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Our View: Name street Scott Gallagher Way; rename Ninth to Greg Hoch Street

Durango has a street in need of a name and it got us thinking about who – and why – a person should be immortalized on roads, buildings, parks and more. Between Backcountry Experience and River City Hall on Camino del Rio, and running alongside Iris Park, this soon-to-be named short street serves the Durango Fire Protection District’s downtown station and The Powerhouse.

On Oct. 6, the city asked community members to participate and narrow down names, offering a few creative fun ones, along with the option to write in suggestions. The results follow:

* Gallagher Way (258)

* Get Out the Way, Way (182)

* Electric Avenue (181)

* Firepower Way (74)

* West 12th Street (53)

* Sepp Kuss Way (51)

* Hoch Way (40)

* Look Twice Way (23)

* Doughty Way (21)

* Powerhouse Lane (20)

The first choice is also ours, Scott Gallagher Way, for the local 49-year-old fire training captain, husband and father who on Aug. 7 was hit by a drunken driver and killed, while riding his bike home on Florida Road.

Camera footage of that night showed Gallagher leaving downtown and stopping to help someone who had fallen. He was that kind of guy. A beloved friend and colleague to many, with about 300 of them joining a bike parade in Gallagher’s honor on Aug. 19.

Having been with DFPD for more than 20 years, it’s a fitting tribute to name this street, curving toward the fire station, Scott Gallagher Way.

While we’re at this renaming business, let’s go even bigger. Rename Ninth Street to Greg Hoch Street in the heart of downtown, where this retired city Planning & Community Development director’s vision and persuasion deeply benefited Durango. Hoch served for 35 years until his retirement in 2016. His list of accomplishments would run off this page.

After leading the city at a critical time in its growth and development, Hoch deserves this honor. He worked to establish the city’s future boundaries, design aesthetics as a principal consideration and street tree standards that resulted in Durango’s Tree City USA designation 40 times since the program began in 1976. Walmart, for example, would not have the trees, landscaping and greenery in its parking lot without Hoch’s touch.

Under his leadership, the city joined the Colorado Main Street Program for community-led downtown and economic revitalization, and historic preservation. Durango would not be the place it is without Hoch’s influence. He even shooed away a plan for a Western-themed mall with artificial facades at Main Avenue and 14th Street because, well, we’re authentically Western and never looked like what was proposed. Hoch understood our sense of place, which already oozes character.

A precedent set, East Sixth Street was renamed East College Drive as the route to Fort Lewis College. So Greg Hoch Street shouldn’t be a problem.

If our idea for Hoch doesn’t fly at this time, how about a waitlist for future to-be-named places for distinguished Durangoans? A Sepp Kuss Bike Park is an easy reach.

However small, there is, though, some risk in naming places for living people. Austin got a raw deal with its Lance Armstrong Bikeway, named before revelations of the fallen-from-grace champion cyclist’s doping scandal. In 2013, Texas Monthly tagged Armstrong “Bum Steer of the Year 2013.” We sure wouldn’t want that to happen here.

But our very-much-alive candidates, Hoch and Kuss, are solid, safe bets, as was Ned Overend with a mountain bike playground/trail system named for him. No bad news coming from this mountain biking legend.

In the spirit of whimsy, Electric Avenue would spark some excitement for families heading to The Powerhouse.

But naming a street or building or park is serious and has to hold some essence of Durango or the Southwest. If not named for a particular human, acknowledging Indigenous or cultural significance is preferred.

Like Santa Rita Park, a former tight-knit Hispanic neighborhood of 30 families that once had gardens, fruit trees and a prime sandbar for fishing in the Animas River. That is, before a new route for U.S. Highway 550-160 was constructed right through it in the late 1960s, early ’70s. The park was renamed in 1999 from Gateway Park.

Colorful nods have moments, too. The yet-to-be-named street is next to the park noting Nellie “Iris” Spencer, a madame whose brothel was previously at that location. Just one more layer of Durango’s continually evolving story.

City staff members will bring a list of potential street names to the Planning Commission on Monday, and a recommendation will be made to City Council. Council will hear this item at a public meeting, likely on Jan. 2.