Residents living near the proposed northern extension of the Animas River Trail say they are concerned about lighting, fences, access, enforcement and wildlife on the proposed path and at its terminus at the redeveloped Oxbow Park.
About three dozen interested residents met with Durango Parks and Recreation staff on Thursday to hear updates about the proposed trail extension from about 32nd Street north along the railroad tracks for almost a mile to Oxbow Park and Preserve, a project city staff have been planning and tweaking for about a decade.
The city is now in the implementation stage of the long planning process, negotiating with contractors to get construction started by January, city employees said. While the start date is close, the city held the meeting Thursday to seek additional input from residents about how to make the river trail favorable to as many people as possible, including residents who live along the proposed trail extension and potential trail users.
Maria Simmons, who lives near Oxbow Park, said she is not convinced the city will act on the concerns brought by community members. Simmons said she is worried about a portable toilet being placed in the line-of-sight from her home.
“I just didn’t feel like I was going to walk out (of the meeting) knowing the solutions are going to come,” she said.
At the end of the meeting, Simmons asked staff for some reassurance that residents’ concerns will be addressed. Staff said listening sessions are being held and will continue to be held to do exactly that – address concerns about the project.
Mike Fenton said the devil is in the details, including where fences will go, how bright the lights will be and which trees are going to stay or go. He also wonders about police enforcement of the river trail extension; some parts of the trail are in the city and other parts are in the county, so he questions which law enforcement agency is going to patrol the path. There were no representatives from the Durango Police Department or the La Plata County Sheriff’s Office to address that question.
Fenton said issues raised almost a decade ago remain unanswered.
“I think the unanswered questions have to do with fencing, with signage, with policing and noise mitigation and trail access,” Fenton said. “I don’t think that those questions were clearly answered.”
Susan Ulery, who lives near Oxbow Park, said she recognizes that not everybody will be happy with the proposed project, but she commended staff on its work with residents to design the trail.
“Now’s the time to make sure every detail is addressed,” Ollery said. “And they’re doing that.”
One thing Ulery is concerned about is late-night activity at Oxbow Park. There’s already a problem with underage drinking at the park, she said, and redeveloping it to make it more accessible could exacerbate the problem.
But she had a suggestion: Lock up the park after-hours, which should be around 10 p.m., not midnight like other parks.
Ulery, a member of the city’s Natural Lands Preservation Board, said she wasn’t convinced at the onset that the trail extension and park redevelopment would be worthwhile for the city. But after working with the city and seeing all that has been done – including meeting with residents and designing the project to address individuals’ concerns – she is happy with the outcome.
“It’s way better than I thought it was going to be in terms of minimizing impacts and being tastefully done,” Ulery said.