Restroom Installed at Summitville Heritage Tourism Site

SOUTH FORK, CO., (October 31, 2018): Summitville has a long Rio Grande County history. Located 17 miles from Highway 160 off Wolf Creek Pass, this area was once one of Colorado's largest and richest gold mining sites. Groups of miners arrived in the early 1870’s. By 1883, the town was deserted. The town was revived in 1934 with deeper, underground mining. There were 70 homes for miners and families as well as an integrated water system throughout the valley. By 1938, Summitville had 2 operating mills, 2 stores, a school, and 60-70 occupied residences as well as a large boarding house for 300 men. During the 1940’s, copper was mined as well as gold. The town produced significant copper during the World War II era. By 1956, the population dwindled to 12 miners and was abandoned, but mining continued into the 1990s.

In 1984, 1,230 acres in Summitville area was acquired by the Canadian-based Galactic Resources Ltd., a subsidiarySummitvilleConsolidatedMiningCompany,Inc.(SCMCI). Anewlarge-scaleopenpitoperation covered 550 acres. New techniques were used to extract gold from otherwise uneconomic ore. A cyanide spill leaked chemical into the Alamosa River. The mining operations finished and Galactic Resources filed for bankruptcy. SCMCI then closed the site and converted on-site equipment for the detoxification process, with around 160 million gallons of stored water needing treatment. After the company insolvency proceedings were completed in a British Columbia court, the US Government declared the site a Superfund cleanup site in 1994 and spent $155 million cleaning up the site. The bankruptcy court deemed that the land be owned by Rio Grande County; management of the property is done by the Colorado Department of Public Health & the Environment (CDPHE) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

summitville restroomsRecent partnerships with Rio Grande County, the Rio Grande National Forest, CDPHE, the EPA, and other local partners are redeveloping the site into a working asset site of outdoor recreation and heritage tourism. This area is used extensively in the summer by mountain bikers, ATV/OHV users, and tourists on a nice mountain drive because of the excellent two-wheel drive road and the drivable loops. In the fall, hunters also utilize the area. In 2016, a picnic shelter, picnic tables and interpretive signs, were installed. This week, a vault toilet was installed to address the increased need for facilities for visitors.

Funding and support comes from Rio Grande County through Conservation Trust Funds, Rio Grande County’s Road & Bridge Department, the Rio Grande National Forest, Department of Local Affairs, EPA, CDPHE, Rio Grande Watershed Emergency Action Coordination Team (RWEACT) and the El Pomar Foundation.

416 Fire Field Trips

Durango, Colorado - The 416 Fire burned approximately 54,000 acres this summer and significantly altered the Hermosa landscape.  Until the area receives a significant precipitation event, the 416 Fire is considered to be contained, but not controlled and the corresponding area closure will remain in effect. Therefore, the Columbine Ranger District is offering 3 guided public field trips that will be accompanied by qualified fire fighters.  Each field trip will be capped at 15 people and the group will be escorted into the burn area.  The following is a list of the field trips offered:

October 1 - Champion Tree Hike - Strenuous.  All Day- This trip will leave from the Lower Hermosa campground and go to Dutch Creek. Approximately 9-10 miles round trip, depending on trail conditions and potential for eroded trails.  During this hike we will visit some of the Colorado State Champion Trees. 

October 2 – Bike and Hike - Moderate-strenuous.  All Day - This trip will take mountain bikers (participants supply their own bike) from Upper Hermosa trailhead and ride to the burn perimeter.  Bikes will be left at the fire perimeter and the group will hike a few miles into the burn, depending on trail conditions and safety concerns.

October 13 – Old Growth Walk - Moderate 9- 2 pm. This trip will start from Lower Hermosa campground and hike approximately 2 -3 miles to see some of the ponderosa pine old growth in the burn area. 

The 416 Fire is the largest fire to impact our area since the Missionary Ridge Fire of 2002.  Fire is a natural part of our ecosystem and is important for forest health and resilience, however, it is also a force that can drastically impact communities and ecosystems.  The Hermosa landscape has changed as a result of the fire and this is an opportunity to see firsthand some of those changes.  Moving forward, we hope we can use this fire as an opportunity to deepen our understanding of fire in our local ecosystems, and how we interact with it.

To sign up for a field trip please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 970-385-1219.  The trips are first come/first serve and space is limited. Participants should wear sturdy hiking shoes, bring water, lunch snacks and a hat.  Bikers will need to bring their own bikes and appropriate gear. Please sign up for only one field trip.  For more information, please contact Gretchen Fitzgerald, 970-385-1219, Acting Public Affairs Officer, or Columbine Ranger District 970-884-2512.

USDA Forest Service seeks public comment on improving management of mineral, oil, and gas resources

SEPTEMBER 13, 2018 AT 9:00 AM EDT - WASHINGTON, DC – Today the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service published Advance Notices announcing its plan to revise two parts of the agency’s locatable mineral regulations.  The Forest Service seeks public comment on its work to improve outdated and inefficient regulations for locatable minerals(link is external) and oil and gas resources on national forest lands.

“This is one of many efforts that our agency is undertaking to focus on our priority of regulatory reform,” said interim Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen. “Our goal is to make our processes as simple and efficient as possible while ensuring a sustainable environment for future generations.”

In fiscal year 2017, over $1.2 billion dollars’ worth of oil and gas were produced from National Forest System lands, resulting in payments to local, state and federal governments of approximately $145 million, creating significant value for many communities. Outdated regulations are still a barrier however.  For example, there is a backlog of nearly 2,000 pending Expressions of Interest in leasing oil and gas on about 2 million acres.  Updated regulations and procedures are needed to ensure the Forest Service and stakeholders have an efficient process to support local economies and protect and conserve valuable environmental resources.

Locatable minerals produced from National Forest System lands are important for medical and infrastructure development as well as cars and common household items, including appliances, smart phones, and computers. Forest Service economists estimate that the revenue generated from mining locatable minerals topped $1 billion in 2016 and supported more than 1,500 direct and 5,500 indirect jobs.

“We want to strengthen communities and provide jobs,” said Christiansen. “At the same time, we are committed to protecting water supplies, supporting aquatic and wildlife habitat, and ensuring a sustainable environment for future generations.”

The public has until October 15, 2018 to comment on two Advance Notices of Proposed Rulemaking published in the Federal Register. One notice addresses locatable minerals and the other oil and gas resources. Instructions about how to comment are included in the Federal Register notices: 36 CFR part 228 subpart A(link is external) and 36 CFR part 228, subpart E(link is external).

For more information about USDA Forest Service, visit

Prescribed burns planned on the Rio Grande National Forest

The San Luis Valley Interagency Fire Management Unit plans to conduct several prescribed burns this autumn on the Rio Grande National Forest providing there are favorable weather and fuel moisture conditions.

The planned burns include:

  • Buffalo Pass. Located on the Saguache Ranger District, one mile south of Buffalo Pass Campground. This 580 acre burn would reduce fuels and improve deer and elk habitat.
  • English Valley. Located five miles north of Del Norte on the Divide Ranger District. The purpose of this 1000 acre burn is to improve forage for pronghorn.
  • Conejos Canyon. Located one mile north of Fox Creek on the Conejos Peak Ranger District. The 200 acre burn will reduce fuels and improve habitat for elk and deer.
  • Alamaditas. This will be a 500 acre prescribed burn 14 miles west of Romeo on the Conejos Peak Ranger District. The purpose of the burn is to reduce fuels and improve habitat for elk and deer.
  • Bighorn/State line. Located six miles southwest of Mogote on the Conejos Peak Ranger District. The purpose of this 1,220 acre burn is to reduce fuels and improve habitat for elk and deer.

Residents and visitors will likely see smoke coming from these area for several hours each day during burn operations. Burn area maps will be posted on the roads leading into the project areas and local residents will be contacted prior to initiation of the prescribed burns. 

Prescribed fire smoke may affect your health. For more information see

For more information concerning the planned prescribed burns, contact the Rio Grande National Forest Supervisor’s Office at 719-852-5941.

USDA FS Fire Management Outcome-based Strategy

The following is a link to the USDA FS fire management outcome-based strategy: 

More Articles ...