Human chain to stretch across the river trail

Jack Turner, organizer of, “Durango Connect,” takes a promotional picture of people lined up on the Animas River Trail on Thursday morning. Turner is working to get enough people to show up Sept. 26 to link arms and create a seven-mile human chain on the river trail. Enlarge photo

JERRY McBRIDE/Durango Herald

Jack Turner, organizer of, “Durango Connect,” takes a promotional picture of people lined up on the Animas River Trail on Thursday morning. Turner is working to get enough people to show up Sept. 26 to link arms and create a seven-mile human chain on the river trail.

After some initial skepticism about its costs and timing, happy trails appear to be on the horizon for Durango Connect.

The event is intended to celebrate the Animas River Trail as a symbol of community unity since it became contiguous earlier this summer for the first time in its 36-year history.

At 10 a.m. Sept. 26, a Wednesday, organizers want people to form a seven-mile human chain across the length of the trail, from Dallabetta Park behind Home Depot in the south to 32nd Street behind north City Market in the north.

Organizers are seeking musicians, jugglers, magicians and performers to entertain the crowds for this very “Durango-ish” party, A film crew will fly over in a helicopter to capture the event for posterity.

“The completion of this trail deserves more of a celebration than the usual ribbon cutting,” said organizer Jack Turner during a news conference Thursday. “So we volunteered to do the legwork and organizing.“

Because Durango Connect comes just a month after USA Pro Cycling, when 25,000 people are expected for the start of a bicycle race across the Rockies, and the city lost $600,000 in revenue when voters rejected the La Plata Electric Association franchise agreement in April, officials like City Manager Ron LeBlanc and Mayor Doug Lyon have voiced concerns about the city’s capacity to host the human chain.

But Cathy Metz, the city’s director of parks and recreation, said Turner has “really made the event where it can be very doable by the city. We are fully supportive and participating to make sure it’s a successful event.”

She said that Turner “is getting donations for any hard costs. There is no real expense we’re having to pay for.”

The Durango School District 9-R expects to pay $1,000 in transportation costs to bus schoolchildren to the trail, said Victor Figueroa, assistant superintendent for student achievement.

Schoolchildren could lose up to two hours of their school day when the transportation time is factored in too, he said. The actual event is expected to take only five minutes, but organizers would like people to get to the trail by 9:30 a.m.

Figueroa said Durango Connect is an “easy fit” with 9-R’s values for promoting community and the “healthy lifestyle” associated with getting outside and walking the trail.

Altogether, 5,000 school children, including students from private and charter schools, are expected to participate.

Other groups such as the Southern Utes and Manna Soup Kitchen have also committed.

“The great thing about this concept is that it’s so simple, people getting together to form a chain,” Turner said.

“The beauty of it is that a person in a wheelchair can form a human chain as well as an Olympic athlete,” he added. “It does not matter if you’re super rich or super poor, what your background is. Unless you’re in jail or so sick you can’t make it to the trail, you can be a part of this.”

“There’s no agenda other than that.”

jhaug@durangoherald.com

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