Members of the community gathered Thursday night to discuss the proposed development of Durango Mesa Park, a grassy flat area more commonly known as Ewing Mesa.
The property in question is east of the Animas River above Highway 3. It was purchased by Durango resident Marc Katz with the intent of donating 200 acres to the county for a multi-purpose event center.
Thursday’s meeting was the first public hearing on the project. Over the summer, a master plan will be developed, with the aim of having a final plan by fall.
Ann Christensen of DHM Design called the area a “hidden gem” in Durango, which she hopes is developed in a way to promote the region’s heritage as well as bring in new economic opportunities. DHM Design, a local landscape architecture and planning firm, has been hired by the county to develop the master plan.
“It’s something that will change our experience as residents and visitors,” she said.
Preliminary ideas include setting aside 200 acres for the relocation of the La Plata County Fairgrounds. Other events, such as motor games, auto shows or kennel events, have been mentioned as possibilities.
Christensen said developers have consulted with a range of stakeholders to consider uses such as open space, hiking and biking opportunities, as well as an outdoor concert space with the option for camping.
Much of the conversation Thursday revolved around how the project would be funded. Christensen, as well as La Plata County Assistant Manager Joanne Spina, told the audience of about 40 people that the master plan must first be completed.
Then, with the vision in hand, project managers can seek funding sources, such as grants, to start construction, which would likely be implemented in phases.
“First you have the plan, then you can start to turn over rocks,” Spina said.
She said the Colorado Lottery is funding the entire portion of the master planning process.
Christensen, taking into account similar projects, said the average start time of a plan of this magnitude would be 2 to 7 years, with 5 years considered “good.”
Wendy Rice, a Durango resident, asked, if given how long it’s taken to develop the project to this point, have planners taken into account what the community’s needs might be in the future?
She said when the project was first discussed, activities such as mountain biking were not popular. Now, a large portion of residents here want that option available.
“The color of our community changes a lot,” she said.
Christensen said planners have taken into account what future trends and demands may look like, and the need for “responsible forecasting.”
Denise Stovall, a member of the community task force, said planners have done their due diligence involving all facets.
“It’s going to give us a venue we just don’t have right now,” she said.
She said there will be another public hearing near the end of May/beginning of June, and a final public hearing before the master plan is finalized some time in August.
email@example.comEditor’s note: This story has been updated to correct an erroneous number and name.