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Rolling out the barrels for downtown flowers

A flower barrel is in front of Karyn Gabaldon Fine Arts on Main Avenue. The city of Durango delivers the barrels to about 100 businesses each May. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

Dear Action Line: Who is the city gardener who has done a wonderful job recently with flowers on Main Avenue? Is there a new line item in the city budget for flowers? They seem to be long lasting and bring more greenery to the outdoor tables. Thanks to the City Council for this initiative. – Occasional Durango Visitor

Dear Occasional: Action Line is the kind of person who often needs the hawk atop the snag, or the pretty flowers in the barrels, pointed out to him. So, thanks. And now that you mention it, this is a neat deal.

The little touches shouldn’t be overlooked, and credit should be given where credit is due. If such things are acknowledged and appreciated, they are much more likely to be repeated. And while Action Line doesn’t often focus on warm and fuzzy, well, let’s just take a couple minutes to go there.

We turned to Tim Walsworth, executive director of the Durango Business Improvement District, or BID, for an answer. Walsworth, still wiping sweat from his brow after a successful weekend Brewfest – 1,500 attendees during two days at Buckley Park – gave a little background on the flower program.

It began “many years ago” with Bob Kunkel, who ran BID and had a position with the city in business development. Businesses pay to purchase a barrel, and the city stores those green metal barrels in the off-season, basically September to May. Each May, the city prepares the cylindrical barrels with soil and flowers, and delivers them to about 100 businesses.

Each business is then responsible for watering, pruning and making sure customers don’t dump trash and half-empty beers into them. If the flowers wilt or some “yahoo” pulls a few for a makeshift corsage, BID will generally split the cost with the business for replacements.

Enjoy them now, because soon after Labor Day, the city will remove the barrels and store them in a secret warehouse for next May.

Both flowers and trees, added in the last few decades, provide a refreshing dash of nature to the concrete and asphalt.

“The flowers are a nice touch to beautify downtown in our busy season,” Walsworth said. “We love the flowers and can’t thank enough those businesses that originally purchased the flower barrels, and the city for continuing the program at no cost to businesses, and the businesses today that take good care of their flowers.”

OK, now back to our regularly scheduled Action Line mayhem and controversy.

Dear Action Line: I often use the Durango Community Recreation Center for swimming, exercise, etc. As of late, I’ve been going to Lake Nighthorse. Many people using these facilities DO NOT live in Durango. I don’t blame them. These are nice places to exercise, swim or just relax. My question: Why isn’t there a different fee structure for non-Durango residents? Most cities or counties in this country that operate recreational facilities like an indoor pool or lake charge one fee for residents, while non-residents pay a slightly higher fee, maybe by a dollar or two. This is not only lost revenue, but a missed opportunity to provide a nice recreational perk to Durango citizens. – Vocal Local

Dear Vocal: There’s a good explanation, and you can make up your mind whether this sounds fair. Thanks to Scott McClain with Durango Parks and Recreation for the framework of this answer.

OK, so in 1999 when we Durangoans passed the half-cent sales tax to build the rec center, we reasoned that everyone who bought anything in Durango was paying that tax that paid for the construction and upkeep of the rec center.

Visitors often eat at restaurants, buy gas, stay at motels and purchase useless knickknacks that they will throw away a few months later. So, to charge visitors extra for using the rec center was sort of double-dipping off them.

One could argue.

Also, the land where the rec center sits is owned by and leased from La Plata County. So charging county residents extra seemed kind of, well, underhanded, a slap in the face. Too, county residents do quite a bit of shopping and purchasing in Durango.

Lake Nighthorse is a bit of a different case, but kind of the same line of thinking. The city uses that same half-cent sales tax to construct and maintain recreation opportunities at Lake Nighthorse.

Then there’s the issue that the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation owns the darn lake. That’s all of us.

At least all of us Americans. Maybe we could charge those uppity French folk extra, that’d serve them right for making us eat those greasy, unhealthy fries.

And Russians should be charged double for all those thistles they foisted on us. Oh yeah, and the knapweed, too.

Email questions and suggestions to actionline@durangoherald.com or mail them to Action Line, The Durango Herald, 1275 Main Ave., Durango, CO 81301. Wonder if former U.S. Sen. Ben “Nighthorse” Campbell has to pay to use Lake Nighthorse …