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Tree lovers tussle over targeted cottonwood

This lofty cottonwood, north of and adjacent to 32nd Street, is targeted for removal. (Action Line)

Dear Action Line: The city’s plans to build a trail crossing over the Animas River adjacent to 32nd Street sound logical. However, I am concerned about the fate of a magnificent old-growth cottonwood on the south side of the acquired property. Those of us who drive that route may know this huge healthy tree by its deep gold explosion of fall color. Please let me know if the city has plans to build around this irreplaceable treasure to retain its beauty and shade. Durango’s well-established and healthy urban tree canopy is one of our most important aspects in terms of quality of life for visitors and residents alike. – Animas City Ann

Dear Ann: Remember, some of us actually wanted those bulky, ugly, view-blocking overpasses all over the place instead of the chosen option. See? Would’ve saved a cottonwood.

The tree was scheduled for removal Wednesday, and because Action Line penned an answer earlier this week, the situation has changed, thus demanding the dreaded rewrite. Sigh … (See The Durango Herald story: https://bit.ly/37UsSDa.)

The issue has stirred up the proverbial hornet’s nest, and highlighted Durangoans’ passion toward trees. Understandably, some of the neighbors cherish the old cottonwood. It provides shade, as well as a sight- and sound-buffer, and the upcoming profusion of color.

Months ago, the city and its planners tried to avoid this situation. They scratched their heads, sharpened their pencils, drew lines hither and thither on master plans, brought out lasers and clinometers, and determined azimuths and all sorts of mathematical things, but could not come up with a way to save that tree, said Scott McClain with the city’s Parks and Recreation Department. He actually didn’t say it quite like that, but in any case, they did want to preserve it.

With the recent public campaign, the city has agreed to take another look and see if it’s not outlandishly expensive to do a slight reroute. The issue is basically a lack of space in which to loop the trail back up from near river-level at a nice, easy, steady grade to street level.

In the plan, a cloverleaf path sends the trail in a loop over itself after it goes along the river under the 32nd Street Bridge, also known as the Emerson-Parks Bridge. (Pop quiz: Who were Emerson and Parks? Answer below.) That space the large tree consumes is needed to meet the grading requirements, McClain said.

Also, brace yourselves, tree lovers: One of the three blue spruces in Animas City Park on the other side of the river will need to come out. McClain and other planners say they understand it’s not an equal trade, but that on the bright side, 40 new trees will be planted in the project area. The city is working with neighbors to strategically locate some of these trees.

Stay tuned.

Dear Action Line: While volunteering at the Pine River Valley Heritage Museum in beautiful downtown Bayfield the other day (shameless plug: It’s free, open 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday until late September), a visitor came in and stumped me: Why are Lemon dam and lake named after the tangy yellow fruit? During a recent mushroom-punctuated hike along Lime Creek, I wondered about that fruity name as well. I know we have great apple orchards in our past, but lemons and limes? – Curiosity With a Twist

Dear Twist: Can a nonprofit museum that doesn’t charge admission actually make a shameless plug? It’s all for the love of the game, and those at the unexpectedly fun and interesting Pine River Valley Heritage Museum certainly love what they do. And they will take donations, by the way.

This question may be a plant because my guess is that the questioner is quite capable of figuring out the answer, but Action Line is a know-it-all and loves answering these types of questions.

So, the land taken up by Lemon dam and reservoir, built in the early 1960s and completed in 1963, was formerly part of a ranch owned by the well-known Charlie Lemon family of those parts. Thanks to Robert McDaniel, former Animas Museum director, for Charlie’s name.

Now, about Lime Creek.

There are three main categories of rock: igneous, metamorphic and sedimentary. We’ll ignore igneous, mosey past metamorphic and settle on sedimentary for this answer. Limestone and sandstone are sedimentary rocks found in abundance in Southwest Colorado. Ouray limestone, commonly found in the San Juan Mountains, including the area around Lime Creek, was deposited during the Devonian period, 360 million to 408 million years ago, when oceans covered the area. You remember.

“Lime,” or calcium oxide, can be created through a process of heating limestone, and has many industrial uses. Silverton produced some mighty good lime back in the day, “the quality of which is well known all over the San Juan,” according to George Jewett, Silverton proprietor, in an 1891 advertisement in the Silverton Standard. Or, as M. Rush Warner, Gunnison agent, advertised about “fresh lime” in the Gunnison News-Democrat in 1881: “Get good lime! And your house won’t fall down.” (Again, this is all for real.)

So, Action Line’s conclusion – backed up by McDaniel – is that the name Lime Creek was derived from limestone/lime. That’s the way pioneers thought. Consider: Cement Creek, Silver Mountain, Mineral Creek, Diorite Peak, Galena Mountain, Hematite Gulch. You get the drift.

A related tip: Don’t try squeezing any form of limestone into your gin and tonic.

For more information about the museum, located at 11 W. Mill St. in the heart of spectacular downtown Bayfield, visit pineriverheritage.org or call 884-7636.

And while you’re at it, don’t forget the Animas Museum, open Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 3065 West Second Ave., 259-2402. It has neat stuff too.

Email questions and suggestions to actionline@durangoherald.com or mail them to Action Line, The Durango Herald, 1275 Main Ave., Durango, CO 81301. Durango policeman Gale Emerson and fireman Nick Parks were killed while fighting the Main Avenue fire of Aug. 24, 1974. A wall exploded as the two stood near Narrow Gauge Avenue and buried them in debris.