City opens checkbook for trail

44 acres would be riverfront property for recreation

The Durango City Council on Tuesday authorized staff to negotiate the $1.2 million purchase of 43.7 acres of riverfront property that would extend the Animas River Trail by 1.3 miles to the north and provide additional river access for fishermen and nonmotorized boats.

Most of the land is expected to be reserved for conservation.

City staff wants to conclude the purchase of the Autumn Cameron and George Sterk property within months. The land is located about a mile north of 32nd Street and just east of Animas View Drive.

The purchase would be financed with a $400,000 grant from the Great Outdoors Colorado Trust Fund with the balance coming from the citys trails and recreation fund, supported by a half-cent sales tax.

Public ownership of the land will provide river access north of 33rd Street, which currently does not exist, staff noted in a report to councilors.

How the land will be developed will be subject to the Animas River Corridor Management Plan currently being drafted by city staff.

Rafters and other river users have long advocated the opening of a third river-access point while homeowners in the area have complained about the prospect of increased traffic in their neighborhood.

Tim Wolf, who owns a home near the property, questioned how the city could move forward with the purchase without resolving right-of-way issues, including extending the trail across his property. Wolf did not attend the meeting but said he wrote a letter to city councilors.

I believe its premature to press on with a contract approving the purchase of the property, Wolf said in an interview. City officials declined to respond.

In other business related to outdoor recreation, the City Council also directed the staff to pursue grants to develop amenities for the Durango Whitewater Park and Lake Nighthorse.

The city wants to improve the river channel for whitewater rapids and acquire additional land for trail and park development. The estimated cost is $2.9 million. The city is pursuing a grant totalling $1.8 million from the Great Outdoors Colorado Trust Fund. A combination of other funding sources the city has set aside for parks and trails would finance the remaining balance.

A decision on the grant is expected by mid-June.

The city also is pursuing a $300,000 grant from Motorboat Colorado! to build an entrance station, an aquatic species nuisance-inspection station and decontamination station at Lake Nighthorse, a reservoir on federal land that the city wants to develop into a public recreation area by Spring 2013.

The lake is about a mile southwest of downtown.

jhaug@durango.com

Comments » Read and share your thoughts on this story