While driving around La Plata County, I wonder why the county commissions can’t enact laws that force people to clean up their abandon cars, scrap mobile homes and other junk. If you want to live in a pigsty, build a fence around it! Why are couches, beds and garbage thrown on the side of the road? Why does this stuff stay there for months and/or years? The city of Durango has laws and fines; why not the county? – Kathy
Junky property is certainly a woe.
But enacting “laws that force people to clean up” would prompt some residents to holler “whoa.”
It’s a classic example of urban-rural differences.
Generally speaking, city dwellers expect behaviors to be regulated as a trade-off to live near services and attractions.
Rules should be enforced, and government’s job is to focus on “quality of life” issues.
Therefore, urban settings are for uptight busybodies and entitled butinskies.
Again, painting with an overly broad brush, rural folks choose to live away from town in order to have fewer rules and even fewer neighbors.
Government is seen as a threat to the “Western way of life,” whatever that is.
Therefore, rural settings are for misanthropes and insular sourpusses.
OK. That wasn’t fair. But you see there’s a huge difference in mindset.
Thus, a 1978 Dodge Challenger sitting on cinder blocks and half covered by a blue tarp is, simultaneously:
A) a precious asset that’ll get fixed up one of these days and sold for some serious coin. Or,
B) a worthless piece of junk that no self-respecting raccoon would use for a den.
Now consider these two facts. First, La Plata County’s population has doubled from 1980 to today. With 54,688 residents, the county is a lot less “county.”
Second, it took 143 years for La Plata County to deal with barking dogs.
It wasn’t until March 1 of this year that La Plata County had the political will to establish a law regulating one of the most irritating noises of the night.
Even so, the law was passed over the vociferous objections of some residents who saw this as government overreach.
So, when it comes to clutter in the county, “We’re looking at competing and conflicting values – the use and enjoyment of one’s private land versus having to live next to a junkyard,” acknowledged Megan Graham, county spokeswoman.
“As the county has grown, so have these conflicts.”
But say the county simply established an anti-junk ordinance and called it good. “Enforcement would be a huge issue,” Megan said.
As Megan pointed out, “Adding something like a junk prohibition would be meaningful only if we had the resources to do it.”
Which the county doesn’t.
Incoming funds for the county are expected to fall 14.3% this year and the 2017 La Plata County budget slashed expenses 26 percent from last year’s levels.
Heck, the people of La Plata County won’t even pay for maintaining roads, having twice rejected tax hikes for that noble and necessary purpose.
Pretty soon, the county junk situation might be a moot point.
Given the deteriorating state of rural byways, “everyone’s property in the county will turn into a junkyard because car parts will start flying off of vehicles due to the bad roads,” Megan said with a chuckle.
Email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or mail them to Action Line, The Durango Herald, 1275 Main Ave., Durango, CO 81301. You can request anonymity if you know that the four most dangerous words in the fight against junk are: “This’ll come in handy.”