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RTR – A missed opportunity

Dear Editors:

It has been unpopular these last few months to be an environmentalist for sustainable development in Durango. The vocal and sometimes angry opposition to River Trails Ranch sent those of us who were for the development into hiding. Reading the many letters to the editors, seeing the distorted photos and advertisements and hearing the often incorrect interpretations of New Urbanism had some of us who know differently shaking our heads and backing down from what seemed an “in the bag” vote against River Trails. The idea that two of our city councilors were voted in because of their position against RTR (according to the Friends of the Animas,) was a pretty good indication there would be a no vote to annex RTR.

Now that the votes are cast, perhaps opponents of New Urbanism will be more likely to listen because the “threat” is no longer in their back yard. We still have the same development issues we had prior to voting no on RTR. The most unfortunate part is we’ve thrown the baby out with the bath water. The New Urbanism concept has suffered and will be a hard battle to fight anywhere else, be it Grandview or Ewing Mesa. My bet is there are few people who opposed RTR that have actually visited a New Urban community or studied its components.

My work as a photographer and writer for magazines, including Natural Home Magazine, has given me the opportunity to experience first hand what these developments are about. Assignments have put me in touch with sustainable architects, builders and planners. Here is what I have researched and know about New Urbanism.

I liken the name New Urbanism to the term New Age. They are misleading in that much of what these concepts are about is not new at all. New Urbanism is based on the oldest model available for town and city design. Visit New England for an illustration of this. Villages are focused on a town center with retail, commercial and public areas at the heart and residences radiating from the center. New Urbanism is really using a millennia of design history for contemporary planning. It is incorrect to compare Skyridge to New Urbanism. Skyridge does not contain design principals of New Urbanism.

The streets in a New Urban design are not like those found in single-entry developments like Dalton Ranch. The Crestview area, for example, lacks appropriate sidewalks and pedestrian friendly paths. A common feature of both these neighborhoods is they are designed so garages front the street. This design standard was instituted Post World War II. Suburbs were a symbol of affluence, and driving to work was part of that social status. Gated communities sprouted up that made it virtually impossible to leave without getting in your car, most likely crossing a major thoroughfare. We have many developments like this in our area, including Durango West and Dalton Ranch.

New Urbanism includes a grid network with streets emanating from a center that contains parks, public space, retail and schools – all within a safe walk. The general rule is a radius of about a quarter mile so people can walk to services rather than drive. There also is a public transportation stop in close proximity. The tree-lined streets are designed to be safe and inviting by having stores, houses, apartments and work places fronting them. The ability to support daily activities and needs within walking distance, especially for the elderly and the young, is another important design element in New Urbanism. The web site for the Congress of New Urbanism lists the “popsicle test” as a criteria for New Urbanism in that an 8-year-old should be able to bicycle to the store to buy a popsicle without having to battle a major highway or thoroughfare. New Urbanism also includes housing to meet the needs of the elderly and people of varying income levels and housing needs, from accessible apartments to single-family homes with yards. Making sure the city and county have codes that encourage mixed-use development is often a hurdle in planning. Many subdivisions do not allow for mother-in-law units or home businesses, all necessary components for social and economic diversity.

For New Urbanism to be successful, it must fit the design standards of the region. Opponents of RTR often commented: “I support New Urbanism, just not here.” The land in the Animas Valley has not been sufficiently protected over the years, and the developer of RTR was quick to illustrate places in the valley where there is a failure or lack of design in housing and commercial projects and preserving open space. The Animas Valley has turned into a classic example of sprawl. To ensure sprawl does not continue, there must be smart growth and high-density developments. We added to the sprawl of the Valley by voting no to RTR. We added to the increase of housing costs with a no vote to a high-density development. We decreased the amount of open space accessible to the elk and the public by saying no to this plan and saying yes to 3-acre parcels. We have increased the impact on the Animas River aquifer by preferring the development of 67 wells and septic systems. Most Durangoans live here, as I do, for the outdoors and wild places at our back door. The more we say no to close-in, contiguous, New Urban types of planning, the more we encourage outdated, elitist subdivisions of the ’50s era. Wilderness and wildlife are taxed as subdivisions move closer to the wild lands interface. Pollution from autos increases while air quality decreases as the working class moves farther away from town for affordable housing.

Why would we benefit from New Urbanism? That’s my next letter. There are examples to learn from if we are open to them, regardless of where they are, be it Florida or Minnesota. We could become a model for other towns as a truly visionary community if we can let go of our individual interests and start working toward smart growth and regional planning. New Urbanism is proving successful around the country and the world (no, it’s not just in California) because it is a planning and development tool that works for a sustainable future.

For more information, visit The Congress for New Urbanism web site at www.cnu.org.; National Geographic’s web site on New Urbanism: www.nationalgeographic.com/earthpulse/sprawl; or the Sierra Club, www.sierraclub.org/sprawl

– Laurie Dickson,

Durango, via e-mail

Clarifying alternative medicine

Dear Editors,

Thank you for the article on alternative medicine. There are two things I would like to add to my portion of the interview: a clarification and correction.

First, the clarification: the State of Colorado does not license naturopathic doctors. Because there is no regulatory body to oversee the profession, anyone in Colorado can call himself a naturopathic doctor and many people with various levels of training do so. To ensure safety and quality, people seeking care from an individual who claims he is a naturopathic doctor must ask about his training and ask to see proof, such as a degree.

To get licensed in the states that do have licensing, a naturopathic doctor, or N.D., must complete college and four years of naturopathic medical school at one of the four accredited schools in the United States. They must also pass NPLEX, the Naturopathic Physicians Licensing Exam. This includes four days of exams given in two parts, the basic sciences and clinical exams. The accredited schools in the U.S. that train N.D.s are Bastyr University in Seattle, Wash.; National College of Naturopathic Medicine in Portland, Ore.; Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine in Tempe, Ariz.; and University of Bridgeport College of Naturopathic Medicine in Bridgeport, Conn. If an individual has not completed training at one of these schools, he is not qualified as a naturopathic doctor.

Second, the correction: The article said that I “admitted that there is little she could do for someone who has experienced severe trauma.” What I said during the interview was that if I experienced severe trauma I would be glad to have drugs and surgery as options. There are actually quite a number of therapies such as homeopathy and acupuncture that are tremendously useful in acute trauma situations. My ultimate preference and goal is to have an integrated health-care system that would include complementary therapies in all levels of care.

Thanks again for the great article.

– Louise N. Edwards, N.D., L.Ac.

Tips Appreciated: As winter approaches, scenes like the fence surrounding Home Slice Pizza begin to creep into the collective conscience./Photo by Todd Newcomer.

Kudos to Shan

Dear Editors,

Shan Wells’ political cartoons are great. We are lucky to have him in Durango, and you are lucky to have such a talent contributing to the Telegraph. Keep them coming.

– Thanks, Paul Ebert


Under the frosty moon

Dear Editors:

On Nov. 8, a bunch of fun-loving hikers gathered at Durango Nature Studies just southeast of Farmington Hill to hike the “Frosty Moon.” We chatted briefly about the upcoming full-moon eclipse and “harmonic convergence” of planets and stars. It was suggested that a certain alignment could cause a cataclysmic change in our lives, making extraordinary and inexplicable things happen. (I wondered if an extraterrestrial force would suck me into the heavens like a canister at a drive-up teller.)

Led by an ever-friendly and capable Lisa, we descended into a prehistoric looking valley. At the base of sunlit cliffs, the path maneuvered through huge, magnificent boulders, small pines and junipers, which created a unique and inviting arboretum on the valley floor.

As we strolled along the path, the group paused occasionally as Lisa would identify plants, examine tracks made by various critters and point out some strange habits of indigenous animals (did you know that owls cough up hair-ball type pellets of the indigestible parts of hapless rodents?).

After meandering through the trees and boulders and traipsing down some damp washes, we nestled in a cozy grove of oak trees nicknamed “Oak Hollow,” outfitted with tree stumps. While we indulged in delicious creamy hot chocolate and socialized, we snacked on those huge pretzels I love (Thanks again for dinner DNS!).

Collectively, we hoped the sporadic clouds would part long enough for us to observe the eclipse and a resounding cheer went up as we exited the grove to find that they had accommodated us. We gathered on a bridge spanning the Pine River to soak up the natural phenomenon at 6:12 p.m. and shared binoculars to double our appreciation.

Speaking for my friend, his little boy and myself, it was a great time with fun people; we’re looking forward to the next Durango Nature Studies outing.

– Paul Smith,


Dangers lurking in the tap

Dear Editors:

Bravo, residents of Cumberland, Maryland!

In a scenic city in mountainous western Maryland, which marked the eastern boundary of the great, unsettled “frontier” back in the late 1700s, the pioneering spirit of what it used to mean to be American is alive and well. How so? Because a vocal group of the residents of Cumberland and surrounding Allegheny County are fighting tooth and nail to resist their local government’s decision to pollute their drinking water with 85 the industrial waste product that’s so poisonous, it was once legal to use only as a rat poison and insecticide!

I’m talking, of course, about fluoride.

I know, I know - fluoride prevents cavities, right? Studies show that it really doesn’t, but I’m probably not going to convince you of that fact in this small dispatch. But even if fluoride in the drinking water meant an absolute guarantee of never having to go the dentist again, ever, you shouldn’t consume it. Why? Because cavities can’t kill you, but fluoride can.

And Marylanders in old Cumberland-town know it. They know all about the brain damage, premature puberty, cancer and yes, even tooth discoloration that has been linked with prolonged fluoride exposure. They know all about the lead, arsenic and other toxins that accompany the hydrofluorosilicic acid that the City Council wants to force down their throats. That’s the reason they adopted a charter provision in the early 1960s that forever prohibited the fluoridation of their public water – and have fought challenge after challenge to it ever since.

But now, that charter has fallen. In 2000, a City of Cumberland referendum laid low the fluoride prohibition. Since then, the residents of this historic mountain hamlet have been forced to quaff and cook with poison-laced H20.

They haven’t given up, though. Some determined western Maryland natives have brought suit against Cumberland and nearby Frostburg. And even though a federal judge in Baltimore (over 100 miles away, by the way) has tossed out the suit in a recent hearing, their fight continues.

To them, I say: BRAVO!

To you, I say: If you’re drinking fluoridated public water, grab a shovel and start digging yourself a well (or else you may be digging your own grave). Failing that, buy a good-quality fluoride filter for your home’s water supply – right now.

We need to stop this practice in Durango NOW!

– Zane Baranowski




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