The real dirt on Durango

I can almost see the glossy brochure – “Make Durango your final destination.”

A stunning shot of downtown, complete with a hazy sunrise, along with the subhead, “Durango is a land of firsts,” would headline the pamphlet.

From the first, the text would wax poetic and detail a few of Durango’s lesser known, but one-of-a-kind, attractions. “Durango literally broke new ground in the 1990s,” the jingle would say. “Tour our Superfund Site, a one-time toxic pile converted into a dog lover’s paradise. Marvel at how crews removed millions of cubic yards of radioactive material and relocated them to the future shores of lovely Lake Nighthorse, where recreationists will bask in the glow for generations.”

A flip of the page would reveal a pastoral scene complete with dated farm buildings and a desertscape shimmering in the distance. “Bring your family to the land that put Hantavirus on the map,” the pamphlet would continue. “Extend your stay through the summer months for a taste of plague, West Nile and a family thrill you’ll never forget.”

Striking a patriotic tone, the brochure would continue, “Visit a land that’s helping to meet the nation’s energy needs through time-tested, coal-fired means. Day trip to the site of the state-of-the-art Desert Rock Power Plant, where Wall Street barons are selflessly aiding the Navajo, keeping the lights on in Las Vegas and ridding the world of pests, one Colorado pikeminnow and humpback chub at a time.”

In a nod to discerning eaters, the brochure would conclude with downtown digestive adventure. “Take the Durango challenge and sample the fare along North Main. Tempting tastes await as the Colonel, Wendy and the King of Burgers himself are all a just short drive away for those craving a culinary crawl.”

The campaign could then go on to explore the subtle beauty of a February dust storm or discuss the sweet smoke of spruce, pine and scrub during the summer months. It could also easily dovetail with the Durango Area Tourism Office’s “Get real. Durango” push, as in “This is as real as it gets, sucka.”

Alright … maybe not. But thanks for bearing with me on my little trip to the land of marketing make-believe. Now that my brochure is off to the printers and awaiting investors and distributors, I have a secret confession to make – I’m actually in Durango for its “real” world-class attractions. More than anything, it’s Durango’s community, singletrack, whitewater, backcountry access and openness that set us apart from your run-of-the-mill Greeleys or Alamosas. The downtown streetscape, our various developed and undeveloped parks and growing arts scene are all feathers any community would be proud of.

But there is also something that sets Durangoans apart from your run-of-the-mill Beaver Creeks and Mountain Villages. The truth is that the hard edges are what make La Plata County one-of-a-kind, and I’ve always loved the fact that there’s a bit of grease on Durango’s silver spoon. I also suspect that smudge may rescue us all in the end.

You see, I did resort tour and lived in a pair of ski towns that both went from comfortably grimy to oppressively glitzy. Yep, I’ve seen the royal Hollywood treatment inflicted on two birds of paradise and can tell you first-hand that there are worse creatures lurking in the night than Desert Rock.

It’s true that current economic realities have pushed words like “exclusive,” “private” and “luxury” back into Durango’s closet. However, history has been known to repeat itself, and base human tendencies never sleep for long. Call me crazy, but I’m not interested in seeing luxuriant fur strolling down Main Avenue, trailheads littered with Mercedes or liposuction clinics next to maternity wards. And I remain convinced – no have faith – that our beloved burg with its twin strips, not-quite-pristine air quality and wind/dust/fire storms is almost perfectly celebrity proof.

Like it or not, potholes, superfunds, proximity to the Land of Enchantment and the occasional trip to the West Nile are what make Durango. We’re the pint of excellent microbrew with a thumb-print on the glass; the restored 1960s Willy’s jeep that still leaks exhaust into the cab; and the wine tasting haunted by the rogue glass of Mad Dog and misplaced platter of chicken McNuggets.

You can try to dress this town up and take it out for a schmooze, but the “real” Durango will always be waiting. A pumpjack will almost always tarnish the horizon; a French fry will always sneak onto the menu; and somehow this multi-collared community will get through it all and continue to have a place to call home.

– Will Sands



In this week's issue...

July 18, 2024
Rebuilding Craig

Agreement helps carve a path forward for town long dependent on coal

July 11, 2024
Reining it in

Amid rise in complaints, City embarks on renewed campaign to educate dog owners

July 11, 2024
Rolling retro

Vintage bikes get their day to shine with upcoming swap and sale