August 2015

Please leave this beautiful site alone

By Peter Miesler

After writing about the June 20 “Honor Wolf Creek” art project in my most recent installment of the “Red McCombs’ Luxury Village at Wolf Creek” saga, I couldn’t resist driving up to Wolf Creek Pass to check it out. Besides, it was a good excuse to walk around Alberta Park.

I’m no artist but I do love art and I was curious to see who would show up, perhaps peek over a few shoulders. Arriving a couple hours after the official start time, I found a fun little gathering.

There was a stage, next to a couple information tables and picnic tables populated by a few dozen mostly “mature” types such as myself who harken back to earlier days when the American West still had some breathing space and elbow room left for the spirited soul to discover and explore their own connection with this nurturing Earth of ours.

I’ll admit I was saddened by the lack of young blood up there and fear it’s a reflection of the increasing disconnect between people and this wondrous Earth we inhabit for our few years. Too much obsessing about themselves, too much computer and media chatter, too little getting to know the reality outside of their cozy enclosed living spaces. But that’s a different story.

After mingling a while, I came to understand that many artists had already migrated through this gathering area and moved onto beckoning Alberta Park and the Wolf Creek landscape. They were seeking their own unique vantage point from which to engage in private meditation while striving to produce worthy drawings, or paintings, or weaving some words together, for that matter.

Even though there was a band setting up on the stage and off in the background a drum circle was coming together, I was ready for a good walk and headed down Forest Service Road 391, then into Alberta Park, where I did find an occasional artist that I could spy on with admiration, and a touch of envy, as their brushes busied themselves with mixing colors and applying strokes of paint to the evolving images on their canvas.

There was a new feature at Alberta Park that artists seemed to avoid since it was an intrusion on this nearly pristine setting. But for me, that new Elma ski lift was exerting a pull. So much so that before I fully realized it, I was hiking straight up the mountain under the cables with the view opening up behind me. The happy trudge became my own art project as I took pictures of the increasingly impressive vista with receding Alberta Park as the distant focus. I did get a few decent shots that you can see at my NO-VillageAtWolfCreek.blogspot. com (June 29, 2015).

While I was taking my walk, in other parts of Colorado a diverse collection of conservationists known as Friends of Wolf Creek were busy filing a federal lawsuit and preparing for a trip to Washington, D.C., where on June 26 they met with a number of administration officials and Colorado representatives to explain why this second Village at Wolf Creek environmental impact study is as fatally flawed as the first one. Namely, it deliberately bends over backwards to ignore the many adverse impacts this development would have on Alberta Park and the surrounding area. They dare ask: Why is the Rio Grande National Forest EIS process ignoring its wise forest stewardship mandate?

The problem is the Forest Service keeps insisting that only the impact of the roads matters, and that all other issues associated with building this Luxury Village at Wolf Creek are of no concern to the agency’s land swap decision. It’s a fairly ludicrous stance considering that they are guardians of the entire landscape around Wolf Creek, a landscape and biologically productive watershed that would suffer grievous damage from a developer’s ill-considered, over-ambitious pipe-dream.

But, worse than that, the Forest Service has consistently acted as though it is their duty to facilitate development no matter how thoughtless, underhanded and potentially destructive a scheme it may be. The Friends of Wolf Creek’s 96- page “Objection” and supporting documents spell out the reasons for such a conclusion. The document can be found at the Friends of Wolf Creek website.

That objection also forms the basis of the recent lawsuit that Christine Larsen reported on last month in the Free Press. As the director of the San Luis Valley Ecosystem Council Christine Canaly explained: “What we’re trying to accomplish with the lawsuit is to finally have a federal judge acknowledge that the Forest Service has avoided the direct impacts of the Village and, moving forward, that they need to analyze those impacts.”

Once again, now we wait. Fortunately the latest development in this saga is an agreement between the Leavell-Mc- Combs Joint Venture, the Friends of Wolf Creek coalition, and the U.S. Forest Service to put a moratorium on all construction at Alberta Park until the case is settled.

The Friends of Wolf Creek coalition includes Rocky Mountain Wild, the San Luis Valley Ecosystem Council, the San Juan Citizens Alliance, and the Wilderness Workshop. Me? I’m just an interested, independent, unaffiliated citizen. I’ve lived in the greater area over 35 years and have watched too many irreplaceable natural treasures be destroyed for the sake of greed and vanity. Time to make a stand. Our kids need such productive natural resources left undamaged; after all, we are talking about a major watershed supplying source waters to the interstate, international Rio Grande River.

Mr. McCombs and partners, please allow Alberta Park to continue functioning as the intact natural treasure that it is.

Leave it be, let it perform the role for which it was designed.

Please, leave Alberta Park alone.

Living near Durango, Colo., Peter Miesler offers a blog dedicated to sharing scientific information and challenging climate-science contrarians at http://whatsupwiththatwatts.blogspot.com.