Soap Box

It's time to hit 'go' on 32nd bridge
09/26/2019

To the editor,

As the City revisits the long-developed vision of a connected, traffic-separated Animas River Trail, it is important to understand the history that brought us here. Large projects bringing change to neighborhoods are often controversial, and the ART is no exception. While the trail as a whole seems universally embraced – cited in many surveys as the crown jewel of our park system – individual sections receive scrutiny and criticism as they are planned and built. None more so than 32nd Street to Oxbow.

Over 15, years this section was planned, modified and developed with an incredibly inclusive process that involved numerous meetings attended by hundreds of citizens. These included professionally mediated study sessions, paid consultants and literally thousands of person hours. While contentious at times, a community consensus was reached and a plan developed. What was never controversial was that the ART be linked to as many neighborhoods as possible, with no “at grade” crossings, allowing one to traverse the city without the fear of vehicle traffic. You can do this today from 32nd Street south to Home Depot.

Our latest section of the ART – 32nd Street north to the beautiful Oxbow Park and Preserve – is nearing completion. To link this with our existing trail will require an investment in the crossing of 32nd Street (the second busiest city street), the railroad tracks and the river. This bridge is designed, in the 2020 City budget (funded by the 1⁄2 cent sales tax for parks, recreation and multimodal projects, overwhelmingly re-authorized in 2015 by over 70 percent of voters), supported and funded with almost $500,000 of state of Colorado lottery money through Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO), and ready to go.

It will allow kids and adults to travel from points north  to Riverview Middle School, Durango High School, the Recreation Center, downtown and points south, without fear of traffic interaction. This project was approved by our previous City Council and was recently recommended for approval to our current City Council, with a 6-0 vote of the Multimodal and 6-1 vote of the Parks and Recreation citizen advisory boards. This is a strong indication that the community still supports the original ART and multi-modal vision to “create a fully connected transportation network that provides for an outstanding transit, bicycling and walking community in Durango. A measure of achieving this vision is that a middle school-aged child is able to safely and conveniently access transit and bike or walk independently throughout Durango and its environs.

As parents who raised a child north of 32nd Street, we can tell you first hand it is dangerous. Our son was well equipped to ride his bike to school alone when very young, but, because of the busy street crossing, we were not able to allow this. Even now, as a high schooler, he has stories of cars ignoring the flashing lights at the current crossing. I know of a friend’s dog who was run over as a car sped through the flashing crosswalk; and another of a biker losing his teeth when struck by a car there. Beyond abandoning the long-developed plan, there are real risks to not connecting the ART.

As our new council prepares to approve the 2020 budget, there is concern that the 32nd Street bridge crossing is being re-visited. While many interests compete for dedicated sales tax funding, we need to understand that building this connection does not come at the expense of other projects. While a downtown Camino del Rio crossing and eventual connection to Three Springs are equally important, these projects are not ready to go. If we fail now to fund 32nd Street, it is likely never to be built (it will never be cheaper). We have then abandoned a traffic-separated ART and it becomes easier to abandon future difficult sections and GOCO funds would have to be returned. 32nd Street is ready to go: let’s check it off the list, improve public safety, accessibility and community connectivity. Next up will be the downtown Camino crossing.

We encourage Council to move forward with the long-developed community vision for the ART. Don’t be the ones to kill what is widely recognized as our best community asset; invest in our town’s future and respect our community’s vision, your advisory boards and the broader communities’ wishes. Connect the trail.

– Janet Wiley and Andy Corra, North End city residents

A disgusting mess at Cascade
09/26/2019

To the editor,

A tractor-trailer overturned and burned on the evening of Aug. 22 on Highway 550 at the hairpin turn over Cascade Creek. The fire department and hazmat teams responded very quickly to put out the fire and clean up the diesel spill from the trucks fuel tanks. The wrecked truck was removed about a week later. However, there is still a large pile of truck engine/body parts, charred tires and other junk sitting on the side of the road as of this writing. Why hasn’t this been cleaned up? The rainwater is starting to wash the junk into the creek. It would take about an hour with a front loader to scrape all the trash up and put it in a roll-off container. San Juan County and CDOT have really dropped the ball by leaving a disgusting mess next to such a beautiful creek.

– Garrett Quinn, Durango

Reduce, reuse, refill, repeat
09/19/2019

To the editor,

After my shock following viewing the documentary “Albatross” (Chris Jordan), I was excessively recharged about global effects of ubiquitous plastic. The film (watch with a google click) features the fatal effect of plastics on an albatross colony. Be prepared to force yourself to watch to the end. You probably agree there is a current ramp up for us humans surrounding single-use plastic, as there should be. The question continues, “What can we do about it?”

One of the emerging possibilities locally is a trip to the new business WeFill on North Main. This is not an advertisement – it is a statement of paradigm shift. The system: I supply the clean container, WeFill supplies the contents – all the way from dish detergent to body lotion to foot soak salts and much more. I also found bamboo toothbrushes, dental floss in little glass bottles, mesh produce bags and beyond. It’s a feel-good field trip every time I go. Heads up, however – at packing-up time, there is not a single-use plastic bag to be found anywhere ... so, well ... we all know what to do about that.

– Kathleen Adams, Durango

What kind of country is this?
09/19/2019

To the editor,

The United States of America is comprised of real estate that has been surveyed, mapped and divided into 50 distinct, individual regions that exist on the outer crust of this planet. This is where the populace resides, with addresses, zip codes, etc. Now, a 51st state has come into existence: the “State of/denial,” where most of us are right now because we cannot face the facts that are too bad to be true.

Donald Trump did not invent corruption in government, it was alive and thriving in our nation’s capital, created unwittingly by the founding fathers of this country. The genesis was when they chartered the first bank and did not include sufficient checks and balances written into the document. That was the birth of corporate America, which has evolved with the compliance of generation after generation of members of both major political parties, the pot and the kettle, into an all-powerful and corrupt system that imposes its will on our government.

Mr. Trump is a mirror image of that system, but with one boat-rocking deviation. He has changed the modus operandi from slithering silently and politely as dirty deeds are accomplished to a modus of in-your-face lying, bullying, bragging and even announcing for all to hear what dirty deed he plans next.

The composite structure and functionality of the Trump Administration, which has seamlessly become conjoined with Trump enterprises, has created a serious crisis in this country, as well as others on this planet. Trump is being allowed to rape the Constitution of the United States of Americans while being aided by the stooges, puppets and parrots that he has appointed/hired. They aid and abet criminality while drawing salaries paid by American taxpayers. The most notable example is the attorney general of this nation, who has proven to be nothing more than the president’s personal valet, shining his shoes and memorizing the script he is instructed to read. Trump has attracted several groups that seem to consider him as some sort of heroic icon. Some persons in the media not only applaud but defend his criminality, his mantra of hate and discontent, his racism and his routine disrespect of humanity. The white supremacy groups, the ultra-rich – these people are all hanging on to the president’s shirt tail. They cling tightly in spite of being dragged along through his droppings, which will leave them permanently stained and filed in the historical records of this country in a folder marked, “The Trump Years – Criminality, Hate, Discontent and Racism for Proift.”

Too bad and too sad to be true – a velvet pillow for corporate America and a bed of spikes for us. What the hell kind of a country is this? That is a very legitimate question echoing all over America – in the hallways of VA hospitals, the front desks of health clinics, the homes of mass shooting victims, homeless shelters, homes and offices of all women, the federal prison camps/cages on our southern border, and all the various locations where millions of people are suffering the agony of the opioid addiction caused by a corrupt system of conflict of interest and selective enforcement.

What the hell kind of country is this? The question burns like a wild fire while our elected politicians refuse to act. These people elected to serve the best interests of our citizenry are hiding in the dark nooks and crannies of our nation’s capital, shirking their duties as first responders to address a crisis in government. Like Nero, they fiddle with themselves while the firestorm continues, unabated. Silence is their only answer.

The question remains, perhaps to be carved in two-story-high letters as public art on Mount Rushmore, as a historical “Monument of Truth.” A monument with acres and acres of blank wall space where citizens who are screaming the question can scrawl or carve their personal experience. These stories can become answers that reflect the truth in detail for all to see exactly what this county has become.

Now, that’s a wall with a meaningful purpose.

– Peter Martin, Durango

The real king of the road
09/19/2019

To the editor,

Jesse Anderson’s opinion piece last week entitled “Bicycles are not cars” was a somewhat obfuscated attempt to justify cars rights on roadways while trying to referee a Facebook group and placate/educate local cyclists. To wit, he stated; “... my car is more important,” “I’m more of a motorist than I am a cyclist,” “... if you’re a bicycle zealot who doesn’t own a car.”

Be that as it may, what bothered me enough to write in was that he stated; “If you’re a cyclist, and you want to enjoy the privilege of sharing the road ... .” This statement reads to me that when in a car, people have a “right” that people not in cars don’t. That having a drivers license isn’t a privilege, but rather a right. That being on a road in a car IS the priority, and issues such as responsibility, humanity, courtesy and safety all come after.

And then there’s something called history (from which we often do not learn)– when in the early 1900s, pedestrians and nonmotorized conveyances were what roads were for. And only after auto/pedestrian deaths started to rise and cities like Cincinnati tried to limit motorized conveyance, did the auto industry groups introduce the “Model Municipal Traffic Ordinance” and jaywalking laws, which quickly tuned roads into motorized right-of-ways. (Read Peter Norton’s Street Rivals: Jaywalking and the Invention of the Motor Age Street).

Jesse’s article seemed to me to justify motorists having the right of way. To not be “stuck behind a bicycle,” or a “cyclist not taking up a lane of traffic,” etc. And that in closing he gave cyclists the status of being “definitely humans.” To which all I can say is, Cody’s right, “steel bumpers make quick work of aluminum wheels.”

I suggest roads are best-suited for human use, regardless of the type of conveyance. Humans are impatient,  make mistakes, are quick to judge and are fragile. I avoid cars whenever I can, on and off the road, as I do people like Cody. But I know for fact that the Codys are out there, and if I’m on my bike, I’m the one who stands to lose the most if a collision happens, whoever is at fault. Anyone not in a car but on the road is subject to the dominant paradigm, but everyone on the road is responsible. Life (& death) is the ultimate king of the road.

– Tim Thomas, Durango