From Darkness To Light

8 Aug 2012

Deed for Telegraph Trail system granted despite Pautsky’s heavy machinery getting monkey wrenched

Posted by Adam Howell

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This story is a tribute to the generosity of Noel Pautsky.

This is the meadow where Oakridge Energy owns land that Noel Pautsky wanted to develop into a golf course.

Back in the days before the Telegraph Trail existed with its connection to a system of trails coming across the Fruitland Outrcrop and Grandview Ridge, a man named Noel Pautsky had his own personal driving range in Horse Gulch.

It’s still there, actually.

Apart from its close proximity to town, Pautsky’s driving range from a knoll just south of the Meadow Loop was fairly primitive and undeveloped without the grasses, greens and watering systems that you would find on a traditional golf course. It was totally undeveloped and Pautsky’s construction foreman simply laid a piece of carpet down at the top as a makeshift platform.

At the same time, Pautsky had both the plans (City of Durango Ewing Mesa Area Plan) and the infrastructure in mind for developing much of this surrounding land into 167 acres of greens that could be used on a more year-round basis.

In the works was a plan for pumping water up to this meadow from theAnimas River where he had water rights. Pautsky was in the process of grading the southeast corner of Horse Gulch where much of this water would be used.

Golf course grading operation monkey wrenched

Machinery was being used and staged on site during this project—that is, until some activists on mountain bikes made plans for some monkey wrenching to keep Horse Gulch more primitive.

Horses in the meadow at Horse Gulch

Trails 2000’s Board President Daryl Crites is one of the fewer people around Durango who knows Pautsky’s story of strife and generosity—and is willing to tell it on the record.

“He was in the process of grading in the golf course there by the old meadow loop. He had blocked that old meadow loop trail. He had two great big huge bulldozers back in there and maybe a big shovel. His foreman went over there one day and that’s when he saw they had been monkey wrenched. They had dirt down in the gas tanks, hydraulic hoses cut, all the gauges were bashed in with rocks and just a lot of damage. Unfortunately there were bike tracks right up to it.”

Crites was bummed about it, and described Pautsky as being “hopping mad” about someone sabotaging his machinery.

The timing of the sabotage could not have been worse—Pautsky was about to sign a trail deed with the County for a right-of-way within a trail corridor across Oakridge Energy’s property, said Crites.

Liability concerns with people trespassing

Back in the days of active coal mining on Ewing Mesa, people used to hike and bike across it with disregard for their own safety there, giving Pautsky reason to be concerned. That’s when Crites said that Pautsky asked him for help.

“The old ranch road that the people were using came right down through the mine. That’s when he knew I was on the Board with Trails 2000, and that’s when he came to me to say, ‘Daryl you’ve got to help me solve this trespassing problem. I’ve got more and more people that are trespassing on my property, and hopefully you can use your trails group to get the word out that that’s not ok, and tell them to quit doing it.’”

Crites mulled the problem that Pautsky had with trespassers on his property, and then got Trails 2000’s first Director Bill Manning involved in the discussion. They started asking Pautsky some questions about the possibility of putting some public trails across his private property that would be acceptable and would route people away from the mines.

“Well what’s the problem with having some trails back there? What’s the issue? Is there a way we can work out some easements,” Crites asked in his discussion with Pautsky.

That’s when Pautsky said he was against the idea of having trails built across his land due to the liability of people getting hurt on his land and suing him.

Pautsky’s fear was based upon personal experience.

In 1995, some guy rode his bike from Horse Gulch onto Oakridge Energy property before taking the Ewing Mesa Road down towards the gate at the entrance to the property. Only problem was that it was dark and he could not see the cable going across the road with a “No Trespassing” sign on it that was meant to serve as a gate. The man clothes lined himself, got hurt, and shortly thereafter tried to sue Pautsky, despite the fact that he was illegally trespassing on private property.

Someone refaced this County sign at the bottom of Horse Gulch with this monkey. Since then it has been removed.

Fast forward to 1997, when Pautsky was all finished with the legal negotiations with the County and ready to sign the trail deed. Someone monkey wrenches his dozers that are being used to grade the terrain for the golf course.

After all of the previous liability problems and this news of vandalism on the property, the chances of him signing the trail deed suddenly eroded away.

Crites was one of the fewer people that knew what Pautsky was going through at the time. Crites knew that this event could be a deal breaker for granting the public access. He recollected those conversations with Pautsky over the phone.

“He said that ‘obviously it was some trail users, bicyclists, who had done that, so forget that, I’m not dedicating the trails,’” Crites said.

“We were all ready to go. We had all of the documents, all detailed. That kind of stuff,” said Crites. “So it was pretty upsetting.”

A change of heart in favor of the community of Durango

“I don’t know how long it was. It might have been a week; it might have been a month. But, at some time later after he had had time to think about it, and cool off, and get past that, he gave me a call at work one day and said something. I’m pretty sure his comments were “I’m not going to let a couple of stupid kids destroy and ruin everything we’ve worked so hard to put together. It’s still the right thing to do for the community. I’ve thought about it. I’m ok. Let’s go ahead and get over it. I’ll sign the documents tomorrow and dedicate them to the public,” Crites said about Pautsky. “And that was a good day.”

1998 Trail Deed between Oakridge Energy and La Plata County Commissioners

Five months later, Flem Noel Pautsky died in Durango,Colorado. He was buried in his resting place and home town of Wichita Falls,Texas. This story is a tribute and memorial to the generosity and righteousness of Pautsky in donating a trail deed to our community despite all of the ideological, financial, bureaucratic and land-development adversity that he was faced with during his final years.

Pautsky’s granddaughter Chi Chi Ray Miller, and former Trails 2000 Director Bill Manning declined to go on the record for this story.

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3 Responses to “Deed for Telegraph Trail system granted despite Pautsky’s heavy machinery getting monkey wrenched”

  1. Great story, thanks. I just ran there today and was looking to see if there was a name for the hill that is south of the bench at the high point on Telegraph, since I had hiked to the top of it, after running up. I saw “Pautsky Point” on the map and Googled it.

    Bummer that vandals thought that wrecking equipment is a legit form of protest, and kudos to Mr. Pautsky for going ahead with it in spite of it. A very fun parcel of recreational property.



  2. That hill and ridge line that’s south of the bench at the pass has some amazing vegetation and views. I’m glad you enjoyed the story.

    I’m hoping that the people at Oakridge Energy will some day sign a conservation easement for the properties at the south end of the meadow, and even those on top of the ridge line/Fruitland Outcrop, as they have amazing value to our community.

    Plus, that ridge line would be a sketchy place for people to be living due to the H2S and methane gas seaps that are prevalent in that geographic formation.


    Adam Howell

  3. Sandra Pautsky daughter of Noel Pautsky was my friend. I told her: I knew you when you were rich, then poor, then rich agin — you were always the same. There should be more with the ethics of these two, both now deceased a missed by many.

    delores emmett jones


    delores emmett jones

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