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Protecting Pagosa’s ridgeline views

Pagosa has seen its share of change over the years.

The town’s planning commission is tasked with reviewing requests from those wanting to make changes to our community and making recommendations to town council.

An application submitted on March 27 asked the town to vacate the right of way (ROW) for the entire alley between Navajo and Piedra Streets. It also asked that the Navajo Street ROW from 6th Street to 7th Street be vacated.

The application was amended, narrowing the scope of the request to only include a portion of the alley ROW between Navajo and Piedra Streets, excluding Navajo Street.

Last week, the commission decided to recommend that town council vacate this ROW.

We disagree with this recommendation.

Just because a request for vacation of an easement falls within guidelines doesn’t mean we have to make a poor decision.

In the past, other valuable easements have been vacated by the town, which resulted in losing river access and other alleyway easements. Hindsight has proven that those vacations were regrettable.

It was agreed that the possibility exists of using the ROW in question as a good place for a trail, except that it is not currently in the town’s trail plan. We say that it should be added to the plan, rather than giving away a valuable asset.

Probably the main thing that attracts people to this area is its physical beauty. People come here to get away from overdeveloped communities.

It’s somewhat surprising to discover that we don’t have an ordinance to protect our mountains, ridgetops and skyline.

Protecting our ridgeline views is a valuable investment in the future of the community. It is time the town considers adopting a ridgeline and grading ordinance.

The shale hillside along the current ROW in question brings back memories for local resident Franklin Anderson, who shared his boyhood tales of playing on the ridge.

People move to Pagosa to see its ridgelines, not houses and developments and graded-down memories. The beauty of our mountains contributes to tourism. We need to protect our mountain and ridgeline views — our most precious natural assets.

Protecting our ridgelines would prevent grading down ridges and creating visual scars that will never heal.

Grading ridgelines can result in instability. There are communities where homes and lives have been lost due to failures as the result of grading. Protective zoning is needed. There should be setback requirements from ridgelines.

We must protect what we have for future generations.

We encourage town council to give serious consideration to preserving our mountains, ridgelines and viewsheds by adopting an ordinance to protect them and by not vacating this easement.

Town officials need to get this one right, because environmental protection is crucial to our community.

The future of our community depends on well-thought-out decisions.

Terri Lynn Oldham House

This story was posted on August 7, 2014.