The Oxbow Preserve will remain closed while Natural Lands Advisory Board discusses a possibly permanent strategy for managing people in the preserve.
The advisory board had planned to leave the preserve open year-round this year and next year to study how granting people access to the preserve portion of the park might affect the birds. The 6-acre parcel that will eventually hold a boat ramp and a parking lot is open year-round, and it will remain that way.
In November, Durango City Councilor Sweetie Marbury raised concern about opening the 38-acre preserve. The area is home to 85 bird species, bobcat, deer, elk and other wildlife. The preserve was closed on Dec. 1 until a decision could be made.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife biologist Brian Magee told the Durango City Council on Tuesday that two years of data would not be enough time to form valid conclusions about how people were influencing the bird populations.
“The longer the data runs, the more confident we’ll be in the conclusions that development did or did not impact these birds,” he said.
Riparian areas are the most diverse habitats in Colorado, and some board members support either seasonal or permanent closure.
“I feel that we know already there are important ecological sensitive areas of the property that can and should remain closed,” said Chairman Steve Whiteman.
Board member Paul Wilbert suggested permanently closing only the most important areas within the preserve.
If the preserve is going to be closed, board member Mark Smith asked the city to focus on enforcement because neighbors are regularly hopping the fence.
“It’s going to be closed, let’s make sure we vigorously close it,” he said.
The board will take up the issue in February to potentially revise the management plan for the preserve. The City Council will then vote on the issue after hearing the recommendation from the Natural Lands Advisory Board.