From Darkness To Light

21 Oct 2020

Discussions of naming or renaming of trails deferred to Community Relations Commission

Posted by Adam Howell

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A vote of the Natural Lands Board vote to defer all trail-naming discussions to the Community Relations Commission follows the renaming of multiple trails on the city’s online interactive map without public input or discussion.

Specifically, the new names given to the following trails in the Horse Gulch trail system:

  1. Raider Ridge renamed to “Half Ridge” “Extended Ridge” or “Hyper Extended Ridge”
  2. Anasazi Descent renamed to “Sendit”
  3. Sky Raider renamed to “Ridgeview”
  4. Down N Out renamed to “Ben’s Down N Out”
  5. Shocker renamed to “Squawker”

Naming the Sky Raider Trail as Ridgeview was initiated by Durango Trails.These five trails were renamed on the City’s Interactive Map of Trails–accessible on the City’s “Trails” web page–without any public process occurring beforehand.

In concurrence with city staff, a motion passed by Durango’s Natural Lands Preservation Advisory Board this month (October) prevents discussions about the naming or renaming of natural surface trails. In this case, the motion followed a narrative of Board Chair Mark Smith, who said multiple times that the board had never named any trails before.

Naming of Wilbert’s Way trail initiated by Mark Smith

While there hasn’t been much formality to trail naming in the past, there was a trail that was named at the suggestion of Mark Smith. For instance, in February of 2016, the board agreed with Smith’s suggestion to name a trail in Oxbow Preserve. He named it Wilbert’s Way. This new name was in honor of Natural Lands Board Member Paul Wilbert, who had recently died.

“Do you think we could name that trail after Paul,” Smith asked the board and city staff. “It’s almost poetic. It fits perfectly, given the timing of everything, and how that was his idea. That would be a nice way to memorialize him. I’d love to see it named something to do with him.”

The issue of renaming the city’s trails came up again in August of 2020 when board member Ian Altman asked how the city came to the decision of renaming Anasazi Descent and Sky Raider Trail.

In response, Parks and Recreation Director Cathy Metz said that the City often times work very closely with Durango Trails (formerly Trails 2000) on the naming of trails. The naming or renaming process is usually a rubber stamp process involving City staff behind closed doors.

“They generally say, let’s call it this; we say great, let’s do it,” said Metz. “That’s not something we do a lot of process about, with the trail naming. It’s more casual.”

At the September meeting, I suggested that the board follow the Amended Policy and Procedure for Naming or Renaming Parks or Recreation Facilities for renaming these trails.

None of the other board members agreed with my suggestion.

Meanwhile, some of the board did agree with board liaison and City Council Member Kim Baxter’s suggestion of giving the proposed name changes to the Community Relations Commission to evaluate further.

Parks and Recreation Director reminisces on fabled public process

Alas, the board cast away my suggestion of gathering public input about the renaming of five trails in Horse Gulch.

At the same time, the process was running its course, according to Parks and Recreation Director Cathy Metz. In this fable, an approval of the board occurred at the August 2020 meeting, Metz said.

“Adam, you’re forgetting the steps that we took,” said Metz. “So we brought the name changes to the advisory board, and you all approved the name changes. And then Amy changed the names on the City of Durango website.”

“What I wanted to do was be super clear about what we are doing or not. Because we’d like to go forward with the wayfinding signage. We have put nothing out to bid yet, but we are prepared to do that now,” said Metz. After the board approved the name changes, Amy helped the city update their GIS website, she said.

To the contrary, this alleged vote to approve the name changes never occurred. Instead of a vote, it was a discussion that occurred at the end of the last Natural Lands Board meeting without being placed on the agenda first. No vote occurred.

The following month, Kim Baxter and some of the board informally suggested that the issue of renaming trails be addressed by the Community Relations Commission, instead.

Community Relations Commission and Southern Ute suggest further name changes

Showing gratitude, the Community Relations Commission reviewed and approved of the suggested name changes. Specifically, they support new names for Anasazi Descent, Sky Raider and Down N Out, said Natural Resources Manager Amy Schwarzbach. One additional name change that they suggested was to rename the Shocker trail to the Squawker, she said.

“In addition to responding to trail names that we brought to them, they asked that we review Snake Charmer and Bandito,” said Schwarzbach. “The request was very specific with Snake Charmer that we engage with indigenous members of our community. I did reach out to Navajo Nation, Southern Ute Tribe and Ute Mountain Ute Tribe. A very universal consensus that snakes are not exactly feel-good critters. There can be negative energy and negative superstition surrounding snakes.”

“They also let us know that nocturnal animals–in particular owls–can instill that same negative energy or fear-type energy,” she said.

“They made suggestions, and one of those suggestions was Bear Run,” Schwarzbach said about the tribe’s suggested name for Snake Charmer Trail.

“The other request was on Bandito,” said Schwarzbach. “And we would like to request that that stay in the hands of Durango Trails as to whether or not to make a change on the trail name.”

Adam Howell is a writer who is on the city of Durango’s Natural Lands Preservation Advisory Board. His reporting and commentary does not reflect or represent the views of the Board or the municipal government. He can be reached by clicking on this link to the contact page.

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