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Times publishes final print edition

Weekly newspaper was founded in 1985

The Pine River Times was founded by Stephen Cannon and then-wife, Lynda, in 1985. Steve was previously a Durango Herald sports reporter. He was a dedicated newspaper professional who wanted to serve the east side of La Plata County.

He hired me in January 1987 to cover Ignacio School Board meetings, which were on Thursday nights. The Times came out on Thursday back then, and Steve wanted the evening off. After a few months, he handed the Ignacio Town Board to me because he'd had a falling out with a town official and thought it might affect his objectivity.

In April 1988, Bayfield native Ann McCoy took over the paper. As the years went on, we covered the Bayfield and Ignacio town and school boards, and Pine River Irrigation District, including PRID's efforts to create a rural domestic water system. We covered Bayfield's July 4 activities and the San Ignacio Fiesta. We covered the La Plata County Fair. We covered the Ignacio-based motorcycle rally from the beginning in the early 1990s. We covered high school sports, but not with the dedication Steve Cannon had.

We covered Amoco's (now BP) announcement in February 1988 about a coming coalbed methane boom and the benefits it would bring to the county. It sounded like hype, but the boom was real.

We covered the boom and lawsuits related to it - company efforts to block any county regulation of it, some residents' unsuccessful attempts to sue for alleged gas well damage to their water wells, and the Southern Ute Indian Tribe's lawsuit claiming ownership of the gas contained in tribal-owned coal. That case went to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled against the tribe's claim in 1999.

We covered the killing of tribal member Sadie Frost and critical wounding of her friend Shawnda Baker in early 1995, and the trials of the Durango teens that followed.

In late September 1996, there was the murder in Bayfield of three young men, the killer's flight to Greeley where he took hostage his ex-girlfriend and a roommate. The killer was taken out by a SWAT team sniper. The Times was deluged with calls from Front Range media looking for the name of the killer, when we were trying to get valid information ourselves.

Melanie Brubaker Mazur took over the Times on June 17, 2002, the day the Missionary Ridge fire storm went through Vallecito. We had no time to talk about how things had been done at the paper because of the effort to cover this huge fire.

Running a small weekly newspaper was never a way to get rich. It was a lot more of hand-to-mouth. In late October 2009, Mel announced, as we were finishing up that week's issue, that it would be our last. She announced it in print. But locals who valued their paper, and at least one angel, came forward to support us. We hung on by our fingernails.

In Thanksgiving week of 2012, our ad sales and computer design woman, Denise Hess, was contacted by her friend Elaine Redwine, whose 13-year-old son Dylan had disappeared. The word I got was that she couldn't get some in the La Plata County Sheriff's Office to take it seriously. An army of locals, including Denise, began searching along Florida Road and around Vallecito. Winter set in. They celebrated Dylan's birthday in February to keep up media attention. Law enforcement searchers found a few skeletal remains in late June 2013.

Our dear friend Denise died of colon cancer on Oct. 2, 2016, so she didn't live to see the arrest and charging of Dylan's father, Mark Redwine. He is scheduled for trial this year.

Over the years, the Times and individual staff members won many awards in the Colorado Press Association annual Better Newspaper contest, for news reporting, editorials, personal columns, layout and design, ad layout, and community service. The Times brought home the 2009 General Excellence award for its category, small weekly newspapers.

My tenure with the Times ended in spring 2017, after 30 years of local reporting.

Just after New Year's Day 2014, Melanie sold the Times to Ballantine Communications. Now, five years later, BCI has pulled the plug on the print version of the Times. We mourn the loss of our newspaper and the level of coverage we gave to our east county communities. I always looked on it as a community service. Thanks to the locals who supported the Times for so many years.

The departure of the print version of the Times is yet another nail in the coffin of America's free (and fact-based) press that Thomas Jefferson said was essential for the people to govern themselves.

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