A La Plata County man says he’s organizing a walk Friday night on Main Avenue to show that Durango is open for business, but on social media the event is being called a “peaceful protest” over public health orders.
It is unknown how many people may show up for the event, but word of the organized walk has been widely shared on social media, with many saying they plan to attend. If the event grows larger than 10 people, they could be in violation of a statewide public health order, said Claire Ninde, spokeswoman for San Juan Basin Public Health.
John Avery, a longtime La Plata County rancher who is organizing the event, is asking people to meet at 6 p.m. Friday at the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad’s parking lot near McDonald’s.
From there, Avery said people will walk north on Main Avenue. He encourages people to shop at local businesses and make signs to send a message to tourists that the town is open and ready for business.
“Tourists make our businesses go,” he said. “And (downtown) is the one place we don’t want people to be scared or petrified of anything.”
Avery said he is not recommending people follow state laws around social distancing, which says people should maintain a 6-foot distance and avoid gatherings of more than 10 people.
And Avery said he’s not asking people to wear face coverings, which will become required Friday within city limits at businesses and public places where 6-foot social distancing cannot be maintained.
In a recent survey, about 65% of 355 businesses said they support the face-covering requirement.
“I’m not recommending people do anything except people spend money in Durango,” he said. “My opinion, as a rancher, there’s nothing to be afraid of.”
Ninde said if the group grows larger than 10 people, “they would be in violation of the order.”
“We are strongly encouraging social distancing and face coverings as a precaution,” she said. “And we support the governor’s state order on no gatherings over 10 people.”
SJBPH does not enforce the public health order. That falls to the Durango Police Department. Cmdr. Jacob Dunlop said the department is aware of the event.
“We’ll monitor it and respond in the most appropriate manner,” he said.
To date, Durango police have not written any citations for violations to public health orders, instead emphasizing education and voluntarily compliance. A planned event like Friday’s has not occurred in Durango since a statewide stay-at-home order went into effect in March.
“We don’t know what’s going to happen,” Dunlop said.
Avery said he hopes the walk will “kick off summer” as Memorial Day weekend approaches.
“We want old-time Durango back, with happy people showing up and not being afraid of anything,” he said. “It’s going to be fun.”