Clean it up.
The Denver Post is bringing its Ride the Rockies bike tour through Pagosa Country, with thousands of cyclists and a great many support personnel set to roll and drive into our community on June 11.
The cyclists, their supporters, friends and families prompt a festive, party air in the community. Residents turn out for the entertainment events, local non-profits set up concessions at venues, local restaurants and lodging establishments throw their doors open in welcome.
It’s a shame we can’t put our absolute best foot forward.
Tour participants will arrive from the west, from Durango. Their ride through the far western section of the county will provide beautiful vistas, glimpses of wildlife and rushing rivers. What they will see once they pass Keyah Grande on U.S. 160 is dramatically different. In several sections of that part of the ride, they will be greeted by an abundance of trash, junk, debris and disaster — things that embarrass the community and that should embarrass certain property owners. They will see structures in total disrepair, stacks of junk, useless shells of vehicles, haphazard piles of refuse, roofing and insulation blowing across fields.
If they ask why such a beautiful place is allowed to be spoiled, Pagosans can tell them: There are members of this community (as, no doubt, there are elsewhere) who could care less about the condition of their properties, who have little or no sense of community spirit and who are not concerned about the effect their mess has on the values of others’ properties.
They can answer: Our county and town governments are relatively spineless when it comes to enforcing existing nuisance and junk ordinances.
There are some elected officials who, in an attempt to pander to a particular political constituency, mouth quasi-libertarian mush when the topic turns to property rights. We have others who say, “We don’t have the manpower. We’re so busy, we can’t go out looking for violations; we rely on citizen complaints.”
We are no fan of government intervention in private matters, but piles of trash, decrepit structures, abandoned vehicles and other nuisances are among the things government can monitor. This is particularly important in a community that relies on tourism, with the primary lure to tourists being the beauty of the area. What tourists arriving from the west (for the most part) see as they near more densely populated parts of the county is disgraceful, and anything but a harbinger of a pleasing experience in a beautiful locale.
If a property owner has no concern for the state of his or her property, no concern for the effect of their mess on other property values, and no sense of a community obligation, then the community, as embodied by local government, must make a point.
In the most effective fashion possible.
For government — in particular county government — to plead a lack of manpower is unacceptable. There is no need for a long-lasting sweep of the entire county by officials. There is no mystery, here: the violations are in plain sight. For violations off the beaten path, rely on citizen complaints to start the enforcement process. For those next to the major roadway through the county, elected officials can assume that most residents of Pagosa Country are complaining. Take our word for it.
Enforce nuisance and junk ordinances; levy fines when necessary, go to court when necessary.
If a property owner attempts to be compliant, give them a hand. Put out a call for volunteers to assist with a cleanup and waive dump fees. Do whatever it takes, but clean up the highway corridor. Now.