« Return to this article

Know the West

Over the River controversy continues


The Bulgarian-born artist Christo specializes in gigantic installations -- like wrapping the Reichstag in Berlin, or arranging hundreds of fabric gates in New York City's Central Park.
For the past decade or so, he's had plans to return to Colorado with "Over the River." (His first Colorado project, an immense curtain in Rifle Gap, was about 40 years ago.) He proposes to suspend translucent panels over the Arkansas River between Salida and Canon City for a two-week period, perhaps in August of 2013. You can read more from Christo here .
Since this involves federal land, an Environmental Impact Statement is required (paid for by Christo), The Bureau of Land Management is the lead agency. About two weeks ago, the BLM released a draft environmental statement; the Pueblo Chieftain ran a pretty good summary, and all thousand-plus pages are available on-line, with a comment deadline of Aug. 30 before the final EIS is prepared.
Naturally, there's some opposition, mostly from residents along the affected canyon; the principal group appears to be ROAR (Rags Over the Arkansas River), and lately, most letters in the Salida newspaper have opposed the project.
The basis for opposition appears to have shifted from esthetic (the canyon is gorgeous as it is) and environmental (this could hurt wildlife) grounds to more practical concerns like highway congestion, inadequate local facilities and emergency access.
For my part, I remain agnostic. If it goes through, I should be able to rent my Salida house to some wealthy urban art fancier for $5,000 a week for the duration. And if local opposition kills it, tourism and real-estate prices should increase as this valley becomes known world-wide as the place that just said no to Christo.

Ed Quilen is a freelance writer in Salida, CO.