Horse Gulch Blog

Watchdogging for the greater Durango area

19 Feb 2014

City officials destroy shade structures, illegal bike jumps, and fire rings in Horse Gulch

Posted by Adam Howell


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At the request of the La Plata Open Space Conservancy, who holds the conservation easement for City property in Horse Gulch, officials with the City of Durango had several illegal bike jumps, shade structures and fire rings destroyed in Horse Gulch last fall, said Durango’s Parks and Recreation Director Cathy Metz.

These shade structures were torn down by the City of Durango last fall at the request of La Plata Open Space Conservancy. Photo borrowed from Horse Gulch on Facebook.

These shade structures were torn down by the City of Durango last fall at the request of the La Plata Open Space Conservancy, according to Durango’s Parks and Recreation Director Cathy Metz. Photo borrowed from Horse Gulch on Facebook.

Specifically,  the wooden jump was removed off of Chad’s secret trail as well as the ramp access to the concrete slab at the top of Raider Ridge, said Durango’s Parks and Recreation Director Cathy Metz.

“We also removed the medals and trinkets from the trinket tree on the east side of Horse Gulch,” said Metz.  The fire rings that were removed were primarily on the top of Raider Ridge.

The La Plata Open Space Conservancy’s Executive Director Amy Schwarzbach took the lead in convincing the City to remove the human-made structures in Horse Gulch.

“I don’t like my meetings when I sit down with Kevin Hall and Cathy Metz and I have to say this has to come out, this has to come out, this is in violation of the easement,” said Schwarzbach. “I don’t use the word violation–that’s a very, very strong term in our industry.”

“But when something is put out there without permission, it’s a cost to us,” she said. “and the city was saying recently, well maybe we’ll find somebody else to deal with the easements, or maybe easements aren’t the best thing.”

This is the where the shade structures were taken down by City staff.

This is the where the shade structures were taken down by City staff.

“They are public access parks, but they are not free for all for folks to go out and build structures that they want,” said Schwarzbach.

Durango might have fewer city-owned properties in Horse Gulch if we did not have LPOSC as a land-trust organization to hold the conservation easement for those properties.

“Without a conservation easement on the property, GOCO does not give the funding to the City of Durango,” said Schwarzbach. “We have been chosen by the city to be the easement holders. So that partnership is what has allowed the parks to be purchased and be protected for the good of the public.”

What it means to harm or abuse a landscape is debatable, but the wording in the conservation easement can be interpreted to exclude recreational features that have not been approved by city officials.

Medals and trinkets were removed from this tree on a trail on the east side of Horse Gulch, according to Durango's Parks and Recreation Director Cathy Metz.

City staff removed medals and trinkets from this tree next to a trail on the east side of Horse Gulch, according to Durango’s Parks and Recreation Director Cathy Metz.

“A conservation easement protects it from ever being developed,” said Schwarzbach. “That’s why they’re gems for us here, and once the community recognizes that and hopefully appreciates that that’s the case I’d like to think that the abuse of trail systems, or building camps, or fire pits or whatever would maybe diminish. But I live in a rose-tinted world, and I put myself there.”

The LPOSC also has concerns with the liability incurred from technical trails on properties that they hold the conservation easements for.

“With our insurance alone, I can’t even tell you in the last three weeks how many hours I have spent with an insurance agent,” said Schwarzbach. “And we are  playing the what’s the worst case scenario.”

“If someone rides a mountain bike in Horse Gulch and they go off a technical trail, who can they sue? And because we have an easement on the property and we authorize the trails, we fall under that ‘ can we get sued?’, and will it hold up in court if we allow for technical, above intermediate riding skills in a park that has our name associated with it?”

“So that’s the tough part about technical trails from a land manager’s stand point,” said Schwarzbach.

In April of 2013, this blogger and Ben Bain met with Metz and Trails 2000’s Executive Director Mary Monroe Brown to propose ideas of adopting preexisting trails on City open space lands for doing maintenance and building freeride features such as jumps on them. I requested permission to build jumps on Raiders Ridge, but neither Metz nor Monroe Brown has followed up with either of us to provide any answers.

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One Response to “City officials destroy shade structures, illegal bike jumps, and fire rings in Horse Gulch”

  1. Great post.

     

    a

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