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Residents question what will happen with trees at Buckley Park

City of Durango says it won’t know fire district’s needs until development plans are submitted
The city of Durango has received questions about the future of Buckley Park, but it says it has few answers until Durango Fire Protection District submits its development plans. (BCI Media file)

Durango residents have begun raising questions about the future of Buckley Park, which is slated to be sold to the city, but so far city officials say they have few answers.

More specifically, residents are questioning whether trees will have to be cut down to accommodate a firehouse located at the Durango School District 9-R administration building, 201 E. 12th St., said City Manager José Madrigal.

Madrigal said he understands the questions and concerns, but the sale of Buckley Park and the administration building involve three entities, including the city, school district and Durango Fire Protection District. The city is not yet in a position to know exactly what the fire department needs to do to accommodate the fire station, he said.

“The city didn’t have a role in that administration building purchase,” Madrigal said. “They’re two independent entities that have made decisions to go forward with a sale. From a city standpoint, there isn’t a mechanism or legality that we have over either of those entities.”

Madrigal said he hasn’t heard anything from DFPD Chief Hal Doughty about the need to do tree removal, but discussion about tree removal among community members likely stems from public outreach that the fire department has done.

“There’s a lot of conversation happening in public engagement, and as those meetings are happening, I believe more information is coming out,” Madrigal said. “I can say that our staff will do everything that we can to maintain and keep all of the trees that we can.”

Doughty did not return a phone call seeking information about possible tree removal at Buckley Park.

The city won’t know the specifics of DFPD’s plans for the property until after a sale with the school district has been finalized. After the sale, any work to the property will require a site plan that the city must review.

“We understand that DFPD has an agreement with 9-R, but we haven’t seen the contract. I believe it’s still confidential,” Madrigal said. “There’s a development plan that has to be submitted to the city. Once that’s submitted, we can know exactly what their plans are for that building.”

Durango City Council will hold a discussion Tuesday at its regular meeting about subdividing the property that is currently home to Buckley Park and the 9-R administration building. That is a process required before selling the 9-R building and Buckley Park separately.

Residents like Jules Harris, who advocate to keep trees in the community, are worried about what Buckley Park will look like after the sales and site plans are done.

“There seems to be so much unknown about what the plan is with any of the trees,” Harris said. “I’m trying to encourage whoever is in control of these trees’ lives to be forward-thinking.”

Harris and other tree advocates plan to attend Tuesday’s City Council meeting to demand some level of reassurance the trees will be cared for.

“Bigger than this actual moment is getting the city, if they haven’t already been thinking about it, to think about protecting large canopy trees first,” Harris said.

Madrigal said the city’s focus has always been on finding a way to maintain Buckley Park as a park for generations to come.

“We’re in negotiations, and I can’t say much more than that,” Madrigal said. “We have a pretty strong belief that we will have a deal here for Buckley Park to be maintained as a park.”

njohnson@durangoherald.com

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