Hope that turned to heartbreak characterized the story that The Durango Herald editors and reporters picked as the top news of 2013.
The mystery surrounding 13-year-old Dylan Redwine, who went missing the day after he arrived for a Thanksgiving visit with his father in 2012, brought out community search parties and ongoing tips and reports of sightings from an anxious public. But the worst fears were realized when searchers found bones – which DNA showed to be Dylan’s – seven months later on a mountainside north of Vallecito.
Dylan’s parents, Mark Redwine and Elaine (now Elaine Hatfield), were divorced, and she lives in the Colorado Springs area. Dylan, by court order, was to spend the 2012 Thanksgiving break at his father’s house three miles north of Vallecito Reservoir. He arrived Nov. 18.
Mark Redwine said Dylan was asleep when he left the house early the next morning to run errands. When he returned four hours later Dylan was not there. The case attracted the attention of national news organizations and brought numerous interviews, including a two-part appearance of his parents on the “Dr. Phil Show.” La Plata County Sheriff’s investigators continue to follow leads in the case, which has not publicly identified suspects.
Here’s the rest of the staff’s Top 10:
2. Recreational marijuana
The Dylan mystery was far in front of the runner-up story – the immediate move by Colorado cities and counties to manage the sale of recreational marijuana, which was approved by voters in November 2012. A decade earlier, voters said it was OK to sell marijuana for medicinal uses.
La Plata County and city of Durango officials are grappling with the issues common throughout the state in regard to regulating the new industry. They must decide issues regarding cultivation, a licensing authority, the number of retail outlets allowed and qualification to operate a shop.
The sale of marijuana is a criminal offense under federal law. But the U.S. Justice Department said in August it will not intervene if states meet certain standards regarding keeping the product away from organized criminal groups, children and other states.
3. West Fork fires
Three lightning-sparked fires spanned the Continental Divide to eventually consume 109,000 acres in the San Juan and Rio Grande national forests and on private land. They closed U.S. Highway 160 for a time and forced the evacuation of the town of South Fork.
Beetle-killed spruce in the Weminuche Wilderness fed the West Fork Fire northeast of Pagosa Springs. The other fires were the Papoose south of Creede and Windy Pass near the Wolf Creek Ski Area.
Firefighters were on the scene for six weeks.
4. Grocery bag fee
Durango residents in the November election repealed a city ordinance that would have charged shoppers 10 cents for each plastic or paper checkout stand bag at four grocery stores.
Anti-bag fee forces mobilized quickly after the city passed the ordinance, collecting signatures to put the matter before voters, who annulled the ordinance by 56 percent to 44 percent.
The short-lived ordinance could be resurrected. Mayor Dick White said after the November election that once the larger issue of waste management is settled, the council could again take up the bag fee.
5. Firearm limitations
Opponents of gun control recalled two state legislators who supported such measures. But they failed to get enough signatures to put the name of Rep. Mike McLachlan, D-Durango, before voters.
McLachlan, serving his first term, voted to limit magazine capacity to 15 rounds and expand background checks to private gun sales.
Voters in Pueblo removed Sen. Angela Giron, and Senate president John Morse lost his seat in Colorado Springs.
6. Deadly avalanches
Backcountry avalanches killed a young Durango man and a former resident of the city a month apart.
Peter Carver, 23, was swept away by an avalanche about 1½ miles north of Gladstone, a ghost town near Silverton, on Feb. 2. One companion was injured while another escaped injury.
A month to the day after Carver’s death, Joseph Philpott, 26, was caught in an avalanche in Paradise Bowl near Cameron Pass in north-central Colorado.
Philpott, a wildland firefighter, was reared in Durango. He was a junior majoring in forestry at Colorado State University.
7. Weather watch
Violent storms spread havoc over a wide expanse of La Plata County in September at the same time the Front Range was being buffeted by deadly storms.
Tons of mud, boulders and other debris from the Red Cliffs cascaded twice onto East Animas Road (County Road 250), closing it to all but residents. The second slide wiped out the work of repairs from the first storm four days earlier.
Access also was severed on Florida Road (County Road 240) and County Road 501 that connects Bayfield and Vallecito.
In Marvel, ping pong-sized hail broke windshields and house windows, left vehicles pockmarked and flattened home gardens and landscaping.
8. Aalands out
Chris and Shelly Aaland, fixtures at Fort Lewis College, were fired in April.
She was a four-year letter-winner in volleyball at FLC and coached the sport for 10 years there.
He spent more than 20 years as an FLC employee after graduating in 1991. Among his duties were sports information director, director of communications and publications and director of alumni relations.
College officials, citing personnel issues, said nothing publicly beyond that the couple were no longer employed there. The Aalands have not commented publicly either.
9. Paying price for perjury
Suzanne Garcia, convicted of lying to a grand jury investigating the death of her husband, Ted Garcia, was sentenced to six years in prison.
Prosecutors said she lied to protect her brother, Joseph Dernoga, who was charged with and later pleaded guilty to killing Garcia.
Suzanne Garcia, 43, was convicted of eight counts of perjury, one count of tampering with a witness and one count of contributing to the delinquency, the last two charges for coaching a daughter to lie.
10. Oxbow issues
The months-old discussion by interest groups and hearings by city commissions on how to manage the Oxbow Park and Preserve on the Animas River just north of Durango, is ready for review by city councilors.
All but about 6 of the 43 acres have been set aside for a wildlife preserve. But use of the 6 acres for recreation, including swimming, picnicking and launching rafts and inner tubes has generated hot debate.
City councilors will have to decide how to balance the concerns of commercial rafting companies, recreation-minded members of the public and nearby homeowners who worry over parking, trespassing, rowdy conduct and hours of operation.