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Cottonwood tree in north Durango to be removed as part of river trail project

City says keeping tree could cost more than $1million
A runner passes under an old cottonwood tree Thursday on East 32nd Street in north Durango. The tree is expected to be removed to make way for an Animas River Trail underpass. Some residents tried to save the tree, but the city said it would delay the project and cost too much to save. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

A cottonwood tree that gained considerable support from Durango residents must be cut down to make way for the Animas River Trail underpass, the city announced Thursday.

“We appreciated the feedback we received from the community, and while we understand this decision is not popular for some people, we believe it is in the best interest of the city and this project to move forward,” said Ture Nycum, director of the city’s Parks and Recreation Department.

The underpass, which includes a new bridge over the Animas River, will link the existing Animas River Trail with a northern extension that leads to Oxbow Park.

Leaving the tree could cost the city more than $1 million, according to a news release issued Thursday by the city.

The expenses add up like this:

  • Rerouting the trail would result in $90,000 in design costs and potentially delay the project until fall 2022.
  • A delay and reroute could cost an additional $425,000 in construction expenses.
  • About $700,000 of funding for the project comes from a Great Outdoors Colorado grant, for which Parks and Recreation has asked for an extension twice already. Asking the organization for a third extension could result in a loss of funding.

“An extension is not guaranteed,” Nycum said. “Losing that funding would threaten completion of the project.”

Parks and Recreation has said the removal of the tree and others will be offset by planting additional trees. Part of the project also calls for the creation of a new public green space, including new trees, at the northwest corner of 32nd Street and East Third Avenue. Landscape improvements will also occur in Memorial Park.

Durango resident Ann Bond said the city should have given the public more notice about the potential impacts of the trail project.

“If the city had done its due diligence by divulging the potential impacts of the under-bridge trail design in advance (e.g., its endangering high-value canopy shade trees), the city could have proposed mitigation measures and alternatives for the public to comment upon,” Bond wrote in an email to The Durango Herald. “This would have allowed the voices and values of residents to be factored into the trail design prior to finalizing plans, whereupon there would be no redesign costs for this project.”

Nycum did not immediately return a phone call Thursday seeking additional information.

njohnson@durangoherald.com

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