Atlantic Cities
Democracy in America

Locals to Christo: Don't Drape Fabric Over Our River

Locals to Christo: Don't Drape Fabric Over Our River
Courtesy: Christo

Hundreds of fans of the Arkansas River are not particularly happy with the artist Christo.

He plans to cover 5.9 miles worth of sections over a 42-mile stretch of the river with overhanging translucent drapes. It’s a project that has been in the works for 15 years, and is scheduled to take place over two weeks in August 2014.

Local opponents in Fremont County, Colorado, have been packing town halls to argue against the project, though it has support from the arts community, tourism boosters and now the federal government. Opponents argue that the crowds who will come to see the installation could pose safety risks as they drive through the curvaceous canyon areas to see the installation, about 120 mils south of Denver.

Christo plans to cover the $50 million cost of the project, “Over the River,” which was approved by the Bureau of Land Management in November 2011 after 4,500 public comments and a 1,700-page final study.

Opponents are hoping that two lawsuits will overcome the project’s wide support to halt it, according to this article from The Denver Post.

[T]he fight — now in its seventh year with few, if any, victories — has been reignited by a pair of lawsuits.

One, filed in July, targets the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Board. The other, a federal lawsuit filed Wednesday in Denver, targets the BLM, the agency's regional managers and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar.

Opposition group Rags Over the Arkansas River, or ROAR, filed both suits. The claim filed against the BLM, prepared by University of Denver law students, attacks the project as more akin to a "massive resource extraction project" than a temporary recreational art installation and seeks to rescind the BLM's approval.

Proponents argue that the project will be a boon for the state, which is expected to see about 400,000 visitors to the project and about $120 million in revenue. But opponents, in two days of hearings, blasted the project. They’ve been challenging it for more than seven years, mainly on the grounds that visitors will create safety hazards, and that the two years of construction will snarl traffic in the rural area.

County Commissioners are hoping to make a final decision on the project soon. It will likely be approved.

Nate Berg is a freelance reporter and a former staff writer for The Atlantic Cities. He lives in Los Angeles. All posts »

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