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Above 160: Why does this fence need a gate?

Here is the wildlife crossing in question, just east of the Lake Capote turnoff. Action Line appreciates how Mr. Deere timed the picture to get the semi bearing down on anyone who might be jumping off at that moment – like, say, James Bond. (Jon Deere)

Dear Action Line: I love the wildlife crossing on U.S. Highway 160 between Durango and Pagosa Springs. It would be so nice to have a few more of these to prevent roadkill and facilitate wildlife migration. My question is why there is a gate on each side, directly over the highway? I can’t imagine that exiting there would be safe for man, woman or beast. If the fall doesn’t kill you, the traffic would. – Jon Deere

Deere Mr. Dear: Hmm, that didn’t come out quite right. You know what Action Line was trying to say.

Never noticed that gate. Very interesting. Would make a great scene for a James Bond movie, right? You realize the first James Bond movie was released in 1962? Wouldn’t that make him, like, 90 years old now? Quick quiz: Name the first Bond movie. NO cheating; answer below.

The $11 million project next to Lake Capote, just east of the Chimney Rock National Monument turnoff, was constructed mostly in 2021, then finished in 2022. It saves animals and front bumpers and maybe even a windshield or two.

Good idea to put a fence up there, for sure, but the gate? The Colorado Department of Transportation, which oversaw this project over its highway, had an explanation.

“Oh, we agree wholeheartedly with Mr. Deere,” said Mark Lawler, CDOT environmental program manager. “More animal crossings will only make travel safer for motorists and wildlife alike. Animal overpasses, underpasses and high fencing (with jump-outs) have proven to reduce wildlife-vehicle crashes by 85 to 90%. They are a win-win and worth every dollar.”

The overpass was achieved through a partnership among CDOT, Parks and Wildlife, the Southern Ute Indian Tribe and wildlife advocacy groups.

“Yes, there is protective fencing along the edge of the overpass, as required by (safety regulations),” Lawler said. “It is called a safety cable rail and will prevent any potential nasty falls from the structure.”

But who, pray tell, might be in danger of falling?

“The gate in question allows our CDOT maintenance personnel to access the bridge superstructure, enter the protected area, and make any needed repairs to the exclusion fencing. Although the gate may appear to open to the edge of the structure, there is actually a five-foot-wide path along the entire structure length.”

So, there you go. The gate isn’t right on the edge as it may appear. What a relief. Still, it’s worrisome that a disoriented yeti – or, more likely, bigfoot, since we have photographic evidence that those are in the vicinity – might wander up, pass through the gate and fall off. That would be truly sad, although it would give us a chance to finally send a bigfoot body to Area 51 and have it dissected. (Hmm. Did that sound insensitive?)

Lawler said that CDOT, Colorado Parks and Wildlife and other concerned organizations continue to look for best places for similar crossings and features. A wildlife underpass is under construction on U.S. 550 north of Ridgway. And the Connection South project – also known as the Bridge to … umm, somewhere very soon (sorry, cheap shot, but just hard to ignore right now) – includes several wildlife features: deer fencing, deer guards (which Lawler described as “super-duper cattle guards”) at driveways, two big-game underpasses, and several small mammal underpasses along a four-mile stretch of U.S. 550 south of Durango.

This license plate was seen on Main Avenue recently. Perhaps there’s a good explanation for why someone would encourage a sell-off already well underway. (Courtesy of anonymous vanity plate reader)
Sell high

Action Line was sent this photo from an “anonymous vanity plate reader” of what appears to be a local’s license plate on a vehicle that was apparently (from the dealer decal) purchased in Durango. The vanity plate reads “SELLDGO,” and yes, that seems to be the growing trend. No encouragement needed, really.

Action Line will make no further comment, but is curious what others think. Anyone with something to say can contact Action Line at the email below, and perhaps some of the printable responses will be printed.

No fee.


Email questions and suggestions to actionline@durangoherald.com or mail them to Action Line, The Durango Herald, 1275 Main Ave., Durango, CO 81301. As for the quiz, Action Line tried to give away the answer. Yes, Bond fans, it was No. “Dr. No.” Starring the Scottish icon Sean Connery, who died in 2020 at age 90.

An earlier version of this column incorrectly referred to U.S. Highway 160 between Durango and Pagosa Springs as U.S. Highway 550. It should have been referred to as Highway 160.

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