Hyped out

Is it us, or is Durango appearing on a heck of a lot of “Best Of” lists recently?

Whether it’s the “Best Small Town You’ve Never Heard Of” or “The Best Place to Ski, Mountain Bike, Raft and Ride A Historic Train All in One Day” – it seems every other day the powers that be are hyping up Durango and its small-town charms.

The most recent honor, however, is worth noting, if only for its, shall we say, embellished depiction of our historic town. Last month, the website “RunRepeat” came out with “America’s 15 Most Livable Hiking Towns.” And, you guessed it, our fair city placed high atop the rankings, coming in at No. 3, only behind Boise and North Conway, N.H. We also held the special designation (if you wanna call it that) of being the only Colorado town on the list.

“We all know that Colorado is rife with, mountains, trails, and trip-worthy destinations,” RunRepeat writes. “Those like Aspen and Boulder, however, come with hoards (sic) of people, astronomical property values and little opportunity for career-type employment. Durango, on the other hand, has seen slow population growth which is cherished in these parts.”

But reading just a bit farther, one wonders where RunRepeat got its numbers.

For one, RunRepeat says Durango has seen slow growth with a population of 17,817, “which is a true feat as other Colorado locales see record growth and urbanization.”

According to the 2020 Census, however, Durango has hit a population of 19,071, a 13% increase from 2010. For the entire county, we’re now at 55,638, up about 4,300 people from a decade ago.

But that’s not all. RunRepeat then touts Durango’s affordable housing prices, listing the median property value at $383,500. Umm…. the current median property value is $650,000. We’ll just leave it at that.

We could go on (and maybe we will, just a little). Hermosa Creek is not a wilderness area, it’s a special management area; Purgatory does not offer night skiing; and you can’t just flag down the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad for a ride, you need a ticket.

Ok, that’s out of our system.

Ranting aside, perhaps the main issue is seeing Durango depicted as this idyllic, fantasy land as residents here deal with getting priced out of housing and finding jobs with livable wages, not to mention living with drought and wildfire on a regular basis. 

And, there’s a quantifiable downside to “Best Of” lists: both Rico Hot Springs and Bakers Bridge, for instance, were consistently ranked as “Places You Must Go,” despite the fact both were on private property. Still, those places were open to the public until they became overrun, and eventually, had to be shut down.

But yes, Durango is beautiful, especially if you love the outdoors and hiking – that’s the reason why most of us are here. Still, people would be well advised to do their research before pulling the trigger on that $380,000 house on the grid. It’s likely an empty lot.

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By now, you’ve probably heard of the Texas couple hiking with their infant daughter on the Purgatory Flats trail, north of Durango, who called for a search and rescue helicopter after spotting a mountain lion.

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