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Durango welcome mat needs some shaking

Yes, this welcome sign could use a sprucing up. (Action Line)

Dear Action Line: My husband and I retired here five years ago and we love Durango. We enjoy all of the outdoor activities that come with living in the mountains. The restaurants in Durango are amazing, and having a college here helps with new ideas. I do have a question about the front entrance to Durango located at highways 160 and 550. What gives? The place looks terrible! Overgrown with weeds and unkept gardens. Who is responsible for that area? Do they need funds? Volunteers? First impression of Durango is less than satisfactory. – Retired in Durango

Dear Retired: Action Line agrees with point one. Other than a few minor issues such as the exorbitant cost of housing, the fire danger, the looming water shortages and the lack of a bumper car track, Durango is indeed an awesome place to reside.

It must be, because people keep streaming in, and not all that many are making a beeline out of here.

So do we even need a beautiful entrance? Is it OK if it’s unkept?

And is it “unkept” or “unkempt”? As often happens, Action Line was distracted and fell down into a rabbit hole during research. “Unkempt” wouldn’t be wrong, but it is generally used to describe the appearance of a person, such as Action Line – disheveled, bleary-eyed, chocolate sauce on his bib – while sitting at the home office with no co-workers to worry about. So, “unkept” was right all along.

Action Line’s first call went to Jack Llewellyn, executive director of Durango’s Chamber of Commerce, who couldn’t say who is responsible for upkeep. But he did point out that a potato truck lost its brakes coming down Highway 160 back in the 1980s or so and toppled over at this spot. So if the place is overgrown with potato trees, that’s why.

After emails and inquiries to multiple sources, one person dug up an answer. The star today is Lisa Schwantes, Colorado Department of Transportation spokeswoman, who was relieved to find out that the responsible party wasn’t her employer, that CDOT had pawned it off on someone else.

“I’m guessing that at some point in history there was an email chain similar to this one that bounced between agencies and departments,” said Scott McClain, assistant parks director with the city of Durango. “Parks and Recreation came out the winner and it was added to our list.”

Schwantes found the July 25, 2014, agreement, which says that although the welcome sign is in CDOT’s right of way, “The City will be responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of this landscaping. This is to be done at no cost to CDOT.” “No cost” is in bold and underlined just so there would be no question as to the city’s obligation!

Nobody asked Action Line what’s up with this lovely retention pond just south of the Welcome to Historic Durango sign that also greets visitors. Anyone, anyone? (Action Line)

Former city manager Ron LeBlanc signed the city/CDOT agreement, so feel free to blame him. He’s no longer around to defend himself anyway.

Schwantes has challenged city spokesman Tom Sluis to do some work at the site: “I said I’d provide the brightly colored safety vests, if he brings the tools,” she said.

McClain said Parks and Recreation has been a bit short-handed this year, and welcomes the volunteer help, whether it’s a one-shot deal or someone who wants to organize an ongoing “adopt a welcome sign” effort.

Check out the city website for information about a volunteer program, Friends of Parks and Recreation, at www.durangogov.org/493/Volunteer-Opportunities, or call the administrative office at 375-7321.

Dear Action Line: I ride a bicycle here in Durango. Many of my fellow cyclists have discovered (apparently) that they can go at least 0.0002 percent faster if they remove all lights and reflectors from their bikes. For added speed, dark clothes are preferred. I also drive a large pickup. My question is: What happens when my 8,000 pounds of steel connects with the invisible 180 pounds of carbon fiber and flesh? Who is at fault? – Just Curious

Dear Just Curious: Action Line made some calculations, using a wind tunnel and the equation for aerodynamic drag force: Fᴅ = Cᴅ x A½pU². The answer, with no lights and reflectors, came out to be 420. Not sure what that means.

Action Line can’t joke around about this, because it happens too often around here. We know who wins. Nobody. Police investigate and might place blame on an irresponsible driver, but in this case, if a driver just can’t see the cyclist, there is no fault. Again, nobody wins.

This might be preaching to the choir, because Action Line knows loyal readers are smart cyclists. But just in case you need a remedial class in bicycle safety, we asked Chad Cheeney, cycling coach with both Durango DEVO and Fort Lewis College, what those groups advise.

“We teach the riders at all ages to ride aware of the power and speed of vehicles. So by wearing reflectors/lights and bright clothing, they are hopefully helping the vehicles to be aware of them,” Cheeney wrote.

“It’s more than being visible, it’s riding aware and cautious when in traffic and using your eyes and ears to avoid dangerous scenarios. That’s all you can do, when moving safely in any situation: just go with the flow and use your brains. So glad to be riding in Durango traffic!”

Some interesting or perhaps sobering statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration: Most cyclist deaths occur between 6 and 9 p.m., regardless of the season. One of four deaths is alcohol-related. Men die six times more frequently than women.

Wear a helmet, use a red rear flashing reflector. Please watch out for cyclists. Thank you.

Email questions and suggestions to actionline@durangoherald.com or mail them to Action Line, The Durango Herald, 1275 Main Ave., Durango, CO 81301. There really are potato trees, species of nightshade in the genus Solanum. But that’s for another time. Maybe.

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