The Dolores area experienced successes and controversy in 2017.
Ron Kotarski Jr. playground closesThe story that got the most attention in Dolores was the closing of the popular Ron Kotarski Jr., playground in Joe Rowell Park.
Following a tour by the Town Board and staff on Sept. 11, the board unanimously voted to close the 16-year old playground, citing equipment safety concerns. The town said that despite its best efforts, the rapid deterioration and weathering of the mostly wood structures made it difficult and too expensive to keep up with maintenance.
Town trustees have since voted to tear the playground down, pending approval from Great Outdoors Colorado, which contributed a $100,000 grant for the project 16 years ago.
The decision to close the playground was questioned by many residents, and they packed several town meetings to voice their concerns.
Dolores schools get a clinicIn September, the Dolores school district received a $478,000 grant from the Colorado Health Foundation to build an on-campus health clinic.
Lightning caused wildfiresThe Dolores area had a few fires this summer and fall.
The East Rim Fire was triggered by lightning July 2 on Bureau of Land Management and U.S. and Forest Service land on the east rim of the Dolores River Canyon, 10 miles northeast of Dove Creek. By July 12, it had grown to 700 acres. At one point, 77 people were assigned to the fire. In late August, the Secret Canyon Fire burned 115 acres in a remote areas of the Dolores River Canyon, 9 miles east of Dove Creek. About 60 firefighters, including hand crews, five fire engines, a water tender and a helicopter, initially were assigned to the fire. The Draw Fire in early September in the Boggy Draw area 8 miles northeast of Dolores consumed a total of about 1,400 acres in an area bordered by Forest Roads 528 and 527.
Lower Dolores River ran hugeAbove-average snowpack last winter triggered a rarely seen extended whitewater release on the Dolores River in 2017 below McPhee Dam that lasted 85 days. An estimated 24,000 boaters flocked to the 200 miles of river between March 29 and mid-June, with 56,000 visitor days. For about 10 days, the river ran at a thrilling 2,000 cubic feet per second, only to be outdone by a first-ever 4,000 cfs release for three days in mid-May.
Bear ordinanceIn August, to protect people and bears, the Dolores Town Board passed an emergency ordinance requiring bear-resistant trash containers for all residents and businesses in town. Since the beginning of July, five bears have been raiding trash bins in town, said Montezuma County Sheriff Steve Nowlin, and officials want to stop the habit before it becomes a bigger problem.