Durango Connect

Durango Connect 2013 happens at 10 a.m. today. As in the inaugural event last year, the idea is for people to link hands and form a human chain along the Animas River Trail to celebrate it, the cooperative effort it represents and the spirit of community so important to ensuring this remains a great place to live. Plus, it should be fun.

Last year, an estimated 9,000 people participated in the event conceived and organized by Durangoan Jack Turner. About 6,000 were school children, many in colored T-shirts for easy identification.

Organizers no doubt hope to top that today. And they very well might. All Durango School District 9-R schools are taking part, as are charter schools and a number of private schools. Of course, the event is also open to the public, and all are welcome.

To ensure safety and good order, the event will also include the Durango Police Department, the Colorado State Patrol, the Durango Fire & Rescue Authority, the Mounted Rangers and San Juan Board of Cooperative Educational Services. Chief Jim Spratlen of the Durango Police Department said his officers will be helping students safely cross streets as well as alerting drivers and providing security on the trail itself.

For their part, the schools will be using the opportunity to tie the event to lessons in history, math, science, communications and character education. Perhaps more to the point, though, is what being part of Durango Connect can say to students about civic engagement.

Too often, and in too many ways, institutions of all kinds can make people feel apart, distant, disenfranchised or irrelevant. It is the nature of organizations and can be true even of otherwise well-run enterprises managed by people who care.

An event such as Durango Connect sends a different message and teaches a different lesson. It encourages shared effort and brings people together on an equal basis. It casts people in positions of authority not as bosses or bogeymen, but as leaders and facilitators of fun. And it subtly signals that we each have a place and a purpose. It is all about community.

Last year, the human chain was not able to make it the full length of the river trail. In part, that was because people clumped up in places. (This is, after all, a community event, not a military exercise.) It was also because so many of the participants were children, with short arms.

And it will not cover the full extent of the trail this year either. Two sections are closed because of construction. One is from behind Durango Harley Davidson north to the BMX track in Cundiff Park. The other is where the river trail is being extended from 29th Street to 32nd Street.

Because of that, the city and District 9-R have assigned the part of the trail from Rotary Park north primarily to groups and organizations. They ask community members to enter the trail around downtown, from the Discovery Museum south. They also ask that participants not break up schools or ask them to move.

Durango Connect 2013 will neither stop nor advance Obamacare. It will not end the government shutdown, settle things with Syria, lower anyone’s taxes or cure climate change. But then few things will. What it will do is allow a whole lot of people to express the fact that they care about this community and each other. Because in the end, that matters more than most of the things we spend so much time and energy fighting over. Perhaps Washington should try it.

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