With River Trails Ranch on everyone’s lips, perhaps there
is no better time for this Saturday’s festival celebrating
open space and the Animas River watershed – the second
annual Bluegrass for the Animas.
“The timing, I think, is really ideal in the midst of
all the controversy around River Trails Ranch,” said Tami
Graham, executive director of Animas Conservancy, which is co-sponsoring
the event. “It gives people the opportunity to come and
experience significant open space in the Animas Valley.”
The festival features a day of live bluegrass, food and beer
and will benefit the Animas Conservancy as well as Friends of
the Animas River. The event will take place on the 120-acre
Animas Meanders Ranch – north of 32nd Street and a quarter
mile from the proposed River Trails Ranch.
“I think it’s the most spectacular concert site
in Southwest Colorado,” Graham said.
performers and vendors will be donating their services and goods,
with 100 percent of the proceeds benefiting Friends of the Animas
River and Animas Conservancy, she said.
Owners of the property, Paul and Leela Sugnet, founded Animas
Conservancy four years ago and the property was the first easement
held by the conservancy. The mission of the conservancy is to
work with landowners to conserve open space in the Animas River
watershed, primarily through conservation easements. The easements
permanently protect land from development while allowing landowners
to retain ownership, Graham said. Land trusts like Animas Conservancy
“hold” and enforce the easement guidelines for generations,
“Obviously we’re open-space advocates, especially
along the Animas River watershed, which has already been seriously
compromised by development,” Graham said.
The common mission of protecting the health and well-being
of the Animas River – as well as a shared love of music
– made for a natural partnership between the conservancy
and Friends of the Animas River, Graham said. As a former station
manager at KDUR and booking agent for the Durango Society of
|Local bluegrass band The Salty
Dogs performs at last year’s Bluegrass for the Animas.
Six acts will be taking the stage at this year’s event./Photo
Performing Arts, Graham has experience producing live music.
Likewise, Anders Beck, executive director of Friends of the
Animas River, plays Dobro and is a member of local bluegrass
bands the Salty Dogs and Broke Mountain Bluegrass Band, which
won first place in the band contest at this year’s RockyGrass
“It’s basically my two passions: music and the
environment,” Beck said. “And particularly bluegrass.”
Beck said Durango is becoming a hotbed for bluegrass, as musicians
who lived in Boulder in the ’70s and ’80s have moved
here trying to recapture that scene. He rattled off a list of
accomplished musicians in the area including Benny Galloway,
the Yonder Mountain String Band lyricist who will perform at
Bluegrass for the Animas.
“The amount of talent we have here is really something
special,” he said.
Beck added that the beauty of the local bluegrass community
is its diversity and ability to intermingle.
“One of the amazing things about bluegrass is...there’s
this repertoire of 100 to 200 songs that you’re supposed
to know,” he said. “So it doesn’t matter if
you’re a redneck, a hippie, young, old, cowboy 85 you
know it, and you can play together.
Above:Tami Graham and Leela Sugnet
at Bluegrass for the Animas, 2002. Leela and Paul Sugnet
own the 120- acre Animas Meanders Ranch, which has been
put under a conservation easement which is held by the
Animas Conservancy./Photo courtesy Tami Graham
Below: The site of the Bluegrass for the Animas festival
is on open space north of 32nd Street, near the proposed
River Trails Ranch./Photo by Todd Newcomer.
As for his other passion, the environment, Beck said Bluegrass
for the Animas is the biggest fund-raiser of the year for Friends
of the Animas River, which seeks to be a “watchdog for
the entire watershed.”
Friends of the Animas River avoids duplicating the work of
other environmental groups, so currently the group’s main
priority is eradicating invasive Russian olive trees from the
“In this corner of the world, Russian olive is the big
problem,” Beck said.
And while raising money for environmental goals is important,
Beck said that ultimately the festival is meant as a celebration.
“It’s a big party in a beautiful location –
120 acres of open space in the Animas Valley with great music
all day,” Beck said. “It’s just fun.”