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Run but don’t drive to Oxbow preserve

By Jim Haug Herald staff writer

Run, walk or pedal to the new Oxbow Park and Preserve, but please don’t drive, officials stressed Tuesday at a City Council study session.

The newly acquired 44-acre preserve along the Animas River just north of town does not have a parking lot yet. So hikers have been parking their cars along Animas View Drive, congesting a former county road already considered to be “narrow and substandard.”

Neighbors have been complaining to the city, which is still in the process of drafting a management plan for the property formerly known as Cameron-Sterk.

Because park improvements are a year away or longer, the city soon will be posting temporary signs to encourage better behavior of park users.

Because most of the land is intended for conservation, Durango wants the public to be mindful of the wildlife, as well.

The proposed management plan prohibits overnight camping, campfires, hunting or discharge of firearms and weapons, dogs off leash, and injury to or molestation of birds, game or wildlife.

The plan also would outlaw the use of tobacco or alcohol; unauthorized construction of trails, berms and jumps; and destruction or removal of soils, rocks, natural vegetation or other materials.

The plan also calls for an extension of the hard-surface Animas River Trail along the west edge of the park with an eventual extension to the north, shade structures and a restroom, natural-surface trail and park benches along the trails.

Providing law enforcement, however, is problematic because the land is outside city limits. Durango is in the process of annexing it but must rely on the La Plata County Sheriff’s Office to respond to calls because city police do not have jurisdiction.

“Some of the city’s regulations are not illegal in the county,” said Cathy Metz, director of parks and recreation for Durango. “For instance, you can have an open fire in the county. There are some restrictions, but that is something that is permitted. You don’t have some of the same restrictions as we do on open containers (of alcohol).

“So some of the things we have on our signs are not necessarily illegal in the county,” Metz said.

City Manager Ron LeBlanc said Sheriff Duke Schirard “has gone on record saying he only enforces certain laws. We’re in a situation that’s not conducive to good practices.”

For the time being, the city also is not allowing rafting companies and commercial outfitters to access the river from the preserve.

As part of its budget for next year, the city is considering setting aside funding for development of a comprehensive system for river put-ins at Oxbow and the 33rd Street and the 29th Street river-access areas.

The city would like to disperse river traffic to alleviate congestion at any one spot, but specifically how the river put-ins will be developed is subject to discussion, officials said.

The Oxbow management plan will be discussed during a public hearing scheduled for 5:30 p.m. July 25 at the Durango Community Recreation Center, 2700 Main Ave.

jhaug@durangoherald.com

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