A property dispute over a parking area
west of the Durango Dog Park has the City of Durango embroiled in a
legal scuffle and may mean residents will still have to hoof it
more than a half mile to access the leash-free area.
Jackie McManus and her dog, Maisie,
play stick in the cool waters of the Animas River on
Monday afternoon at the Durango
Dog Park. The city is involved in a land dispute over a parking area about 75
yards to the west of the park’s entrance. The city
may end up taking the case to court./Photo by Todd Newcomer.
A city-owned piece of
land about 75 yards to the west of the park's entrance was slated
as a permanent parking area for the Dog Park. However, the owners
of adjacent private property as well two mobile homes that are
allegedly squatting on the city-owned land have contested the
city's claim to the land, saying the land is theirs via the theory
of adverse possession.
squatters, for lack of a better word," said Cathy Metz, the
director of the Durango Parks and Recreation Department.
Adverse possession is
the taking of title to real estate by possessing it for a certain
period of time. The person claiming title by adverse possession
must have "open, notorious, exclusive and adverse" possession to
the land in order to put others on notice as to his or her claim,
according to Colorado state law. In Colorado, the statutory period
for adverse possession is 18 years.
"They think they own it,
but we do," said Greg Caton, assistant to the city manager. "That's
right where we need to have the parking lot."
The City of Durango, which claims ownership to this piece of land and was planning
to use it for a parking area for the
Dog Park, is involved in a dispute with the owners of an adjacent piece of land.
The landowners, who have two mobile
homes on the city land, are claiming adverse possession. Buckets were placed
at the entrance by one of the mobile
home residents to discourage users of the off-leash area from parking there.
/Photo by Todd Newcomer.
The 5-acre Dog Park is
located on the west side of the Animas River on the former Smelter
site and was approved by the City Council last August after a group
of residents, now called Durango Dog Park Inc., joined together to
secure an area for their canine companions to roam freely. The park
officially opened for business last December but has been beset
with parking woes ever since.
When the park first
opened, visitors were instructed to park along the wider pull-outs
on Roosa Avenue or in Schneider Park, while the city hammered out
the details of the permanent parking area. However, park users
unwilling to make the trek instead parked along the Colorado
Department of Transportation right of way on U.S. Highway 160 and
on CDOT property at the corner of Roosa Avenue and Highway 160.
Last spring, over safety concerns, CDOT put a stop to this by
erecting concrete barriers, chains and "no parking" signs, leaving
park patrons once again grumbling over the walk to the Dog
"What was happening was
people were parking along the CDOT right of way, and CDOT was not
fond of that," said Metz.
Metz said she recognizes
that the current parking situation is not ideal and there is a need
for a parking area that is closer to the Dog Park.
"It's not really
convenient to get to, you have to walk a fair distance to get
there, it's not as convenient as we'd like it to be," she
Metz said original plans
called for a permanent lot on the now-disputed parcel of city land.
However, visitors to the Dog Park who have parked on the city land
have been greeted with buckets blocking off the entrance as well as
an occasional disgruntled resident of one of the mobile
"We really need to get
people off the CDOT right of way and into the property and therein
lies the problem," said Metz. "(The mobile home residents) don't
want people coming up close to their homes."
Durango Dog Park Board
President Susie Bonds said her group was aware there would be
parking issues from the beginning but decided it was a sacrifice
worth making in order to obtain the land.
"We knew parking was
going to be a problem, but we wanted to claim the land," she said.
"We were willing to deal with the parking problem for a year
4 rather than lose it."
Bonds said the city told
the group it would take about a year to straighten out the parking
"Initially, we were told
it would take a year or so to have the parking," she
However, Caton and Metz
said it's looking like the matter may take longer to
"It's an issue we need
to resolve, but it could take some time," said Caton. "We're just
trying to be amicable."
Metz said the city has
been trying to negotiate with the landowner since the city
discovered it owned the land a few years ago during an inventory of
lands prior to annexing the Highway 160 corridor.
"That's when we
discovered it, a couple of years ago," she said. "We've been in
discussions with the landowner since that time."
According to the La
Plata Assessor's Office, the land and the mobile homes are owned by
the Tozer family, of Durango. At least one of the mobile homes is a
rental. The Tozers did not return a phone call seeking comment on
Metz said the dispute
may ultimately wind up in court.
"It's in the city
attorney's hands," she said. "We're probably going to have to go to
court. It looks like we'll have to file action and remove them from
Durango city attorney
David Smith did not return phone calls Tuesday seeking
Caton said until the
problem is resolved, it would be best for people to steer clear of
the disputed parking area.
"We're obviously not
encouraging anyone to park over there until we get this worked
out," he said.
Metz added, "The (mobile
home residents) definitely have made it known they don't want
people parking there."
Despite the parking
headaches, Bonds said visitation to the Dog Park has not
"I feel like people are
going there," she said. "My greeters keep calling me telling me we
need more poop bags."
And in the meantime, she
reiterated the request for people to adhere to the old parking
"What is preferred is
that people park along Roosa Avenue along the wide areas or at
Schneider Park and walk up, using the Highway 160 Bridge
underpass," she said. "We need to make sure dogs and people are