As the city of Durango prepares to update trail signs at Horse Gulch, city staff members are asking for input on trail names. Some names need to be re-examined, according to the city’s Community Relations Commission.
City staff asked commission members to review potential name changes during a commission meeting Thursday. It’s part of a larger effort by Durango to create a policy structure for naming community features, like roads and trails, and to make sure the policy aligns with its growing diversity, equity and inclusion efforts. One main suggestion: include more Indigenous individuals and community groups in the process, commission members said.
“That, I don’t see recognized here. It would really be a terrific step forward if that was embraced,” said Lexie Stetson-Lee, commission chairperson. “Honoring Native land and having that represented is one of the best achievements we can have going forward.”
The Community Relations Commission, a five-person group of community volunteers plus city liaisons, has been tasked with advising Durango on its growing effort to prioritize diversity, equity and inclusion. The city bolstered that effort in response to local and worldwide protests focused on policing and racial oppression.
The naming process is far from over, and only five trails had new names suggested as of Thursday.
Some suggestions for the trail network, southeast of downtown Durango, emphasized cultural awareness and sensitivity. For example, SkyRaider and Anasazi Descent could change because the names have negative connotations, said Amy Schwarzback, the city’s natural resources manager. The trails could be called RidgeView and Sendit, respectively, she said.
Another idea was changing the Down N’ Out trail to Ben’s Down N’ Out, in commemoration of professional cyclist Benjamin Sonntag, who died after being struck by a vehicle while riding his bike earlier this year.
Changing the Squawker to the suggested Shocker raised concerns because the term shocker has sexual connotations based on an act done to women, Schwarzback said.
Commission members said a few other trails might need to be reviewed for alternative names, like Bandito and Snake Charmer trails. They said input from Indigenous groups needed to be heavily prioritized because the land originally belonged to Native American tribes.
“I’m really glad it’s in front of you guys, this commission which is bringing forth diversity, equity and inclusion,” said City Councilor Melissa Youssef, who was acting as council liaison for the group. “I feel like we need to distill this process down.”
Stetson-Lee agreed, saying who makes the decisions should be examined and the process could involve more people.
“When that happens, it’s inclusive. And that’s right,” she said. “When you have an inclusive process, you’ll know that these (names) don’t feel representative. They don’t feel good for all people.”