Rough-edged Buckley Park tree soars with spirit

Lights adorn the Christmas tree in Buckley Park in downtown Durango. Enlarge photo

STEVE LEWIS/Durango Herald

Lights adorn the Christmas tree in Buckley Park in downtown Durango.

What’s the deal with the Christmas tree in Buckley Park? This year, it has random strings of lights hanging down like spaghetti thrown on the wall. I don’t mean to be a Grinch, but this year’s tree is cheesy and not very impressive. Is this the best the city or that downtown business group can do? – Concerned Citizen

Granted, the tree in Buckley Park is, um, well, er, a modest yuletide display.

It’s certainly not on par with the Rockefeller Christmas Tree in New York City or the Capitol Christmas Tree in Washington, D.C.

The tree at 30 Rock is downright gaudy. But what do you expect? New York City is not known for modesty or restraint.

This year’s edition features 30,000 LED lights on five miles of wire. On top is a 550-pound, 9.5-foot wide custom crystal star designed by Swarovski, the leading designer of jewelry and bling.

As we say around these parts, “them’s purdy fancy-shmancy.”

Meanwhile, the Capitol Christmas Tree provides a blinding spectacle.

The tree is the only bright thing going on in Washington these days, but that’s another topic.

Energy-saving LED lights also adorn the Capitol tree, which is trimmed with 5,000 ornaments handmade by Colorado school kids.

The 73-foot Engelmann Spruce was harvested just outside of Meeker.

And speaking of meeker, how about our local tree?

We have to remember that our tree is situated in Buckley Park and not Rockefeller Plaza. Also, this is Durango and not midtown Manhattan.

Durango’s downtown Christmas tree serves as the destination for the annual day-after-Thanksgiving caroling procession. Townsfolk used to start at Buckley Park and sing their way down to the train station.

Several years ago, the parade did a 180, starting at the train station and ending at Buckley Park. There, a huge blue spruce – far larger than the train station’s tree – was designated as the Christmas tree.

This is when the problems began.

The Chamber of Commerce once coordinated the decoration of the tree. But it begged off of that task six or seven years ago, according to Chamber Executive Director Jack Llewellyn.

The chamber lacks the heavy equipment and expertise in decking the halls on such a large scale. The city didn’t want to take it over, either.

Who stepped up to the plate? The La Plata County Boys & Girls Club.

“It’s a great family event with tons of people,” said Vaughn Morris, the club’s president and chief professional officer. “We wanted to do our part to keep it going despite the fact that it’s not really our mission.”

Decorating the tree was and still is an all-volunteer effort, with La Plata Electric, Eagle Crane, BP, Directory Plus and a host of other local businesses supporting with money, time and/or equipment.

This year, when a crane wasn’t available, the Strater Hotel came to the rescue with its scissor lift. But it’s designed for doing upkeep on a building, not moving around a tree.

New strings of lights, also donated, had to be draped instead of wrapped.

On top of that, the tree continues to grow. Maintenance is a big issue, as existing lights are exposed to the elements year round.

“We’d love to have the best-looking tree instead of a Charlie Brown tree,” Vaughn said. “But we have to take what we get from volunteers and donations.”

What would help? Vaughn pines for an energetic group or individual to take on the Christmas procession and tree trimming. “It’s a major project,” he said.

So let’s not have a tannenbaum tantrum. In many ways, this Christmas tree represents Durango perfectly.

Instead of being a gaudy commercial or political centerpiece, our tree is decorated purely in sincere hometown spirit.

Sure, our tree’s rough around the edges. But the same could be said of Durango itself.

What our tree lacks in sophistication is more than made up for in generosity.

And when it comes down to it, isn’t the season about generosity? What a perfect display to remind us that the light of Christmas doesn’t come from a string of bulbs.

Email questions to actionline@durangoherald.com or mail them to Action Line, The Durango Herald, 1275 Main Ave., Durango, CO 81301. You can request anonymity if you remember last summer’s fires if you grumble about shoveling the recent snow.

The U.S. Capitol Christmas tree is an Engelmann spruce from Colorado’s White River National Forest. Enlarge photo

Associated Press

The U.S. Capitol Christmas tree is an Engelmann spruce from Colorado’s White River National Forest.

The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree in New York City is noted for its gaudy display. Enlarge photo

Associated Press

The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree in New York City is noted for its gaudy display.