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Saving a beautiful place

La Plata Open Space Conservancy board member Ted Compton, left, enjoys socializing with the organization’s Executive Director Scott Perez during its Summer Membership Picnic at James Ranch at the end of June.

It’s a sure bet most folks who live in Southwest Colorado would name our gorgeous natural surroundings as one of the reasons they love it here.

But in a county that has doubled in size in my lifetime alone, sheer numbers of people are putting pressure on those surroundings. Enter the La Plata Open Space Conservancy, which understands that once a place is developed, it’s changed for good.

On June 30, more than 100 supporters and folks who have donated conservation easements gathered at the bucolic James Ranch in the Animas Valley for the organization’s Summer Membership Picnic. It was the largest turnout to date for the event, which may be because many received a personal phone call thanking them for their support and inviting them.

There’s nothing like the personal touch.

Guests enjoyed James Ranch burgers, salads and cheeses from Durango Natural Foods, potluck dishes and beer courtesy of Carver Brewing Co. It took a crew to handle the serving – Amy Schwarzbach, Lynndee Beller and Beth Lamberson kept the beer and wine flowing and buns and salads at the ready in collaboration with La Plata Open Space Conservancy board members Amy Huff, Ted Compton, Brian Kimmel and Brian Magee.

Kay and David James and their clan were on hand in force – I messed up their family when they won the Community Heritage Award, so I’m not going for the details – and all declared them wonderful first-time hosts.

Executive Director Scott Perez, accompanied by wife, Peppy, and son, Cole, shared the current status of the conservancy. To date, it has been the steward for the preservation of 25,570 acres over seven counties, with the support of about 400 donors and 175 landowning families.

Conservation easements are complicated animals, as I learned while writing my book about Trail Canyon with Bud Poe, but the results are well worth the complications of assessments, trusts and state bureaucracy. They don’t have to be protecting view sheds, they can preserve land for ranching or farming, safeguard wetlands or otherwise protect some areas from the relentless growth we’ve been seeing in our part of the state.

Conservation easements are also not for everyone, but they’re worth checking out.

To learn more about land conservation and upcoming events at the conservancy, visit www.lposc.org.


Early Leo birthdays are roaring in for Anne Chase, Nancy Welch, Marian Hamlen, Brenda TeBrink, Vickie Hose, Nellie Boyd, Pat Smiley, James Trump, John Hening, Merlene Goff, Mike Thompson, Wanda Greve, Linda Jernigan and Parker Norvell.


Sometimes I struggle to find a lead for an item, something catchy to draw in readers. Other times, I come up with more than one I really like. Here are the options (no need to email me with your favorite, but feel free to mention it if you run into me on the street):

Is it possible that arguably the most famous symphony in the world is the result of a pesky earworm in Beethoven’s head? An earworm by the way, is that song you can’t get out of your head. I once had the introductory guitar riffs from “Smoke on the Water” stuck in mine for a month. It took the theme song from “Gilligan’s Island” to banish it. (Don’t ask.)

I’m referring, of course, to the knocking of fate on the door with da-da-da-dum on Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 in C Major.

Perhaps: I’m not sure whether the Community Concert Hall at Fort Lewis College was home to an orchestra or a jazzy blues band Sunday night, but whatever it was, the Music in the Mountains musicians were smashing.

Or maybe: Talk about a perfect match between venue and program! Thursday night, a group of 17 musicians and one talented conductor brought the Baroque era back to life with Bach, Pachelbel and Vivaldi in front of a full house at St. Columba Catholic Church. Bravo!

Or my final option: Durango audiences are a little too generous with standing ovations, but Sunday night, the Music in the Mountains Festival Orchestra unreservedly deserved both of the standing “O’s,” one for Beethoven’s Fifth and another for Gershwin’s Concerto in F for Piano and Orchestra. Pianist David Korevaar already proved he has a smooth hand on Gershwin’s work by performing Rhapsody in Blue several years ago with the orchestra, and on Sunday, he established himself in the forefront of performing the American master’s works.

Whichever lead you like the best – it’s the earworm, isn’t it? – the bottom line was two more memorable evenings of music as the Music in the Mountains festival moves into its final days of the 2013 season.

While it was a little warm in the church Thursday, the musicians didn’t let it daunt them. It was fun for locals to see our own Linda Mack Berven playing the harpsichord because, well, it wouldn’t be Baroque music without the instrument’s sprightly air.

The chamber concerts also give the individual musicians a chance to step out and show us their unique talents. Watching Emmanuelle Boisvert, Aleksandr Snytkin, William Hunt and Oleg Sulyga tackle Vivaldi’s Concerto for Four Violins in B Minor brought them out of the sea of violins (no offense) and into the spotlight.

MITM President John Anderson is also having fun this year pulling members of the orchestra out to meet the audience. We learned at St. Columba that Boisvert made it a point over the last year to get into shape, with the goal of climbing Engineer Mountain during this season. I’m happy to report that she has summited Engineer, so check that one off the to-do list.

While Music Director Guillermo Figueroa said that Pachelbel’s Canon and Gigue in D, composed in the late 1600s, was rediscovered in the 1920s to the chagrin of wedding musicians everywhere, he said they would be happier to perform it for the bride walking down the aisle if the Gigue was used as the recessional. I think the guests would enjoy it more, too. We sure did.

Sunday started with a lecture about the concert we were about to hear, one of five Mack Berven has prepared for this festival. Let’s just say she likes props. Not only did she share the lives of the three composers on the program, including Mozart’s Overture to “The Abduction from the Seraglio,” she had costumes, too.

Calling Beethoven’s Fifth his declaration that losing his hearing was not going to curtail his musical genius, and throwing in the trivia that when Samuel Morse used dot-dot-dot-dash for “V” in his famous code, he was reiterating that da-da-da-dum as a cry of victory, made the oft-played symphony more meaningful.

It also seemed that all the musicians were at the top of their game, paying homage to one of the greatest composers of all time.

Once in a while, when music is intensely beautiful, I catch a tear gliding down my cheek. It happened twice Sunday, once on the Beethoven, and again on the Gershwin, which incorporated some of the most dominant trends in American music in the young man’s (only about 25 at the time) first major orchestral work. That, by the way, is a record for me.

On Sunday, Anderson decided to introduce Joel Levin, principal of the Violin II section, who, with his wife, Melanie, is in his 21st season with Music in the Mountains. Levin, also the personnel manager of the orchestra, said one reason they come back was personified by a newspaper clipping posted on a cash register he had seen that day.

He said it was called Neighbors, but it should be Friends, because that’s who all the folks at Music in the Mountains are, musicians, staff members, concertgoers and supporters. Hmm, that will require some pondering. Is it time for a name change after 13 years?

Before I forget, there are about 10 days left before the winning raffle ticket for the $2,000 gift certificate at Star Liquors will be drawn, and one lucky person will be throwing a helluva party. Or, in my case, taking Dom Perignon as a hostess gift for some time to come.

Tickets are $20 or six for $100, and they are only selling 1,500 tickets, so the odds are in your favor. Tickets are available at all Music in the Mountains concerts, at the festival office at 1063 Main Ave., during business hours or by calling 385-6820.

This is the third year in a row that Stan and Alice Crapo have been generous enough to make this donation.

Go ticket No. 215!


Celebrating another year of loving each other despite the challenges are Melinda Riter and Dan Martin, Mike and Marie Davidson, Jeff and Sari Brown and Jack and Mary Irby.


Here’s how to reach me: neighbors@durangoherald.com; phone 375-4584; mail items to the Herald; or drop them off at the front desk. Please include contact names and phone numbers for all items.

Photos for Neighbors must be high quality.

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