Tag Archives: Saguache Today

Saturday’s Symposium: Water, Water, Water!

Water, it’s the life source in Saguache Today and the entire San Luis Valley. Photo: Saguache Today/Kathy Bedell

Organizers of the very first “State of the Basin Symposium” announced one more heavy hitter will be added to the speaker list at this Saturday’s event: Former U.S. Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar.  

The Washington D.C. heavy hitter and former Colorado Senator will join the state’s new Attorney General Phil Weiser for a day of brim-filling water data. Looks like the Centennial State’s spotlight will be in Alamosa at the end of this week.

The inaugural Rio Grande “State of the Basin Symposium” will be held from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 23, on the Adams State University (ASU) campus. the event is free and open to the public.

Center stage will be the nearly 1,900 miles of a major waterway once described by western legend Will Rogers as “the only river I know of that is in need of irrigating.” And for San Luis Valley farmers and ranchers, that statement rings even truer today.

Ken Salazar

According to the Rio Grande’s official website: “From its headwaters in the San Juan Range of the Colorado Rockies to the Gulf of Mexico at Brownsville, Texas, the Rio Grande draws from 11 percent of the continental US, with much of that being drought-prone land. That vulnerability is compounded by scores of dams and irrigation diversions, which has left significant portions of the river dry in recent years. In 2001 the river failed to reach the Gulf of Mexico for the first time. In 2002, it happened again.”

That was nearly two decades ago. Today, the accelerating crisis has brought the waterway’s situation far beyond a startling quote or present day “meme.” In fact, it’s that uncertain future that will bring local stakeholders, along with ASU student leaders together with county, state and federal officials in Alamosa near the river’s headwaters in the San Juan Mountain Range for a day-long information exchange.

“As part of an emerging Water Education Initiative at Adams State, the Salazar Center aims to help ‘grow the next generation of water leaders,’” said Salazar Center Director, Linda Rio de la Vista. “We are working with the Valley’s many water partners to bring relevant and useful information to ASU’s students and faculty and the local community. The time is now to raise our level of knowledge on the critical water issues here, and to engage more people in community-based efforts for a sustainable water future. We need everyone’s help to make that possible.”

A number of knowledgeable local experts and teachers will address topics of Rio Grande Basin Water Management 101; Groundwater Management and Subdistricts; the Water Economy; Water and Land Conservation and Acequias; Water, Wildlife, and Restoration of Rivers, Streams and Wetlands; Water and Education; Water and Recreation; and Water and Soil Health.

Local water leaders will also present overviews and updates on key aspects of our current water conditions and challenges. Craig Cotten, Division 3 Engineer for the Colorado Division of Water Resources, Cleave Simpson, General Manager of the Rio Grande Water Conservation District and Chair of the ASU Board of Trustees, and Heather Dutton, Manager of the San Luis Valley Water Conservancy District (SLVWCD) and the Rio Grande Basin Representative on the Colorado Water Conservation Board will speak in the morning session in the Richardson Hall Auditorium.

Adams State University’s Salazar Rio Grande del Norte Center and the RGWCD are hosts of the event. Additional sponsors include the SLVWCD, Conejos Water Conservancy District and the San Luis Valley Irrigation District.

Parking for this free event is available in campus parking lots along Edgemont Blvd. and on the east side of McDaniel Hall. Permits are not required on Saturdays.

For more information visit State of the Basin Symposium, or contact Linda Rio de la Vista, Director of the Salazar Rio Grande del Norte Center, at 719-850-2255 or riodelavista@adams.edu.

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Avalanche Warnings Issued by CAIC

Remnants of an avalanche reported in the Northern San Juan Mountains on Friday, Feb. 15. Photo: Michael Ackerman/ CAIC

If you ask the locals, it’s seemed a bit more like winter in Saguache Today than in recent years. The San Luis Valley has been seeing its share of moisture this season, although more is needed to catch up with the deep reserves. But high above the valley floor is where field reporters with the Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC) have been observing weather conditions and perhaps more importantly for backcountry adventurers, avalanche danger.

And while your own winter concerns may take you no farther than getting your driveway plowed and sidewalk shoveled, it’s important to stay situationally aware of shifting snow conditions in the mountains. Not only can these storms impact traffic with an increase in snow and rock slides blocking highways and high mountain passes. But for those in the tourism industry, it’s imperative to know where to direct visitors venturing into the backcountry to find the latest conditions and tips on how to be prepared. To that end, Saguache today brings readers the following reports issued by the CAIC within the past 24 hours.

At two miles high these wind and snow whipped pines show the “powder” scars of a harsh winter. Photo: Casey Franklin/ CAIC Field Reporter.
CAIC Field Report for Sangre de Cristos Zone

By Mike Cooperstein, CAIC Forecaster (filed at 8 a.m. Sunday, Feb. 17)

Strong winds since Thursday’s storm have moved all available snow to lee-facing slopes. North through east to south-facing slopes near and above treeline are the most dangerous today and should be avoided. We have also received reports of dangerous wind-slabs in open below treeline meadows, so do not blindly jump onto steep slopes in below treeline areas either. 

It may be a few days before we know the extent of the avalanche cycle that this unusual snow event triggered, but from what we can tell it seems like most avalanches broke within or just underneath the storm snow. These avalanches were two to three feet deep and were large and dangerous. As you would expect with a storm with this high of precipitation intensity, we have also received reports of dangerous avalanches breaking near the ground or on mid- to upper-pack layers such as near-surface facets and facets around crust. The crust-facet combos are more prevalent on sunny slopes and could be buried 3 to 5 feet deep at this point. If you trigger an avalanche on one of these persistent weak layers it will most likely be inescapable.

Snow continues today with up to 10 inches possible by Monday afternoon. The new snow will be low density., and will most likely not add enough weight to trigger another natural avalanche cycle. Slopes that continue to receive wind-drifted snow will continue to be dangerous and loading will have to stop before these slopes become more stable.

The bottom line is that this was a very large load in a short period. The general trend of the snowpack is good on a seasonal scale as we are building a deeper and stronger snowpack. For today, very dangerous conditions exist and the snowpack needs some time to adjust to this rapid load.

If you are traveling in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, these mountains received about a foot of snow with strong winds. Although this a lot less snow than the San Juan Mountains, the snowpack is much, much weaker and avalanches on deeper layers or the ground are more likely. This problem in the Sangre de Cristo zone will be slow to change.

CAIC Report for Sunday, Feb. 17, 2019 at 6 AM

This morning the Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC) issued the following Special Avalanche Advisory for the surrounding mountains near Saguache Today:

“A strong storm on Thursday night brought 1 to 2 feet of dense snow with strong winds to the mountains. Avalanche conditions remain dangerous especially in the Central and Southern Mountains. You can trigger avalanches that break in the new and wind drifted snow that will be large enough to bury or kill you. You may even be able to trigger very large very dangerous avalanches that break deeper in the snowpack. If you trigger one of these deeper avalanches it will most likely be inescapable. Consult the Zone Summary for the areas you are planning to travel for specific information and travel advice. Make sure you carry an avalanche transceiver, shovel and probe and know how to use all of your gear. You can always limit the chance of being caught in a dangerous avalanche by sticking to lower angle terrain without steeper connected avalanche slopes above you.

February Avalanche Accident Trends

Over the last 10 years, February has proven to be the single most dangerous month for avalanches in Colorado. Over a quarter of the fatal avalanche accidents happened during this month. In the past decade, there have been 15 fatal avalanche accidents in the month of February. Eight of those accidents occurred in the middle of the month, and 4 between Valentine’s Day and Presidents Day. Historically, this weekend has been a dangerous period for avalanche accidents. But avalanche education and safety awareness can help to break that pattern.

Close Calls in January: How It Compares?

As of January 31, the CAIC has documented 57 people caught in 42 separate avalanche events. Seven of the people have been critically (head under the snow) or fully buried, and two have died. Of those, 60% of the involvements occurred in January, including both fatalities. The 56 cumulative involvements this year are far more than recorded for all of 2017-18, 2015-16, and 2014-15. Projections indicate that the 2018-19 winter season will tally the most avalanches on record with the CAIC.

About the CAIC

The Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC) is a program within the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, Executive Director’s Office. The program is a partnership between the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Department of Transportation (CDOT), and the Friends of the CAIC (FoCAIC) a 501c3 group. The mission of the CAIC is to provide avalanche information, education and promote research for the protection of life, property and the enhancement of the state’s economy.

History of The CAIC

Since 1950 avalanches have killed more people in Colorado than any other natural hazard, and in the United States, Colorado accounts for one-third of all avalanche deaths. The Colorado Avalanche Warning Center began issuing public avalanche forecasts in 1973 as part of a research program in the USDA-Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station. The program moved out of the federal government and into the Colorado state government, becoming part of the Department of Natural Resources in 1983. The CAIC joined the Colorado Department of Transportation’s highway safety program in 1993. The Friends of the CAIC (a 501c3 group) formed in 2007 to promote avalanche safety in Colorado and support the recreation program of the CAIC.

Funding for the CAIC

About half of the CAIC’s funding comes from an intergovernmental agreement with CDOT to provide training and forecasting for highway maintenance operations. As part of the Department of Natural Resources, close to 40% of the Center’s funding come from the Severance Tax Fund. The rest of the funding to run the program comes from the United States Forest Service, local governments, the Friends of the CAIC, and from donations from people like you.

Workshop for Food Entrepreneurs


If you’ve ever thought about starting your own business that involves growing food, then here’s some news you can use. Or maybe you are already in the food-growing business but can’t seem to get the right answers about what the rules and regulations are for growing and selling food, please know that help is available.

Many fresh fruits and vegetables are grown in and around Saguache Today!

And for all of you San Luis Valley farmers, pull your head out of the seed-bag and take advantage of this upcoming opportunity to get all of your information in one session – from the experts! Next week’s Colorado Department of Agriculture (CDA) workshop is perfect for anyone looking to make their agriculture dreams come true in Saguache Today.

“I hope this workshop inspires entrepreneurs and help their businesses thrive,” said Danielle Trotta, Business Development Specialist with the Colorado Department of Agriculture. “Workshop speakers are actively engaged in the food system, and they are excited to share their expertise with others.”

A variety of food companies call Colorado home, and the state continues to be an incubator for food entrepreneurs. The Colorado Department of Agriculture is organizing an upcoming workshop to help food and agricultural businesses get started and grow. 

Saguache is part of the major hay-producing San Luis Valley region. It is also second behind potatoes as the Valley’s most harvested crop. Photo: Saguache Today/Kathy Bedell

On Wednesday, Feb. 13, “Colorado Food and Agriculture Entrepreneurs” will be presented from 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. at the CoBank Center for Agricultural Education in Fort Collins, Colo.

 This one-day workshop is designed for start-up businesses and producers considering a path into the food and agriculture industry. The workshop is organized to be fast-paced and packed with vital information needed to begin a food or agricultural business. The agenda includes topics such as resources for start-up businesses, business organization and finances, building a brand, working with retailers, labeling and beginning production factors. 

Guest speakers include:

  • Mike Hardin, Director of Business and Licensing with the Secretary of State’s Office.
  • Peter Mohr, Director of Operations for Naturally Boulder.
  • Dawn Thilmany and Becca Jablonski from the Department of Agriculture Resource and Economics at Colorado State University.
  • Brianne Rael with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
  • Many more experts from state and county entities critical to establishing a food business. 

Registration is $55 per person per workshop. Registration includes the program, workshop materials, a light breakfast and lunch. Online pre-registration is required for each event, and processing fees for electronic checks and credit card orders apply. Seating is limited and space is expected to fill fast.                                                                                                                                 

For complete agendas, more information and to register, visit www.coloradoproud.org or contact Danielle Trotta at (303) 869-9176. The workshops are sponsored by the Colorado Department of Agriculture, Valley Packing and Catering and Colorado State University Agriculture Resource and Economics Department.

Rich, green pastures and farmland sit at the base of S Hill in Saguache Today. Photo: Saguache Today/Kathy Bedell

Villa Grove Trade: New Year, New Owners

The Villa Grove Trade stands at the northern gateway to the San Luis Valley.

By Kathy Bedell, © Saguache Today

“We stumbled on this opportunity,” said Allen Plumley who along with his partner Jamie Williams became the new owners of Villa Grove Trade on January 1, 2019. “I don’t think it was something we were looking for when we came to the valley.”

And maybe that’s just how these Old West stories are supposed to go, the less planning the better! Regardless, the pair now steps to the helm of one of the most historic businesses, as well as the established port of entry at the northern end of the San Luis Valley. Villa Grove Trade has been a general store since 1882 and includes a restaurant and retail area that promotes local food, artists and musicians. The business also includes The Inn @ Villa Grove.

The new owners hail from Hutchinson, Kansas and both have restaurant management experience. They have been working on site with the former owners Amber and Jeff Shook since last summer.


Meet Allen Plumley (front) and Jamie Williams (back), new owners of Villa Grove Trade

“Jamie started working here in mid-June, and my sister had worked here before,” said Plumley in an interview with Saguache Today in December. Plumley arrived in late summer after discovering that the place was up for sale, which accelerated the pair’s plans to move west to Colorado. 

“Originally there was somebody else that was going to buy it,” explained Plumley, confirming earlier reports that Villa Grove Trade was going to be bought by a Sous-Chef-from-Boulder.

Yes, for those who may not have heard, it was the tongue-wagging news that the long-time owners of Villa Grove Trade were going to be selling the place to a Sous-Chef-from-Boulder that manifested more than a few puzzling looks.  As expected, there were concerns that things would change, drastically.

“It wasn’t something that a lot of locals weren’t looking forward to,” stated Plumley.

It’s a one-stop-shop at The Villa Grove Trade, from food to lodging, to arts and crafts!

But who could blame the Shooks for wanting to sell the place – to anyone!? Hadn’t they done their time, 15 years in all? Running the only game-in-town for food and lodging can wear on folks. Sure it’s fun when the summer visitors pass through with their tips and tale tall adventures. And no doubt, there’s always time for a visit when the locals pop in for pancakes and coffee. But those 15 years that Amber and Jeff ran The Villa, also included some lean times. You wonder how you’re going to get through February, then March and maybe even as late as June until the money starts to flow again along with the spring run-off. So it’s nice when friends and neighbors see hard-working people like the Shooks get the pay-off in the end.

“I just want to sit and rock my grand babies,” Amber said during an October visit. “But we’re not going anywhere. We’ll still be here in Villa,” she added. That was back when the other buyer was the front-runner.

But the San Luis Valley has a strong spiritual reputation for a reason. So it was a comfort for many to learn that the winds of fate had changed direction and that people with a more congruous vision would be buying the place. For now, it doesn’t seem like there will be too much will change at the northern end of the SLV.

“Our plan and our vision is probably not too different from what Amber and Jeff have;  we plan on keeping it the same,” Plumey confirmed.

New owners (left to right) Jamie and Allen takes the reins from former owners Amber & Jeff.

While regulars can expect to see the same menu, like any new owners the pair will introduce some new items as well and perhaps some extended hours during the summer, including a weekly dinner night. Of course, a good meal is nicely paired with live music, another mainstay regulars can continue to look forward to. Sounds like The Villa will be grooving again come this March, with Jeff agreeing to help set up the local gigs.

As for now, you can find the Villa Grove Trade open with the same hours which are 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. Daily, closed on Tuesday.  The establishment is located officially at 34094 Highway 285 in Villa Grove, CO 81155. You can also stay connected through the Villa Grove Trade Facebook Page.

Congratulations to the new owners, Allen and Jamie! And many thanks and best wishes to Amber and Jeff. Much peace and joy to all!

Journalist Kathy Bedell owns The Great Pumpkin, LLC a digital media company in Leadville, Colorado which publishes Leadville Today and Saguache Today. She may be reached at info@saguahcetoday.com

State Determines Funding for Saguache Schools

Progress is moving right along for the construction of the new Mountain Valley School in Saguache. Photo: Saguache Today/Kathy Bedell

By Joyce Rankin, Colorado Board of Education

During our monthly meeting, as the first week of the 72nd legislative session began, the State Board of Education walked across the street to attend the State of the State address. Jared Polis, our new Governor, reiterated his primary education related promise. “Our top priority this session is empowering every single Colorado community to offer free, full-day kindergarten while expanding free preschool to 8,000 more Colorado children.” The state already pays for kindergarten students to attend for half day classes. Many school districts offer full-day kindergarten, using district funds and parent paid tuition to pay for the additional half day. If the state agrees to pay for free full-day kindergarten for all kindergarten students in Colorado, the estimated cost will be an additional $250 million per year.

In the first week of the new session, 107 new bills were introduced. Seventeen of these involved Education. Of the seventeen, five were sponsored by Democrats, four by Republicans and 8 were bi-partisan. From their introduction the bills will pass through the Senate and House committees, and to both Senate and House Chambers before they become law. Many never get that far, but for now, legislators worked into the night to get their five bills written and submitted by the January 10 deadline.

Rep. Joyce Rankin

In addition to following all the legislative activity at the Capitol, the State Board of Education met for two days. One of our duties involved a vote to approve the monthly allocation of state funds to the 178 school districts in Colorado.

Under the public-school finance act of 1994 (Section 22-54-115, C.R.S.), the State Board is responsible for determining the monthly amount of money each school district receives from the state.  At our January meeting, we certified the December 2018 calculations and distribution. All districts and state distribution amounts were listed. The calculations for January through June 2019 will be certified at the February meeting.  All information is available on the State Board of Education website. Here are examples of the state distribution for districts in three counties that I represent: Roaring Fork SD with 5524 students, $1,825,907.67; Garfield 16 with 1163 students, $681,911.92; Meeker with 700 students, $191,591.25; Rangely with 483 students, $288,488.64 and Moffat County with 2106 students, $595,107.88. Throughout all of Colorado, the December distribution totaled $367,678,953.24. (Publisher’s Note: for Saguache and Moffat School District Numbers, connect HERE.)

In another vote, the State Board approved a Charter School appeal for the SKIES Academy. The SKIES Academy Charter application was initially granted, but later revoked, by the Cherry Creek School District.  The State Board found that this was not in the best interest of students, families and the community and remanded the Charter to go back to the local district to work together for a resolution. Charter SKIES Academy, based at Centennial Airport, will be a hands-on, project-based curriculum for 6-8 graders.  It will focus on students desiring a possible career in aerospace engineering, piloting and other aspects of aviation.

Thus we begin the first month of the 2019 legislative session and the first State Board Meeting of the New Year.

Enthusiasm for education never gets old in Saguache Today!

Joyce Rankin is on the State Board of Education representing the Third Congressional District, which includes Saguache County. She writes the monthly column, “Across the Street” to share with constituents in the 29 counties she represents.  The Department of Education, where the State Board of Education meets, is located across the street from the Capitol. 

Trooper Tips: A Call to Action

On November 11, the Saguache County Sheriff’s Office reported this one car rollover on CO Highway 285 at mile marker 107, just North of Villa Grove. A reminder to practice safe driving habits as the icy winter months come on. Photo SCSO

By Trooper Gary Cutler                               

Over the 2018 holiday season this year, Colorado had a wakeup call.  Starting Christmas Eve, and continuing through the next 72 hours, Colorado lost a total of 9 lives in 7 crashes.  Those killed ranged from teenagers all the way to grandparents.  The news talked about the loss of lives, people talked about it around friends and family; but pretty much Colorado went about its daily life after hearing the news.

If these people had been killed in a different way, say they were shot during the same period of time; the outcry from the public would have reached the heavens.  But, for some strange reason, deaths in traffic crashes have been accepted as something that just happens.  It needs to be acknowledged as a true, tragic issue, and needs to be stopped.

On December 27 2018, when Troopers heard of the fifth person dying that single day, we decided we had to step up and get the public to act on preventing crashes; it starts with a message to Coloradoans that it has to stop.  The Chief of the Colorado State Patrol, Matthew Packard, made a video with a powerful statement to the residents of the state.  He hearkened that we need a call to action to help protect the public from dying senseless deaths.  We hope this will be the beginning of a movement to protect the public.

The State Patrol is seeing crashes involving DUI/DUID, lane violations, speeding, exceeding safe speed, and being inattentive to driving as some of our most common reasons for fatal crashes. Another reason we have dying in crashes is some people still refuse to wear their seatbelt, and we know it would have saved their life.  I want you to know it’s not just limited to fatal crashes; Coloradoans need to be aware there are way too many crashes as well.

The State Patrol is in charge of traffic safety in all unincorporated areas throughout Colorado.  There are 5 State Patrol districts with subsequent troop offices within them, strategically positioned throughout the state to handle crashes.   During that deadly 72 hour period, fatal crashes happened in all 5 State Patrol districts.

The State Patrol is focused on eliminating crashes, yet crashes continue to plague the state.  The fatal crashes are worse in some counties, than others; these are El Paso, Adams, and Jefferson.  Weld County in particular leads the state in both fatal and injury crashes.  The crashes aren’t a metro or rural area problem either; both areas have far too many crashes.

I listed the top problem violations where drivers are not taking responsibility to drive safely seriously, but this isn’t the entire list of areas with issues.  It takes every agency, every corporation, every household, every person in the state to lower the amount of fatal and injury crashes we are experiencing.  You have that responsibility.

Over the next few months my articles will focus on the causes of the crashes throughout the state this past year.  We will also look into what steps you can take to walk away from a crash if you are unfortunately involved in one.

What I want everyone to know is that traffic crashes are preventable and that is why we call them crashes and not accidents.  Also survivability in a crash is exponentially raised by the use of seatbelts.

As always, safe travels!

Heat Up the New Year for Firefighters in Saguache

With snow and cold in the forecast for the last day of 2018 and into the New Year, Saguache residents may want to stay a bit closer to home. And the good news is you can do that, and help turn up the heat for a good cause as you ring in 2019!

The Annual Saguache Volunteer Firefighter Department’s annual fundraiser will be held this New Year’s Eve at the Oasis Restuarant in Saguache.

Friends and neighbors near and far are invited to this Monday’s Saguache Volunteer Fire Department (SVFD) Fundraiser Dinner and Silent Auction. Join the celebration this Monday, Dec. 31 at The Oasis Restaurant from 4 – 7 p.m. where the menu will be smoked beef brisket, salad, mashed potatoes, homemade roll and a drink. The dinner is a fundraiser for the local firefighter crews that help to keep everyone safe in Saguache Today. The cost is $20/plate. In addition, the Oasis will offer a cash bar from 5 – 7 p.m. for those looking to raise a toast of good cheer to the New Year!

In addition the SVFD will hold a Silent Auction starting at 4 p.m. Bid on your favorite items, including a Cup of Coffee a Day, donated by the Wapiti Coffee House, painted works from local cowboy and artist, Wade Collins, and Dinner and a Movie Date Night from the Village Pub and Cozy Castle Cinema to name a few. The bidding will go on until 6:45 p.m. at which time the winners will be announced and payment collected.

So if you’re staying close to home – or passing through looking for a tasty meal for a great cause, grab your checkbook and head over to the Oasis for Firefighters Fundraiser. The restaurant is located at 630 Gunnison Ave, just off Highway 285 as you drive through the town of Saguache.

After the fundraiser, the fun will continue with the Oasis’ New Year’s Eve Party. Live music starts at 9 p.m. by “The Martian Cartel” with band members Scott Alexander, Pearl Alexander, Dennis Neuhaus, Dale Hazard and Jerry Arellano renaming their group one the one-night NYE gig, just for fun! But they’ll be playing all of your old favorite tunes from Classic Rock to Country, to those danceable Oldies. The Oasis will have their bar open from 5 p. m. to 1 a.m. Cheers at midnight!

For New Year’s Eve celebrants who may want to secure lodging for the night, Saguache Today offers the following options in town and just a short walk away from the party!