The subtitle of Jonathan Thompson’s op-ed got it right: “Has Durango sold its river, and its soul, to recreation?” (Herald, April 27). The proposed commercialization of Oxbow Park has gone too far. While the development of Oxbow was said to be for the preservation of open space, for which it received GOCO funding, it’s being intentionally morphed into a high-impact staging area for commercial raft companies and other boaters. This will bring congestion from hordes of people in cars and buses, and the accompanying noise that will surely displace the wildlife and serenity – not only in Oxbow Park itself, but for the entire river corridor through 1.3 miles of rural lands downstream to 33rd Street. This corridor is filled with conservation easements set aside by property owners who have given up their development rights to preserve this open space, which is rich in wildlife and riparian habitat.
It’s also a slap in the face to those traditional river users who have used this stretch of river as a sanctuary away from the crowds of boaters that fill the river through town. This corridor has been used historically by kayakers, canoeists, and paddleboarders who paddle upstream from 33rd Street and back down through this placid stretch of river. This is a one-of-a-kind corridor that will be destroyed by the city’s proposal to develop Oxbow Park into a free-for-all to anything that floats – including the often-problematic tubers who notoriously have been using this part of the river for drinking and loud partying.
It’s part of the city’s attempt to commercialize this limited resource, the Animas River, without restraint. Yet the city refuses to put limits on commercial raft trips like most governing agencies do. With the proposed development of Oxbow, the city intends to expand this congestion outside the city limits and outside the city’s jurisdiction. Further, the city refuses to take responsibility to properly manage the corridor or provide on-river law enforcement. The city indeed is selling off Durango’s River of Lost Souls for commercialism. When is enough enough?