The city of Durango has a new way of vetting names for streets, parks, trails and other city assets: a policy created after staff members identified concerning trail names.
In 2020, Parks and Recreation staff members suggested changing a few Horse Gulch trail names, such as SkyRaider and Anasazi Descent, because the names have negative connotations, they said. Staff members quickly realized the city’s asset naming policy was decades out of date. City Council approved a new version of the policy Tuesday.
“We brought the old policy, which was adopted in 1996, and the council requested we look at updating that policy and look at including diversity, equity and inclusion in the policy,” said Cathy Metz, Parks and Recreation director.
In summer 2020, Durango intensified its efforts to improve diversity, equity and inclusion within the government in response to months of nationwide social and police reform protests. Durango City Council also outlined several overarching, institutionwide goals in its strategic plan.
Staff members revised the 1996 policy and submitted it to multiple city advisory committees for review, including the Community Relations Committee, and its Indigenous subcommittee; the Natural Lands Advisory Board; and the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board.
“When the renaming-of-assets conversation started last year, the feedback we were hearing was that anything that has anything to do with land, Indigenous people should be involved because the land was stolen,” said Tirzah Camacho, chair of the Community Relations Commission.
One notable change in the revised policy is its process for addressing names submitted to commemorate cultural, Indigenous, historic events or organizations. In that scenario, the Community Relations Commission or Indigenous committee will review and consider the proposal and advance a recommendation to the next relevant city advisory group.
Another significant alteration, Metz said: The policy applies to all city assets, while the previous policy only applied to Parks and Recreation assets.
That means the city has a review and submission process for the names of future streets, public buildings, golf courses, swimming pools, ball fields and any other facility controlled by the city of Durango.
The policy outlines who is eligible to submit a naming recommendation, information necessary for a submission, the types of names that will be considered and the review process.
No city assets are currently under consideration for naming or renaming, Metz said.
“I think it’s really important that we’ve done this to recognize the issues we might have in the community over names,” said Mayor Kim Baxter. “It’s a pretty simple thing to do, and it’s the right thing to do. It shows respect.”
Camacho said the policy is a step in the right direction.
“The city has goals to build relationships and behave in inclusive ways. This is an example of that,” she said. “There’s a long way to go. There was a wonderful series of conversations with Cathy Metz, and it’s been a very warm and welcoming process.”
The Community Relations Commission created subcommittees, such as the disabled equity and LatinX committees, to have inclusive conversations with broad constituencies within the community, Camacho said.
“The doors are open,” she said. “I personally am inviting all the people who would like to talk about DEI work to participate in our meetings.”