Log In

Reset Password
News Education Local News Nation & World New Mexico

City tackles land transfers in next steps for Durango Mesa Park

Updated area plan, preliminary plot receive approval from councilors
Durango City Council will vote on whether to approve transfers of fee title land to the Durango Mesa Park Foundation, in exchange for easements that would allow continued public use of historic trails on Durango Mesa, formerly known as Ewing Mesa. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald file)

Durango Mesa Park is a promising addition to the city.

Bike and dog parks, disk golf, entertainment venues, and a system of winding bike and hiking trails are the most notable features proposed for what was formerly known as Ewing Mesa about 3 miles southeast of downtown Durango.

But before the park can be built to its full potential, the city of Durango and the Durango Mesa Park Foundation must address a number of administrative and procedural items dealing with property ownership and development rights.

The city took another step to clear procedural barriers for future development on Tuesday when City Council approved giving land with trails to the Durango Mesa Park Foundation.

Earlier this month, City Council approved updating park plans and combining tracts of land on the property.

City Council approved an updated Durango Mesa Park Area Plan to account for recent developments, including the replacement of a proposed roundabout that appeared in earlier park plans with a T-intersection, and La Plata County’s decision not to relocate its fairgrounds to the park.

Moira Montrose Compton, executive director of the Durango Mesa Park Foundation, said the transfer of land with trails to the foundation in exchange for easements on the land is “administrative in nature” and will allow the public to continue using the historic trails while park infrastructure and amenities are built over the next two years.

She said the trails existing at Durango Mesa Park used to be owned by La Plata County. When the city annexed the parkland last year, ownership was transferred to the city.

Leaving the trail land as is “would create separate parcels on the plat required for annexation, and creating additional parcels would not align with the future use of the property,” she said.

Vicki Vandegrift, city planner, said something similar last week.

Durango City Council has approved land changes for Durango Mesa Park, in addition to an updated park plan. Approval of the plat, in addition to the transfer of ownership of land with trails to the Durango Mesa Park Foundation in exchange for easements, will facilitate the development of infrastructure at the park. (Courtesy city of Durango)

“If we kept the trails as fee titles, we’d have all these little odd-shaped lots all over the place. That didn’t make a lot of sense. So we’re going to give the property back to the foundation,” she said.

“Fee title lands” are land properties their owners have full control over for development or other use within the law.

Durango Mesa Park was peppered with 56 lots that were 35 acres or more in size that have been reduced to 16 lots with City Council’s approval of the proposed subdivisions, she said.

Trails yet to be built will also receive easements unless they are built on existing city property, she said. The city will receive some property back from the foundation at various times, rendering easements unneeded.

Durango Mesa Park has been a long time in the making and still has a ways to go.

Marc Katz purchased the 1,850-acre property in 2015 to put it to community use. The city adopted a conceptual plan for the park in 2018, which featured an events center, smaller venues, fairgrounds, a bike park and fields.

In 2019, property ownership was transferred to the Durango Mesa Park Foundation. In 2021, the city purchased property at the Horse Gulch trail system to incorporate into the park. The city then annexed Durango Mesa Park into city limits in 2023.

Someday, Durango Mesa Park Foundation will give ownership of the park to the city, Vandegrift said.

At this stage, utility and infrastructure work is needed on a road connecting Colorado Highway 3 to the top of Durango Mesa Park, she said. The Colorado Department of Transportation has approved a T-intersection and granted an access permit to directly connect to Highway 3.

Construction for an emergency access road is out to bid, she said.

Seven miles of bike trails were completed last year and are open to the public.

Earlier this month, Councilor Olivier Bosmans said the updated Durango Mesa Area Plan cleans up issues with land transfers and trail easements. But he asked why a roundabout was replaced by a T-intersection in updated conceptual plans.

Montrose Compton said the way the park is planned to be used for event space in the long term makes a roundabout unfeasible.

“A roundabout will not work with coordinating with the other lights on the north end of Highway 3 and on the south end of Highway 3, and as well down Larry Valdez Way down to the highway,” she said.

Bosmans also asked about the purpose of an 18-inch waterline, and asked if raw waterline infrastructure should be built now rather than much later.

Vandegrift said there had been discussions about just that, but wells existing on the mesa will likely be used for irrigation, dampening trails and other uses, and it would be cost-prohibitive to build out more water lines at this time.


Reader Comments