By Larry Kerr
On a Wednesday in July, my wife and I went shopping for a new pickup. We visited dealers in Farmington and Aztec looking for a Chevrolet 3500, crew cab, 4x4, High Country dually. We already own a 2015 one-ton Chevy with a single rear set-up, which we love, but we needed a second truck because we are always going in different directions hauling horses, cattle and sheep. We did have a second truck, a 2015 Chevy dually better suited for hauling large trailers, but our daughter took that when she moved to Alamosa over the Christmas holidays.
Suffice to say, we did not find what we wanted locally so we drove to Durango to visit the folks at Morehart Murphy Chevrolet. They did not have a High Country on the lot, but they showed us a white 2018 GMC 4x4 crew cab dually Denali. The color was not what we wanted and the pickup was not set up exactly the way we wanted, but the price wasn’t bad: $63,000. That’s about $10,000 less than the other trucks we looked at that day and other trucks we had looked at online. My wife was ready to do the deal but I signaled her that we needed to shop a little more before making that commitment. In retrospect, I’m glad we waited because of what else happened that day in Durango.
We decided to go into town for lunch to get tickets for a Mesa verde hike. We parked our truck in the alley area between the Diamond Bell and Los Amigos Del Sur restaurant, two places we like to visit when we are in Durango. I put enough change in the parking meter for several hours and then we went to the Durango welcome center to get our Mesa verde tickets before having a leisurely lunch at Los Amigos. While eating, we decided specifically what we would need on the new truck. We figured we could do our hike in the morning, then visit Keesee Motors in Cortez, where we had already purchased another one-ton truck 10 years ago, and then we could decide whether to revisit Morehart Murphy in Durango that afternoon.
When we left Los Amigos, I decided to stop by our vehicle to put more change in the meter if necessary. You cannot imagine my anger when I saw a bright yellow violation envelope under my windshield wiper. I checked the meter and it still showed over an hour left. That’s when I read the violation and discovered I had been ticketed for the back end of my one-ton truck being one foot over the white line in the alley!
Are you kidding me? I felt like I had been punched in the gut. Less than half the spaces were occupied on what I have now discovered is 700 Narrow Gauge Ave. I had just dropped $50 in a local restaurant, another $15 in the welcome center, and I was prepared to spend considerably more money on Main Avenue that afternoon, plus upward of $70,000 the next day. Needless to say, I decided on the spot that Durango is neither welcoming to me nor deserving of my business. We got in our truck and left. I don’t plan to return any time soon.
Think about it. Why would I buy a fairly expensive truck from a dealership in your community when that new truck can’t be parked anywhere in Durango because it does not fit the small car parking spaces designated by your city leaders’ small-town mentality?
It occurred to me that most tourist destinations value their customers’ money because of the multiplier effect that creates jobs, etc., in the local economy. Sure enough, there are dozens of reports online about the multi-million-dollar multiplier effect of tourism in Durango and La Plata County. Ironically, I even found a 2016 Durango Herald article quoting then-Mayor Christina Rinderle regarding the positive impact of raising parking fines from $12 to $25 to cover buses and trolleys! Really? What the article did not discuss is the negative impact of your city’s petty fines on tourists and other visitors who are not inclined to spend their money where they do not feel welcome. So, Durango, cash my $25 check for my one-foot violation while considering my final thoughts.
After touring Balcony House and other sites at Mesa Verde, I took my family to Cortez to eat more Mexican cuisine at La Casita. We had a wonderful meal and I spent considerably more money shopping in Cortez that day than in Durango the day before. I did not have to feed a parking meter or worry about getting a violation for being one foot over the line in my one-ton truck.
I can also recall many other Colorado trips when I felt welcomed rather than violated. On the Saturday before Mother’s Day, I parked my one-ton truck in Pagosa Springs without incurring meter fees or parking violations. My daughter and her extended family drove in from Alamosa to eat lunch with us and they parked two three-quarter-ton trucks on Main Street without incurring meter fees or parking fines. We ate well, did some shopping, and we might have played golf or done some fishing if the winds had not been so high. I have had similarly pleasant experiences in other Colorado communities like Silverton, Ouray, Telluride, Leadville, Aspen, Gunnison, Montrose, Grand Junction, Meeker, Fort Collins, Boulder, Denver, Colorado Springs, Pueblo and Alamosa. I always found plenty of parking spaces for my one-ton trucks in those communities and never received parking violations.
The bottom line is this: In the future, I will continue to spend my money in other Colorado communities where my trucks and my discretionary dollars are truly welcomed. I hope other tourists will do the same. Meanwhile, I suggest you revise your city’s web page to let other unsuspecting visitors know that one-ton trucks and their occupants are not welcomed in your community – they should expect to get gouged.
Larry Kerr resides in Farmington.