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Is Durango the best U.S. river town?

By Luke Groskopf Herald staff writer

Fresh off a year of accolades, Durango is in the running again.

Durango has been named one of ten finalists for Outside magazine’s “Best River Town in America” competition. The winner will be revealed in the October 2012 issue, coinciding with the publication’s 35th anniversary, and will be featured in a segment on the Outside Television channel.

The ten candidates were winnowed from an initial list of 75–100 with the help of conservation nonprofit American Rivers, said Ryan Krogh, a research editor for Outside.

To qualify for the award, a town needs “active recreational engagement with nearby waterways – kayaking, boating, walking and bike paths and riverfront parks – and a positive environmental story,” according to a news release.

Stacy Falk of 4Corners River Sports agreed that most Durangoans have an ingrained ethic of respect for area water systems.

“I went to all the meetings about public access, and the turnout was incredible. People want to be involved,” she said. “Informing tourists who come to town is important so they respect the river in the same way.”

The other nine finalists range from tiny Nevada City, Calif. – population 3,068 – to metropolitan Milwaukee, Wis.

Locals and visitors alike can show their support by voting on Outside’s Facebook page and by submitting photos, videos and comments.

The winning town will be determined by total votes cast and creativity of submitted content. The grass-roots selection process is a new addition for this year’s contest.

“It’s been fun to have our readers, and others who are passionate about the outdoors, weigh in with direct feedback,” said Krogh.

To negate the advantage larger cities have in terms of sheer voting numbers, Outside editors will “look subjectively at enthusiasm and livability measures” as well, Krogh added.

The Animas River’s central location, Gold Medal trout fishing designation and adjacent river trail – now spanning a contiguous seven miles after the Durango Mall “missing link” was completed earlier this month – are unique and desirable qualities.

Mayor Doug Lyon described the Animas as a “veritable water playground ... at the heart of our community.”

Anne Klein, spokeswoman for the Durango Area Tourism Office, called the selection a “third-party endorsement with credibility.”

“It’s that old adage: We can say we’re great, but when others say you’re great, it’s so much better,” she said.

In 2011, Durango received plaudits from Outside, Men’s Journal, Policom, True West Magazine and Outdoor Life. During April of this year, Outside ranked Durango second to Lake Wanaka, New Zealand, for “Best New Adventure Hub.”

lgroskopf@durangoherald.com

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