Keep the emphasis on soft and green

Wednesday, April 10, 2013 9:44 AM

Note: This is an Editorial that was published on June 25, 2004.

Making Buckley Park more amenable to families and visitors is a worthwhile idea. Locals eating lunch or visitors waiting for the trolley should not have to choose between grass stains or sitting on a stump.

But any efforts to revamp the park should tread lightly. Downtown Durango needs all the green it can keep.

The impetus to improve the park comes from the High Noon Rotary Club. Some of its members approached the park's owner, Durango School District 9-R, a couple of years ago with the idea of upgrading the park. A year ago they presented the district with plans drawn up by architect Dean Brookie.

Last week, the city's Parks and Forestry Advisory Board looked at the plans. Under the three-way deal being discussed, the city would take over maintenance of the restructured park.

Brookie's plan is imaginative and attractive. It should be seen, however, as a starting point for discussion. Not all of its features may be needed or desirable -- especially in a park that means so much to so many.

Buckley Park lies between 12th Street and 13th Street on the east side of Main Avenue. It is across the street from the Herald and next door to the School District 9-R administration building. The property was part of the campus of the original Durango High School.

Until 1985, the land was simply known as part of the old high school. In that year, it was officially named after Warren and Wendell Buckley, brothers who had been principals of Durango High School and Smiley Junior High respectively. The renaming effort was spearheaded by members of the DHS class of '65. Warren Buckley retired that year and led that class's graduation march.

In the 1970s, it became known as a spot for high school students and their friends to smoke dope. For that, it picked up the nickname Stoner Park.

But throughout its history, Buckley Park has remained a simple park -- an open area of trees and grass. Its uses have varied, but its appearance has changed little. From impromptu ball games to craft fairs and art shows to just relaxing on the grass, the park has afforded locals and visitors alike a much-needed bit of downtown open space.

And it is green. Seen from an elevated perch, Durango's residential neighborhoods give meaning to the term "urban forest." Durango's downtown, however, is principally the color of pavement.

Buckley Park is a welcome respite from that. Any plan to improve it should take care to respect that.

The park could certainly use more seating, whether for tourists waiting for the trolley or downtown workers enjoying an outdoor lunch.

Turning the park's upkeep over to the city also makes sense. Unlike the school district, it is in the park business.

But the plan also needs a good hard look with an eye toward preserving what is best about the existing park. Do we really need an information kiosk? A fountain? An amphitheater?

The answer may be "yes," but reducing the scope and cost of the plan could also speed its completion. The projected price tag is of the current design is between $500,000 and $750,000 -- all of which the Rotary will have to raise. That number and the fund-raising effort could both be reduced if there was less concrete to buy.