Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Opinions: The Animas River Dilemma

The following article appeared in The Durango Herald on Sunday February 12, 2012.  It was written by our friend and neighbor, Sam Burns, concerning the Animas River Management Plan and the craziness that is the 33rd street river put-in.  This area is just about 500 feet north of our new house so Björn and I have taken an interest in the development and management of this area.  Durning the summer months our quiet neighborhood street becomes a carnival of rafting buses, tourists, and individual tubers.  While many river users are respectful and wonderful, there are also many who are not so neighborly.  Our street fills with cars, people changing in our front yards and even using our property as a restroom or trash receptacle.  

Durango Parks and Recreation has held several meetings in the last few months in order to get the input of the community to come up with a river management plan.  Björn and I have been involved in these meetings as we have a desire to see our put-in developed to work better for everyone but also to preserve valuable riparian habitat and to encourage respectful use by everyone.  As you can see from Sam's article the commercial rafters have pit themselves against adjacent property owners in order to create drama and a rift between the two groups.  The next workshops are this week and I hope that we can attend to make sure our voices and ideas are heard!
The 33rd Street put-in, just up from our house via Jane Gurstenburger

A shared asset

Access not only societal issue with Animas River

In a recent Opinion piece by (“A river runs through it,” Herald, Jan. 15) Andy Corra, owner of 4Corners Riversports, pits public interests against the so-called private concerns of neighborhoods and citizens adjacent to the Animas River. This is unfortunate.
It is an overblown argument based on the narrow concept of “recreational access” to the river, coupled with an attempt to make private property owners the enemies of river users. Corra’s arguments are unfair, uncollaborative and unneighborly. We believe most people are not in favor of turning the river banks, the meadows, the streets, and the riparian corridor into a wide-open, unsupervised playground.
As residents of this community, we are not merely interested in property rights. We are also concerned about traffic safety, healthy recreation, conservation of natural resources and acceptable social behavior as measured by the norms of a just and inclusive society.
Nevertheless, we are not interested in dozens of noisy buses with trailers piled high with rafts, loud music, rigging crafts in the street, open containers and overcrowding of selected put-ins and take-outs. Discovering the river as Corra suggests is quite acceptable, but let’s not surround the Animas River with a carnival-like atmosphere.
Furthermore, when did safety, peace and quiet, healthy, sustainable behavior, and neighborliness become mere private-property interests? If we are not mistaken, all those concerns have clearly been and still are in the public interest. If they are not, why do we insist on parking and traffic rules; on not locating liquor stores near schools; on adequate seating capacity at public entertainment venues and other appropriate guidance of social behaviors?
Rather than demonizing those us who have legitimate concerns about overcrowding, turning a neighborhood street into a commercial venue, and exceeding the capacity of an important natural asset, how about considering us as a part of the public, also?
The concerns that have been portrayed by Corra as only private-property interests are not merely about access to the Animas River of squeezing high volumes of vehicles, aquatic equipment and staging activities into limited spaces, some of which happen to be amid long-standing neighborhoods on virtually dead-end streets, as is the case at the 33rd Street put-in.
The craziness at the 33rd Street put-in
 via Jane Gurstenburger

The Animas River Corridor Management Plan is a new opportunity to work in a collaborative manner to arrive at positive solutions that serve broad public interests in sustainable recreation opportunities, as well as healthy neighborhoods and the natural resources of the river and its environs. Let’s try to work together, by not painting the legitimate social concerns of people who live along the river day in and day out as narrow-minded and selfish.
Enjoy the Animas River as we all do. Take pleasure in all its attributes, and respect all the public interests. In which case, we will all be better off as a community, and the Animas River will be sustained for a thousand years.
Sam Burns is a resident of Animas City near the Animas River put-in off East Third Avenue north of 32nd Street. Reach him at burns2 @frontier.net

Snowdown Recap 2012
As I wrote a week ago, Once Upon A Snowdown came to Durango.  Björn and I were able to participate in a few of the activities and we even scored tickets to the last show on Saturday night of the Follies.  The show was fantastic, so funny and creative!  I had such a good time that I told Björn that next year I would love to be in the show!  

Images via The Durango Herald


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