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Action Line takes a peek at peaks and parks

The San Juan Mountaineers placed this piece of paper in a container on Jagged Mountain in the Weminuche Wilderness after a first (known) ascent on Aug. 8, 1933. Actually, it became the Weminuche 42 years later, in 1975, and it’s been the Weminuche now for 47 years. That was a long time ago. (American Alpine Club Library)

Dear Action Line: What becomes of the scrolls that you sign at the top of 14ers? Say, for instance, that I climbed Longs Peak in 1993 or Handies Peak in 1996. (I think it’s true, give or take a year or two.) Could I search through the old scrolls and figure this out? Who keeps these? Anyone? Are they in a big vault somewhere, kind of like that final scene in “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” or maybe blowing away in a landfill? – Peak Piques

Dear Peak: Such a good question. Action Line was thinking of asking a similar question. What a coincidence, like we were thinking in unison there. Just, wow.

The Colorado Mountain Club, located at the American Mountaineering Center in Golden, is a go-to for state summit and trail questions. The center is co-owned and cohabitated by the CMC and American Alpine Club. Other organizations such as the Colorado Trail Foundation have offices in the building, and there’s even a big room for weddings. The American Alpine Club maintains the library at the center, and some old registers are kept in the library’s CMC archives.

Katie Sauter, director of the American Alpine Club Library, said that the CMC began placing registers on summits around 1922. The library includes registers from all over the state, and is not limited to 14ers. Sauter was kind enough to add a local tidbit:

“For instance, we have a piece of paper that the San Juan Mountaineers placed on Jagged Mountain (13,824 feet) in the 1930s when they made the first recorded ascent.” Jagged is a bit north of the three Needles 14ers: Sunlight, Windom and Eolus.

Sauter offered good news for Peak: “We do have Longs Peak from 1993, and you are very welcome to come in and search for your name.”

Other registers are spread around the state or (Sauter didn’t say this) tucked away in someone’s closet somewhere.

“There are probably summit registers at many local historical societies and museums around the state, but the largest collection is likely here because the CMC for many years acted as the primary steward of these registers,” she said.

Part of the library collections: An improvised register retrieved from Blanca Peak, a 14er east of Alamosa in the Sangre de Cristo Range. (American Alpine Club Library)

Sauter noted that if you visit the CMC’s office, you can obtain blank registers to place on a mountain.

“However, the practice is waning,” she said. “Many mountains are located in wilderness areas and these registers sometimes become trash – wildlife get to them and eat them, or the containers are not secure, etc.”

For more information about locating a specific summit register, email library@americanalpineclub.org, or drop by on a day the library is open to the public.

“We have an inventory that we are currently updating and we can tell you whether we have that mountain and date range,” Sauter said.

Dear Action Line: Certain city parks, such as Viles Park and the strip of grass along East Third Avenue, have not been mowed in over three weeks. The grass on Third Avenue is so long that it went to seed. What gives? Furthermore, my research indicates that most parks are contracted out for mowing ... you mean we the taxpayers are footing the bill for non-mowed parks? – Park Piques

Dear Park: Action Line is getting déjà vu. Hmmm. Is it the name? Ah, forget it. Probably nothing.

Quick quiz: Who is Viles Park named for? If you guessed Denny Viles, former head of the Durango operation of the Vanadium Corporation of America, you know your Durango history but you are wrong. But really close. Viles oversaw the VCA smelter in the 1940s and 1950s. The Smelter closed in the 1960s, then became an environmental hazard.

But don’t blame his wife, Claire, for the environmental issues. She died in 1971, and the park across from St. Columba church is named for her, according to the city of Durango website.

We’re nowhere close to answering the actual question. Maybe Durango Parks and Recreation Director Ture Nycum can help out.

“We have certain areas and parks that we take care of internally, and other parks and areas that we contract out,” he told Action Line on Monday. “We have been having some difficulty staying on top of all the mowing and maintenance of recent but have been working to get caught up.

“Regarding the grass on Third Avenue, it was mowed in the middle of last week, but given the length it got to we will need to re-mow it frequently until it is again manageable. We have been working with our contractor on that specific area.”

Having the city pay for things you don’t do is good work when you can get it. But it doesn’t apply in this case.

“Lastly,” Nycum concluded, “we only pay for the work that has been completed by the contractor.”

Email questions and suggestions to actionline@durangoherald.com or mail them to Action Line, The Durango Herald, 1275 Main Ave., Durango, CO 81301. If you want to know why the park was named for Claire Viles, you’ll have to ask officially. Action Line doesn’t always give away freebies for nothing, you see.

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