Clearing up mercury and free parking

In this space, The Durango Herald’s editorial board praised law-enforcement and public-service agencies that worked quickly and methodically with the Environmental Protection Agency to determine the degree of danger associated with the mercury spill at several locations in Durango in late November. Public locations, such as Manna Soup Kitchen and the Transit Center, and private businesses, such as south City Market, were included, and all were appropriately tested and deemed danger-free. Dislocations were minimal.

The District Attorney’s Office now also deserves praise for dropping charges against the 46-year-old homeless man who created the trail of mercury in 24 hours of travel after breaking a glass container at the soup kitchen. Originally, law enforcement believed there was probable cause to arrest him on charges of reckless endangerment and criminal mischief.

The jar of mercury apparently had come with the owner’s permission from a house the homeless man had been hired to clean up, and when the jar broke, he made an effort to corral its contents.

Although mercury from broken thermometers was fascinating to ninth-graders decades ago because of the way it can be nudged into small and large balls and rolled around, it is dangerous. The fumes from burning mercury, especially, can do lasting neurological damage.

In this case, there was no need to apply the force of the criminal justice system. That was an appropriate decision.


The second week of free weekday parking in downtown Durango begins today, with Christmas Day close at hand.

Last week, available parking spaces were limited, but stores were full and sidewalks crowded. While that might mean vigorous shopping, which is the purpose of the free parking, there has been some speculation some of the parking spaces might be being used by store employees and professionals who otherwise would use meterless East Third Avenue and residential streets beyond.

If true, we say to those who work downtown who are violating the spirit of the free parking and are enjoying parking close-in, including on the days after Christmas when sales and returns mean busy retailers: Put your cars back along those residential streets.


We are among those who are impressed with the report that this season’s Polar Express on the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad could transport as many as 20,000 passengers to a Christmas backdrop and light show constructed just beyond the Durango city limits.

The evening train cars attractively lighted have certainly looked full, giving Santa and his elf assistants plenty of young believers to entertain.

Anecdotally, we have heard restaurant owners and at least one motel manager heap praise on the railroad for developing the Polar Express attraction. Families are having dinner downtown as part of their outing, and there are at least a few cases of families from as far as Albuquerque who are staying overnight as part of their Polar Express excursion.

Kudos to the railroad for delivering this strong niche activity.

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