Soap Box

E-bikes need to be properly vetted

To the editor,

Your recent story (“Dirty Talk,” Aug. 15) on the Trump Administration’s efforts to motorize the backcountry by allowing e-bikes on nonmotorized trails missed the mark on a number of key points and raises a lot of questions.

Let’s be clear, e-bikes are motorized vehicles. “Class 1, Class 2, Class 3, pedal-assist,” this is all simply industry jargon designed to obfuscate the truth at the center of this debate. These bikes have motors. Opening nonmotorized trails to e-bikes is opening nonmotorized trails to motors.

The conservation community welcomes e-bike use on federal public lands. There are already thousands of miles of world-famous motorized roads and trails on federal public lands open for e-bike use. For example, our own Hermosa Creek trail offers great opportunities for e-bikes. Furthermore, your article was correct that e-bikes are a great climate-and family friendly way to get around town. They are also a great way to get older folks and the disabled outdoors on bikes. The conservation community fully supports these uses. However, that’s not what is being debated here.

For generations, we’ve agreed that there should be some wild places on public lands left free from motorization. Places where people and wildlife can find refuge from the speed and chaos of the modern world. Allowing e-bikes on nonmotorized trails will undermine those important values and essentially motorize the majority of our remaining wild lands.

If the e-bike industry and their lobby engine want access to trails that are currently designated as nonmotorized trails, they should go through a public process, where other trail users like hikers, horse packers and  sportsmen have an opportunity to evaluate the impacts e-bikes have on their trail experiences. Sadly, we understand that e-bike industry and lobby groups have met secretly with agency officials and pushed the Trump Administration to ignore the rules and pretend that e-bikes aren’t motorized. 

E-bikes are motorized vehicles and should be managed accordingly. They should be welcomed on our public lands, but through a public and deliberative process that determines when and where they are appropriate.

– Michael Carroll, Senior Director - People Outdoors Program, The Wilderness Society, Durango

Urge approval of 32nd St. bridge

To the editor,

Please call the Durango mayor @ 970-749-6477 to insist that the City Council fund in the 2020 budget the bridge for pedestrian and bike safety to finish the Animas River Trail North.

The long-planned bridge across the river is designed to protect the public from car and pedestrian interaction at 32nd Street at grade level. Since 2011, Council has always planned for public safety with no grade-level crossings at 32nd Street, which is the second busiest street in the city until NOW!

The Multi Modal Board supported the bridge in an email to Council to avoid at-grade crossing on the Animas River Trail North, writing “The pedestrian bridge remains vital to the spirit and intent of the ART and the safety of our citizens.”

AARP in a recent article stated, “The number of pedestrians killed by vehicles rose 35 percent in the past decade – and the death rate is almost twice as high for people over 75.”

In a grant request signed by City Councilor Kim Baxter to Greater Outdoor Colorado, it stated the Animas River Trail is needed for connectivity and will allow for increased pedestrian and bike accessibility and safety. Increasing safety concerns were articulated in the grant with the bridge. The city received $1.3 million from GOCO and stands to lose a minimum of $500,000 if the bridge is eliminated.

Small children, parents with strollers, and dogs and families without the bridge will be in danger. The public will leave a 10-foot-wide sidewalk at Memorial Park to walk across a 5-foot-wide existing sidewalk on the 32nd Street Bridge to arrive at the ART North. This is unacceptable because the volume on the trail will increase once the North

trail opens. There will always be Parks and Rec projects that need money. It is unwise to rob Peter to pay Paul and place pedestrians in danger by not funding the bridge.

Mollie Shine rode her bike on 32nd Street and was killed by a vehicle decades ago. How much is a child’s life worth? Priceless is my answer.

Call the mayor by September to protect the public by funding the bridge in the 2020 City Council budget!

– Sweetie Marbury, Durango

Trump's hate comes home to roost

To the editor,

The chickens have come home to roost on Donald Trump’s version of American greatness.

For years, Trump’s stock in trade has been promotion of fear, anger and resentment, and demonization of the “other.” The logical outcome of this is hatred, which all too often leads to violence.

Preferred targets have been Muslims and people fleeing violence & poverty in Central America, hoping for a
safer, better life in America. But Trump calls them an invasion of vermin, rapists & criminals. Trump has given a wink, wink, nudge, nudge to white supremacist hate groups.

Trump has been busy stoking these attitudes this summer. At a May campaign rally in Florida, he asked how do we stop the invasion. Someone in the audience yelled, “Shoot them.” Others laughed. Trump joked that “only in the panhandle” can you get away with that.

In July he was busy attacking four uppity young congresswomen of color, telling them to go back where they came from. At a campaign rally that week, his stoked-up crowd started chanting, “Send her back, send her back... ,” targeting one of the four congresswomen who wasn’t born in the U.S. Trump did nothing to tamp this down. Then at the end of July, Trump took aim at Baltimore and its black congressman Elijah Cummings.

But all through this, Hispanics from south of the border have been Trump’s most consistent target. On Aug. 2- 3 we had two horrific mass shootings, in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio. A young white supremacist drove several hours to El Paso to target Hispanics.

Trump responded Aug. 5 with a scripted speech that called out hatred and white supremacists. He called the El Paso shooter evil. It sounded good, but how long will it take him to get back to promoting fear, anger and hatred? It’s who he is.

– Carole McWilliams, Bayfield

Vets to get Agent Orange benefits

To the editor,

Blue Water Navy veterans who served in Vietnam are now entitled to a presumption of service for conditions related to Agent Orange exposure. This is a result of the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019. Signed into law June 25, the law takes effect Jan, 1, 2020.

The law states that Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard veterans aboard a vessel operating not more than 12 nautical miles seaward from the demarcation line of the waters of Vietnam and Cambodia between Jan. 9, 1962 - May 7, 1975 are presumed to have been exposed to herbicides such as Agent Orange and may be entitled to service connection for conditions related to that exposure.

To be entitled for disability compensation, veterans must have one or more of the conditions associated with Agent Orange exposure.

The surviving spouse of a Blue Water Navy veteran may apply for survivor’s benefits if the veteran passed away from a condition related to Agent Orange.

It is recommended that all Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard veterans (and surviving spouses) who were previously classified as Blue Water Navy veterans who served off the coast of Vietnam contact their local County Veterans Service Officer for more information about the claims process.

The La Plata County Veterans Service Office provides information and assistance to veterans and their families so they can maximize their quality of life, well-being and potential. There is a wide range of benefits available. These services are free of charge. Please visit the La Plata County website at for more info.

The La Plata County Veterans Service Office is co-located with the Durango VA Clinic at 1970 E. 3rd Ave., Suite 102. For appointments, call 970-247-2214. The Veterans Service Office phone number is 970-759-0117. Office hours are 8 a.m. – 12 noon and 1 p.m. - 5 p.m., Monday – Friday, except holidays.

– Richard Schleeter, La Plata County Veterans Services

Fascism: the real American enemy

To the editor,

It is too hard to express how deeply I was impacted by the El Paso murders. I was an immigrant to New Mexico in 1983, and I lived there until moving to Durango in 2012. Despite the quirky, quasi New Age “anglo” that I was, I was welcomed by the wonderful, homespun people in New Mexico.

There were the people of New Mexico and there were the nomads – homeless white folk looking for love in all the wrong ways and thinking they could make a better planet when they only wanted to make it better for themselves. The people of New Mexico permitted that. The

“native anglos” and those who were Hispanic opened their home, their Land of Enchantment, to us.

It was obvious from the place names, architecture, strength of the Catholic religion that we were the immigrants. It was also part of our acculturation to learn that; to understand why the “mixed culture” was the way it was and to treasure the harmony of the three races that blossomed in our beloved state.

On Aug. 1, the Telegraph printed an excellent letter about Donald Trump’s racist behavior against blacks on the East Coast, citing government convictions he was not an equal opportunity renter and revealing he had blacks “cleared” from the Atlantic City casino floor.

Then, a lone white man opened fire in El Paso, targeting Hispanics. I immediately heard so much talk about immigrants and how anti-immigrant rhetoric had been ratcheted up to this pernicious level, that I didn’t come to my senses until seeing the victims’ photos. This deranged serial killer didn’t shoot “unwanted” immigrants, he shot American citizens and tourists.

In picture after picture of the seven dead Mexicans, I saw neat and trim, bourgeoisie, well-fed, respectable types who, I dare say, drove legally through customs and were welcomed into this country to spend their money.

This is not an immigrant issue. Border cities want this business. These tourists pay taxes, patronize restaurants and look to have some good, clean fun. Go to El Paso and tell me who the latecomers are, who the aliens are. The only race of sufficient numbers to constitute an immigrant population in El Paso is white.

I resent hate-filled white men attempting to portray all us white Americans as some master race (however imperfectly we master ourselves). If this is what they believe, stewing in this melting pot that made America great, this is not where they belong. The allegiance we all pledged to America ends with freedom and justice for all.

I am sickened that hard-working, school supply-shopping Americans can be gunned down in the store and “talking heads” on television can only conceive it as an immigrant issue. This is nothing less than a gross insult to hard-working, taxpaying Americans. Is it any less insulting to the gunned-down Mexican tourists? We owe Mexico an apology. How can its citizens be murdered and it be spun a strictly American issue?

We are on the verge of throwing our beautiful Southwest into a land of fear and terror, with all the subsequent economic fallout. Hispanics and anglos live together in comparative harmony in the Southwest, appreciating each other, laughing with each other, helping each other. Hispanics can walk in the Southwest with heads up, proud, rooted in their families, culture and their homeland. This is what they deserve, even before considering the high percentage of them who are veterans.

But I don’t hear the right people, the people with the real power, saying that. I hear them saying, “They’re not one of us.”

I have read of when the Irish were “not one of us.” I have read the same of the Polish and the Italians. When World War II was threatening, there was talk the Germans weren’t one of us. Should they have been put in concentration camps?

I have read of people in power wanting to label those who “fight” fascism as “terrorists.” Who are the terrorists in this country? Who kills the most innocents? Let’s not forget Timothy McVeigh. Is it terrorism our white elite is fighting or is the terrorist label being continually broadened against anyone opposed to the fascist agenda?

When my stepmother was taking her citizenship test in the ’70s, there was a question meant to filter World War II fascists. For whatever reason that is still in place and pertinent. Fascism is inherently un-American! We must stop these mentally ill people, for this illness is not only a proven contagion, it has always proven malignant.

How can I stay true to my pledge of allegiance without letting all flirting with fascism know they should go back where they came from: last century.

– Philippe LeFevre, Durango