Briefs from the San Luis Valley

Brief by Marcia Darnell

San Luis Valley – September 2004 – Colorado Central Magazine

Sierra Sells Again

The Taylor Ranch, aka La Sierra, has new owners. Two Texas couples, Bobby and Dottie Hill and Richard and Kelly Welch, bought the 77,000-acre parcel from Lou Pai. The couple own an adjoining ranch near Trinidad.

In June a district judge reaffirmed the right of some local residents to gather wood on the land, after decades of fighting. The new owners have already established friendly relations with the locals, talking with community members and firing the ranch hands who had put up fences and threatened residents.

Team Effort

The Conejos County Complex was buffed up by volunteer labor which included inmates from the county jail. The workers removed weeds, trimmed trees, painted and did other odd jobs in the complex, which includes the fairgrounds and an arena. Workers came from the library, a day care center, the sheriff’s department, the CSU Extension office and the community at large.


Alamosa County Treasurer Charlene Cockrum has been indicted on charges of theft and embezzlement. Cockrum has been the county treasurer since 1991. The indictment came down just days after she was sworn in as president of the state treasurers’ association. She’s charged with stealing between $500 and $15,000.

Suzan Gonzales, Alamosa, faces fraud and theft charges stemming from her employment at Hospice del Valle.

High Art

A painting title “Frog Rolling In” by Tom Lockhart of Monte Vista (profiled the December, 1997, edition of Colorado Central) has been selected for Arts in the Park. Painter Rita Roberts, also of Monte Vista, will have her work featured in Southwest Art and The Artist’s magazines. And young Aspen Quirico won first prize at the Royal Gorge Fiddlers Along the Arkansas competition.

Ride em!

Will Smith of Del Norte is the world champion in the National Little Britches Rodeo. The 14-year-old topped the junior division in riding, roping, and goat tying skills. In addition to the title, the home-schooled freshman earned a trophy saddle and belt buckle.

Tree Trouble

Forest Service officials say that hundreds of thousands of trees have been killed by insects in the Rio Grande National Forest. The infestation has spread because of drought and mild winters. Only nature can really fix this problem, they say, and the trees need a hard winter as much as they need moisture.

Brief Briefs

* Monte Vista Mayor Raina Bowsher will be the subject of a recall vote in November. The recall petition garnered the 500 signatures needed for ballot placement. The mayor is fighting the recall, saying the effort is about personalities, not issues.

* Colorado received $50,000 from the feds to fill abandoned mines near Crestone and the Dunes.

* Rio Grande Hospital opened near Del Norte, replacing a facility that closed in 1993.

* The town of South Fork is getting hissy regarding the promised — but undone — cleanup of the old timber mill. The new owners said they’d convert the property into a commercial area, but have yet to do so.

* Center residents have to privately contract for cable TV, after the town stopped providing service. The municipal program had been losing money for years, officials say.

* Off-highway vehicles are legal on Mineral County roads, following the adoption of a county traffic code. The designation includes three- and four-wheeled ATVs and dirt bikes.

* Welcome rain saved the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railway from closing. Dry conditions combined with cinders from the train engine nearly meant closure due to fire hazards, but nature came through for the narrow gauge line.

* The town of South Fork has removed itself from efforts to develop geothermal resources in the area. The Headwaters Electric Power Authority will continue efforts on its own.

* The Alamosa City Council put a three-year moratorium on development of the Alamosa Ranch. The hold will help the ranch board decide what to build, what to preserve, and what to place off-limits to traffic.