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Should we resist bear-resistant containers?

There are several types of bear-resistant trash containers. For this one you need to turn a knob counterclockwise. It works just fine – most of the time. (Action Line)

Dear Action Line: How are the city’s bear-proof garbage cans remotely compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act? The lids are almost impossible to open, requiring total dexterity to get a finger up and inside the mechanism to slide the latch and unlock. I have a hard time opening my can, so I can’t imagine how it is for someone with limited mobility. The city is requiring residents to have something that disabled people can’t operate. – Bearly Hanging On

Dear Bearly: Well, it is true that these containers can be a little difficult to open at times. The technology isn’t perfect, but it’s improving. It seems to be about the best we have at the moment.

Action Line has sympathy for those trying to wrestle with these containers, but maybe, possibly, it’s more important to save bears? Oh yes, and humans, too?

The city began deploying wildlife-resistant cans in 2013. Bears eventually migrated north and south of the initial treatment areas, said Joey Medina, city of Durango solid waste manager. So since 2018 and 2019, city residences within designated priority wildlife areas have been required to have wildlife-resistant trash containers.

As of 2023, however, “the only type of residential trash containers the city provides are wildlife resistant,” Medina said. The city owns the containers and maintains them.

In other words, eventually all city residents will have them. And the ADA issue has not yet come up, Medina said.

“Any time we deliver or replace an existing container out in the field, it is done with a wildlife-resistant container,” Medina said. “We do carry regular-style containers but only use them for recycling. I am not aware of any ADA situations at this time that we have not been able to accommodate.”

Yes, residents do have trouble opening them periodically. Sometimes it’s a problem with the latch, and sometimes it’s a problem with the operator.

“A lot of the time, the issue we deal with is the resident does not understand how to open the container,” Medina said. “What we will do is send a staff member out to check the can for issues and educate the resident on how the can operates and opens.”

Action Line also contacted Bryan Peterson, director of Bear Smart Durango, to get his take on the issue. Action Line did this by email, so he couldn’t actually see Peterson roll his eyes.

“It’s a lot to ask of manufacturers of bear-resistant trash containers to design a trash can made of plastic that can keep a grizzly bear out, be serviced by waste haulers, while also being super easy to use by humans,” Peterson said. “Perhaps the city of Durango could make reasonable accommodations for this individual. Or a nice neighbor, friend, church or support group could offer assistance – allowing that part of our community to keep bears from accessing trash, and keeping residents and bears safe from harm.”

The problem is, mountain towns like ours kill bears when they knock over or open up our garbage and feast on our trash. Once they associate humans with food, bears can become a huge danger to people.

Problem bears are relocated or euthanized. Action Line always gets a little nervous when “problem bears” are relocated. Umm, to where? Like, to the wilderness?

Action Line and a friend successfully fended off a hungry porcupine a couple of weeks ago in the wilderness, and as badly as that could have ended, facing down a hungry bear would be much scarier. Best to not have bears linking humans to food, in town or in the backcountry.

Partly to that end, Colorado Parks and Wildlife in August gave Bear Smart Durango a $90,000 grant to help ease the problem of human-bear conflicts. The grant will help pay for bear-proof cans for Southern Ute tribal members and county residents, and for bear-proof food lockers at popular primitive campsites in the San Juan National Forest.

Dear Action Line: I’m new in town and I don’t like the train. It’s so old-fashioned and sometimes the train whistle interrupts me when I’m talking. Any chance we could get rid of it? – I. Ronny Horse

Dear I. Ronny: Nobody likes the train. It’s dirty, it’s noisy, it causes traffic jams in the valley, and we residents still have not been reimbursed for all the times we’ve had to stop for the train and politely wave at the passengers.

It’s such a ripoff.

All the train does is lug tourists from Durango to Silverton, bring business to dozens of restaurants and other shops in each town, fill many local motels, give Southwest Colorado some unique character and provide a sense of history.

Who needs it?

Not only is it old-fashioned, it’s so slow. The Shanghai Maglev (magnetic levitation) train in China goes 286 mph. That’s what we need. It would shorten the Durango-to-Silverton train ride from 3-plus hours to about 15 minutes.

Who needs time to enjoy the scenery?

Email questions and suggestions to actionline@durangoherald.com or mail them to Action Line, The Durango Herald, 1275 Main Ave., Durango, CO 81301. That last item might have been written by someone just trying to be funny, but Action Line really isn’t into the humor thing. Or irony.