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More noise, one less mural on the River Trail

What was once art is now just a grayish, splotched underpass wall. Very pretty. (Courtesy of Action Line)

Dear Action Line: Why do people talk so loud on the phone when they are by themselves walking on the Animas River Trail? Why do two people talk so loud walking right next to each other? And why do people riding bikes on the trail listen to amplified music? Isn’t there a city ordinance forbidding loud noise on the trail so that other users and those living near the trail don’t have to hear their conversations or music? – Quiet Deprived

Dear Quiet Deprived: Yeah, that’s right. Some of us like to hear ourselves think. Probably because we’re so interesting – at least to ourselves.

Action Line is shy to the point of seeking a soundproof room in which to make any telephone call of a remotely personal nature. But others aren’t so delicate, and are unconcerned about making their private affairs public.

To get at the answer to your question, we contacted Action Line regular Brian Burke, professor of psychology at Fort Lewis College.

Loud talk in public varies across cultures and countries and is far more common in the U.S. than in, for example, most Asian nations, Burke said. “In fact, Americans traveling abroad may be labelled as ‘loud,’ which is why I often use my backpack with my Canadian flag on it when I travel.”

Burke said he also believes people vary on public loudness because of a psychological variable termed “self-monitoring,” or the degree to which one is aware of their impact on others and consciously thinking about how they are coming across. He provided a non-verbal example.

“Slow drivers who are high self-monitors will often pull over the first chance they get to let others pass them over Red Mountain Pass because they do not want to bother or inconvenience others,” he said. “This is purely anecdotal at this point (i.e., I have no data to support the following assertion), but it seems to me that people have become lower in self-monitoring post-COVID – people seem to be driving slower, failing to signal when they turn and generally acting as if they are less concerned about their effect on those around them. Not everyone, of course, and surely no one in our lovely town (except perhaps the tourists).”

Very interesting. To answer the question of the legality of being a public boor, Action Line turned to the city of Durango code of ordinances, and as everyone surely knows, Chapter 16 (Sections 1-17) is titled “Noise.” The ordinances get all technical (read 16-2 on Definitions if you’re bored), but unfortunately, nothing in there really covers temporary loud noise on the trail. In other words, people might be very loud and might even surpass the decibel level allowed, but because they’re just passing through, it’s nearly impossible for the city to enforce it.

Sound must be measured at least 25 feet from the source, with wind at no more than 5 mph. The A-weighted sound pressure, notated dB(A), cannot exceed 55 in residential areas between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., and 50 the rest of the day. Got that? There are limits on motor vehicles and construction projects, as well.

“The city code on Noise applies to any area within the city limits, so trail noise concerns would technically be enforceable,” said Steve Barkley, code enforcement officer with the city of Durango. “(But) unless the noise originator … remains in one location until an officer arrives, enforcement/compliance would be difficult at best.

“If the noise originators (are) on bikes or mobile, then contact by officers probably would not occur.”

Dear Action Line: Can you tell me what happened to the mural on the Animas River Trail underpass wall at the U.S. 550/160 bridge east of Santa Rita Park? The mural was painted by local artists and then painted over. It depicted bikers and walkers. – Paint Bucket

Dear Paint Bucket: After recovering from the shock and disappointment from the news, Action Line went to check this out. Indeed, the work, titled “Sports Mural,” was completely gone.

How sad. Although other murals, sculptures, historic signs and musical exhibits abound, it’s always sad to lose one. The city of Durango’s Public Art Commission strives to “enhance public spaces with an engaging and diverse art collection, accessible to everyone.”

While strolling or running or cycling along the Animas River Trail, this mural was always a nice touch, and a quick diversion, to enjoy as you endured the roaring traffic above while hearing the echoes of the sometimes-roaring river below.

“That was a very old mural,” said Cathy Metz, Durango’s director of Parks and Recreation. “A couple of years ago, it was in very poor condition including graffiti and it was painted over. There are no current plans to install a new mural at the present time.”

If you need an art fix, find a comprehensive list and maps of the city’s public art locations, compiled in 2015, here: https://bit.ly/2TRTFwa.

Email questions and suggestions to actionline@durangoherald.com or mail them to Action Line, The Durango Herald, 1275 Main Ave., Durango, CO 81301. Action Line’s mother used the word “boor” often while driving, probably to keep from swearing in front of her children.