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Durango considers closing trails, open spaces to recreation

Extreme fire danger has area land agencies taking similar action
The Durango Viewpoint, a mile up the Animas City Mountain trail, is one of several open space locations that may be closed Tuesday as a result of extreme fire danger this year in Southwest Colorado.

The city of Durango will consider closing its trails and open spaces Tuesday.

Durango City Council will hold a special meeting at 3:45 p.m. Tuesday to discuss closing city-owned open spaces to recreation as a result of extreme fire danger.

Areas being considered for closure include Animas City Mountain, Carbon Junction, Dalla Mountain Park, Horse Gulch and Overend Mountain Park.

Extreme drought in Southwest Colorado has led to two uncontrolled fires: the 416 Fire north of Durango and the Burro Fire northeast of Dolores, which have burned more than 22,130 acres and 1,000 acres, respectively.

The U.S. Forest Service will take a similar action Tuesday, closing the entire 1.8 million San Juan National Forest. That closure order shuts down forest campgrounds, day-use areas, roads and trails to hiking, camping and other activities.

Assistant City Manager Amber Blake said another big reason the city is proposing to close its open space is because resources such as EMS personnel are tied up with the wildfires.

“If, for example, someone was out bike riding and got injured, our resources are tied up with the fire,” Blake said. “The council does not take it lightly, by any stretch of the imagination. But safety is a No. 1 priority.”

The city of Durango last week approved restrictions that include no smoking in any city park or open space, as well as prohibiting the use of charcoal grills.

Any closure of city open space would have to receive approval from Durango City Council.

Mayor Sweetie Marbury said Monday the closure is a necessary one.

“It’s proactive and it’s prudent to make decisions like this,” Marbury said. “It’s temporary, and so you take temporary measures to ensure a long-term successful strategy.”

Marbury said there are plenty of options for activities around Durango, including Mesa Verde National Park and Aztec Ruins National Monument, as well as rafting and fishing opportunities.

“My daddy told me you have to be tough to live in the West in 1974, and that hasn’t changed,” Marbury said. “Durango is resilient.”

La Plata County is expected to enact Stage 3 fire restrictions Tuesday. The Bureau of Land Management and San Juan County (Colo.) have yet to implement tougher restrictions than Stage 2.

jromeo@durangoherald.com

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