will grace the cover of the program guide. 

The Telluride Film Festival this month was chosen by Variety as one of the top six international film festivals, based upon its influence, prestige and impact on the film world.  On May 16 in France Luddy participated in a panel discussion with representatives from the other five festivals (Cannes, Berlin, New York, Venice and Sundance) as part of this year’s Cannes Film Festival, and on May 20 Variety celebrated Telluride Film Festival’s 30th year with a reception exclusively in its honor on the Boulevard de la Croisette.  

For information about the 30th Telluride Film Festival, taking place Aug. 29 through Sept. 1, 2003, visit <> or call  (603) 433-9202. Passes are on sale now.

MSI Hires New Education Director

Mountain Studies Institute hired its first education director, Ryland Gardner who starts work with the Silverton-based mountain culture and environment institute next week.  

Gardner comes to MSI from the Gore Range Natural Science School in Red Cliff, Colorado where he served as Director of Education from 1998 to 2002. There, Gardner was responsible for creating and focusing the educational direction of the natural science school, all aspects of program development, working with agency personnel on permits and unique partnerships such as the creation, administration and coordination of the Nature Discovery Center at the top of Vail Mountain. 

"Thanks to all of you who spent time with me confirming how fortunate we are to have Ryland coming on board at this critical stage of MSI's development," said MSI Executive Director Ellen Stein. Gardener is MSI's second full-time staff person.

In 1997, Gardner received an M.A. in Environmental and Natural Science Education from Prescott College, in Prescott, Arizona. He continues his work today with Prescott as a Graduate Advisor for students enrolled in the Master of Arts Program. His Masters Thesis focused on "Using Field Research to Teach Environmental and Natural Science Education" with a concentration on developing and implementing ecological field research projects with junior high to college and adults students. In 1995, Gardner completed the Jackson, Wyoming-based Teton Science School's year-long Professional Residency in Natural Science and Environmental Education. From 1995 to 1998 he worked for the school as a faculty member and contract field educator. 

During the spring 1994, Gardner completed the National Outdoor Leadership School's Outdoor Educator Course in the Pacific Northwest.  In 1985, he received a B.A. in Spanish from Hampden-Sydney College in Hamden-Sydney, Virginia and to this day possesses strong written and verbal skills in Spanish. He is a trained Wilderness EMT, mountaineer and telemark ski mountaineer most recently during the fall 2002 having been a team member of "Ama Dablam 2002" a team of American alpinists having successfully summited Ama Dablam elevation 22,494 feet (6857 meters), one of Nepal's gem mountains.  It is said that Ama Dablam "defines the core of an alpinist's dreams: The image of this striking peak is universally known to lovers of mountains."   


McCarron Junction Recognizes High Country Activism


"This is to honor John McCarron," said San Miguel County Open Space Commission Member Josh Sale.

The San Miguel County Board of Commissioners on Wednesday agreed to Sale’s request to dedicate the junction of the Wasatch Trail and Blix Rd. to McCarron, naming that intersection "McCarron Junction." That naming will give tribute to the hard work that local resident McCarron and his wife Jane Reldan poured into gathering a thousand signatures on a petition supporting the district.

McCarron has been battling terminal cancer since September.

"The petition with a thousand signatures came at a pivotal point," said Sale. "At that point the zone district could have gone either way."

"I want to echo Josh's comments," said County Commissioner Art Goodtimes. " We had all expected difficulty getting the zone district past the landowners. To have that petition as a decision-maker was a total green light to move forward."

Sale added that though McCarron was unable to because of his illness, he had intended to talk about the high country district at Mountainfilm this past weekend.

"His work on supporting the zone district was a contribution he was most proud of," Sale said.

– E.C.

Idarado to Take Development Plan to County…Courthouse Restoration to Proceed…


County Briefs

By Elizabeth Covington


The San Miguel County Board of County Commissioners has scheduled a work session for Monday, June 16 at 4 p.m., to meet with representatives of the Idarado Mining Co., owners of 3,000 acres of land that runs from the east side of Telluride to the county border with Ouray. The meeting will be held in the Telluride Fire District meeting room.

Idarado is expected to discuss new plans for development of that property.

Plans for the annexation of Idarado’s property to the Town of Telluride was defeated by voters a year and a half ago.  That plan included provisions for transferring the high country portions of Idarado's property to the U.S. Forest Service and a plan for affordable housing on the valley floor east of town, as well as large lots for high-end homes.  The annexation measure lost by 23 votes.

Though the work session had been rumored to be in the works, when setting the meeting date at their regular meeting this week the commissioners did not indicate what Idarado will bring to the table. However, county Administrator Lynn Black did say that Idarado representatives expressed that they wanted the meeting "sooner rather than later."



With the help of two recently announced grants from the Colorado Historical Fund, the San Miguel County is prepped to launch a phase I of a multi-year project to stabilize and restore the grande dame of history in the county, its courthouse.

One grant, in the amount of $341,000, will be used to stabilize the building, replace the windows and doors with historic replicas, and restore the masonry. The other grant, $19,800, will be used to determine how the county can best use the limited space inside the building. Currently, the courthouse houses the county clerk, treasurer, and the court system, including the local district attorney. The assessor's office, once located in the courthouse, was moved to the Miramonte Building, when the county remodeled that building in 2001.

Phase I of the project, which will cost $532,000, includes county cash matches of $179,000 and in-kind donations to the project.

The building, designed by architect W.H. Nelson and built in 1887, has been in constant use and the center of county life since constructed. It was entered into the National Register of Historic Places in 1963 and a one-story annex was added in 1959 and a second story added to the annex in 1977. It is not known when the one-story stone jail building was added. Though the building has been well-maintained over the years, additions were not added in the historic spirit of the structure.

In the past the courthouse was the scene of dances, social events and weddings," according to county Treasurer Sherry Rose, a native of Telluride and county treasurer for the past 24 years. Moreover, every year the front steps are a community center piece, said Rose. They are used regularly as a bandstand for street events and are host to the Fourth of July parade judges, as well as the scene of the treasurer's foreclosure auctions.



The momentum is there to enhance water supplies on Wright’s Mesa and the county’s West End, reported John Porter to the San Miguel County Commissioners this week. At the request of the commissioners, Porter, a water expert and facilitator, talked with the four main water entities in the San Miguel River basin.  The four entities are the San Miguel Water Conservancy District, the Norwood Water Commission, the Farmers Water Development Company and the Lone Cone Ditch and Reservoir Company.

The primary problem is lack of late season water, Porter concluded, and at the top of the list is providing an adequate supply of domestic water to the town of Norwood. The solution? More storage.

In addition to solving Norwood's needs, increased storage would solve other pressing water problems in the basin, including providing irrigation water for Farmers and the Lone Cone systems; assuring sound augmentation plans throughout the basin; ensuring stable in-stream flows on the river; and, providing a back-up water supply for Tri-State's Nucla Power Plant.

There is water running free now which is not being captured, remarked Kay Hartman, a Norwood attorney and member of the San Miguel Water Conservancy District.

One possible solution is a dam and reservoir on Gurley Canyon. Such an undertaking, however, would depend largely on several "make or break" issues, according to Porter, including whether outside funding could be secured and whether a cost benefit analysis would be feasible.

"Everything is green, but we are still in a drought," cautioned Hartman.


Norwood Assault Charges Lead to 7-Hour Police Stand-Off8 Sheriff's Deputies and Mesa County SWAT Team Called In


Norwood resident Reginald Plummer, also known as Reginald Hubert, is in the San Miguel County Jail on $25,000 bond following a May 24 alleged assault on a neighbor that brought police to his door at approximately 11 p.m. that same night.

When Norwood Marshal Jim Ellis arrived to talk about the alleged assault, Plumber

barricaded himself, his wife and two children in the house, claiming self-defense.

A call to dispatch led eight San Miguel County sheriff's deputies to the property, as well as a SWAT team from Mesa County.

Plumber, who surrendered following a seven-hour standoff, was booked on several charges, including second-degree assault and child abuse.

Telluride Marshal Norman Squier, who was in the area, was called to scene as well. In June, 2001, Squier and former Telluride Marshal Harry Stephens responded to a similar incident with Plumber, who then went by the surname of Hubert, leading to a two-hour standoff with police. Hubert/Plumber's his nine-year-old son was in the house with him at that time.

"Harry and Norman had a pretty good rapport with Reggie" at the time of the first standoff, Mountain Village Police Chief Dale Wood recalled, a fact that led dispatch to ask Squier to intercede with Hubert/Plumber once again.

Unofficial reports indicate that numerous weapons, including assault rifles and five 30-round banana clips, were found in the house, as well as an unspecified amount of marijuana, were found in the house.

Plumber was booked on second-degree assault, refusal to leave his property at the request of police, and child abuse. The case is still under review by the Seventh Judicial Court District Attorneys office; charges will be filed next week.


Ridgway Sexual Assault 'Not Consistent' with M.V. Assault in October


A 24-year-old Ridgway resident was abducted from in front of her home at approximately 11 p.m. Tuesday, May 20, by two men driving a dark-colored pickup truck with a shell and driven to an unknown location where she was physically and sexually assaulted. She was released on Highway 550, south of the Super 8 Motel, approximately one hour later.

Since the incident occurred: "We haven't really turned up anything," Ridgway Chief Marshal David Scott said Thursday.

Mountain Village Police Chief Dale Wood met with Scott Wednesday to review the case, looking for similarities between the May 20 sexual assault and the sexual assault that occurred in the Mountain Village in October 2002.

"Based on his investigation, up to this point, the modus operandi are not consistent at all," Wood reported.

Rocky Mountain Ark Beavers Put to Work on Rancho Deluxe


"For most people, beavers are a nuisance," says Wilson Mesa landowner Jim Kennett, who earlier this month relocated two adult beavers from Rocky Mountain Ark onto his Wilson Mesa ranch. Kennett adopted the pair in the hopes that they will create much-needed wetlands and ponds on his high mesa property.

The duo had spent the winter at Rocky Mountain Ark Wildlife Center after being live-trapped in Telluride Town Park and Montrose last fall because they were clear-cutting trees in sensitive areas.

Their home at the Ark was in an improvised beaver den – a dog igloo, in a heated pond, that they redecorated with gnawed branches of willow and aspen – so that "they had their own quarters," says Melissa Margetts, who operates the private wildlife facility on Wilson Mesa that can be visited by appointment only. (The Ark is a licensed wildlife care facility, Margetts emphasizes; it does not live-trap wildlife for private property owners.)

A third beaver in the Ark den, weighing in at 65 pounds, and who's been named Hudson, will remain at the Ark, Margetts says, because "he's the oldest, the biggest, the meanest.…"

She considers for a moment. "He isn't really mean, but he's tougher than nails. He's missing his whole left leg and part of his right back foot; he's blind in one eye.

"He's a nuclear beaver.

"Everyone thinks they're nuisance animals," she continues about beavers, which rank alongside "skunks, porcupines, badgers and prairie dogs" in terms of unpopularity for relocation. "But they build wetlands."

Aldasaro landowner Tom Cruise, she reports, took in some Ark badgers last year "on his property," as well as "some prairie dogs – can you say 'food chain?'" she asks, rhetorically, about the primordial link. "The badgers occasionally pick off the errant prairie dog, and everyone is happy."

Kennett hooked up with the Ark two years ago, after Margetts ran a personals ad stating: "Two locals, need to relocate, trees and water required. Free rent needed in exchange for creating wetlands."

In addition to this year's newcomers, Kennett has successfully installed three beaver families on the 40-acre wildlife sanctuary he's dubbed Rancho Deluxe, complete with 32 ponds he stocks with 15-inch Colorado cutthroat, rainbow brook and snake river cutthroat trout for fishing season.

A region-wide beaver die-off a few years back, Kennett says, led him to cast about for ways to maintain his wetlands "and help rebuild the ponds."

To keep the beavers' destructive capabilities at bay, he trucks in windblown willow and aspen trees.

"They can literally chew down a forest," he says of the ravenous animals. "It's surprising how much damage they can cause" to an area. But well-fed, they're invaluable. "They provide habitat.

"I'm looking out the window now," Kennett says, watching two mallards "flying in to land on the pond." No dogs are allowed at Rancho Deluxe, which also hosts "120 head of elk that hang out over by the beaver pond, two twin sets of fawns, a red-tail hawk, coyotes, bears – almost everything but mountain lions."

"The system has gotten so huge now," he says, of the refuge, "I figured I needed a few more workers."

It's hard to be sure the new beavers are a couple, he says, because beavers don't have external genitalia. "They don't reveal their genitalia unless they're, um, excited," says Kennett. "If you see them, you're probably too close for comfort."

Kennett had hoped for a nighttime release for the nocturnal nibblers, but because of the presence of "beaver paparazzi," Kennett says, including National Geographic photographer Robert Millman and Telluride Watch photographer Eric Limon, he was forced to go for an early-evening release instead.

As to where the two newcomers will set up housekeeping, Kennett says: "They're territorial. They'll make the new ones go either upstream or downstream, that kind of thing."

Of his own up close and personal interfacing with the beavers on Kennett's property, Limon, who roped into helping with hauling a beaver in a cage mounted on a sled through wetlands on the way to the release site, reports: "They're kinda creepy." They're the size of a big dog, with these big, long teeth…."







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