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Trimble Lane river access would be a boon to recreation, environmental sustainability

More access points would ease pressure on existing Animas River put-ins
Bill and Diane Stockwell put their boats into the Animas River on Tuesday at the launching area next to Trimble Lane (County Road 252) in the Animas Valley. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

Improving public river access can benefit recreationists, redirect people from overused nature areas and encourage grassroots preservation efforts. Now, such an opportunity for improved access might be possible at a private lot near Trimble Lane north of Durango.

The lot has a boat ramp and has been used for years as an informal access point to the Animas River. A somewhat contentious development proposal for an RV park in the Animas Valley presents the chance to restore the lot, provide new recreation space and protect the natural riparian area.

Sara Burch, with San Juan Citizens Alliance, said the Alliance has a conceptual plan for the lot called the Trimble Lane river access project.

She said she advocates for the kinds of restoration in the Animas watershed that include improving soil health, increasing biodiversity in headwater streams, taking care of water quality and supporting recreation initiatives.

The need for more recreational Animas River access is felt locally, aside from the plentiful river opportunities within Durango proper, she said. The next closest public access point to the one off Trimble Lane is Oxbow Park and Preserve, where frequent use is causing stress on the ecosystem.

Sara Burch, Animas riverkeeper with San Juan Citizens Alliance, talks Tuesday about the future of the Animas River launching area next to Trimble Lane (County Road 252) in the Animas Valley. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

Making the Trimble Lane put-in an official access point to the Animas River would negate a 50-mile gap between the town of Silverton and Oxbow Park and Preserve in Durango, she said in an April presentation. No free public access to the Animas River in the Animas Valley currently exists, and this project might be the only opportunity to secure the lot.

“There’s not a lot of access along the Animas River,” Burch said. “The access that does exist gets loved to death.”

Fostering more river recreation promotes the health of the river and its ecosystems, and it disperses high usage across multiple sites, lessening impact at any one particular site, she said.

Recreation inspires advocacy and serves as a call to action for protection, she said.

“If people aren’t connected to a resource, or what’s in their backyard, why would they want to protect it, right?” Burch said.

Mike and Diane Talley put their boats into the Animas River on Tuesday at the launching area next to Trimble Lane (County Road 252) in the Animas Valley. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

Poorly designed recreation sites can negatively impact the environment, she said. For example, open spaces can become party places that invite littering and disrespect of the natural area. That’s why ensuring recreation sites are well-designed, well-thought out and well-managed is crucial.

That presents a major challenge at the Trimble Lane site, Burch said.

The landowner wanting to develop the RV park at 876 Trimble Lane (County Road 252) is willing to donate a 2.2-acre lot for river access. But finding the right agency to manage the property is proving difficult, Burch said.

The city of Durango has resources to manage recreational amenities like parks and river put-ins, but the Trimble Lane property is about 9 miles north of city limits.

Still, Darin Martens, landscape architect with the National Park Service’s Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance program, which aids people like Burch in developing and restoring parks and conservation areas, said he recently presented an overview of the Trimble Lane project to Durango’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Board.

“This obviously is outside their jurisdiction, but it was worth putting on their radar,” he said.

He said he engaged the city of Durango to help it understand how it might partner with La Plata County or another entity to open up access to the river off Trimble Lane. But La Plata County doesn’t have a structure set up for managing something like river access.

Burch said the site could be too small to attract significant interest from Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

But John Livingston, CPW spokesman, said in an email to The Durango Herald that “CPW is willing to be part of the conversation and would consider being involved to some extent with partners in the community.”

“That’s the biggest challenge we’re facing right now,” she said. “We have, you know, the conceptual site plan, a willing landowner, but the other missing key component is we don’t know who would take that site on for management in the future.”

She is actively looking for leads, she said. Ultimately, management will likely fall under the purview of multiple entities. Signage and education of the site would be necessary.

But the challenges don’t stop there. Once managing entities are secured, funding for construction will be needed. Enforcement of site rules also must be discussed, possibly with CPW or La Plata County Sheriff’s Office.

From left, Karen Talley, Diane Stockwell, Mike Talley and Bill Stockwell get their boats ready on Tuesday before putting in on the Animas River at the launching area next to Trimble Lane (County Road 252) in the Animas Valley. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

She said the city’s Animas River Ambassadors Program, which is launching this summer, might be able to have members visit the Trimble Lane site intermittently.

Martens, who manages projects in a wide geographic area but lives in Durango, said he regularly sees people fishing, paddleboarding or rafting on the river near the proposed access point. Other organizations such as American Whitewater and Four Corners River Sports have also expressed interest in preserving the site.

“It’s a great neighborhood access point,” he said. “It would be a shame to lose it even though it’s been informal over the years.”


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