Letters that appeared on The Durango Herald’s opinion pages in 2020 reflected the breadth of issues in La Plata County and the variety of perspectives that can be applied.
In the first few months of 2020, the Herald published numerous letters supporting an end to single-use plastic bags. Green repeat-use bags also plummeted in popularity. Don’t use a bag at all, said one writer – use a cart.
Then the enormity of COVID-19 struck and letters about bags abruptly ceased.
Beginning mid-March the coronavirus became the topic, many letters offering similar messages: Mask-shaming was criticized, as were businesses lax in requiring masks. Tourists were not wearing masks. Let’s reduce the anger in the country, and it’s not Republicans versus Democrats, but life or death, wrote another. A couple of others said the virus was being blown out of proportion and fostering political correctness.
Parks should be open, including a track for high school runners since it is much safer outdoors.
A subsequent big issue of the year for letter-writers was the proposed pedestrian bridge that would cross over busy 32nd Street on the west side of the Animas River. Its potential appearance in a high-in-the-air-location – a first along the Animas River Trail – grated. “How could this have been sprung on us?” many asked, having been unaware of the many months of city planning behind it. (The city’s acquisition of property on the east side of the river will make possible a subsurface crossing instead.)
National attention to racism – particularly in regard to public sculpture – trickled down to Durango when it was pointed out that Toh-Atin Gallery’s “Chief” on 9th Avenue might be racist in its design and should go. In a flurry of letters, the sign was condemned and defended. The sign remains, as its owners said they’ve heard no criticism from the Native Americans they know.
In the November elections, the two county commission races were at the forefront. Independent candidates, for all their appeal, discovered one value of party membership: Democrats are disciplined in writing letters supporting their own. Other political topics included opposition to the electoral college; praise for incumbent Rep. Scott Tipton, who would lose his primary; and a letter urging the eventual winner, Representative-elect Lauren Boebert, to be more positive. Readers were cautioned about “leftism” and “power-drunk Democrats.”
Numerous letters faulted Republicans, especially Sen. Cory Gardner, for their allegiance to President Trump.
Letter-writers split on the issue of reintroducing wolves to the wilds of Colorado: Some welcomed the prospect, while others feared their arrival.
Dozens of perennial topics arose, such as the desire for La Plata Electric Association to free itself from a 30-year contract with Tri-State Generation and Transmission (although one letter praised its move toward more renewables).
Writers expressed general concern for the homeless and support of their temporary camp at Purple Cliffs, although one writer argued that providing more services attracts more homeless.
The Herald was faulted for not printing more positive news in a time of crisis; for twisting virus reporting to criticize the president; and for endorsing Michael Bloomberg in the Democratic primary for president.
Several letters said Michael Smedley’s writing of the “Action Line” column would be missed.
Community members who took the time to write their opinions to the Herald did not disappoint in 2020. We look forward to more of the same in 2021.