For the love of Christo

What a banner year this has been for Colorado. First Glenwood Springs was named “most fun” town in the US. And boy howdy, one thing that town doesn’t have enough of is tourists.

But here’s the really big deal – drum roll please. We get Christo’s sensational Over the River project. Yay!

Because here in Colorado, we need more rich people and corporate interests to assume ownership of our public lands with their almighty dollars. But hey, this is different. Honest-to-god, real live art. In a river canyon. Now that’s something to get excited about.

Yes. It’s a dream come true. In their never ending mission “to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations”, the art aficionados at the BLM have approved Christo’s Over the River project spanning 42 miles along the Arkansas River near Salida.

This will definitely put Salida on the cultural map. This will do for Salida what Northern Exposure did for Cicely Alaska. Or what Christo’s Valley Curtain did for Rifle back in the early 70s.

It will transform the natural environment into an urban landscape. A triumph of the aristocracy’s gold-plated fist grasping Mother Nature by the balls.

Christo promises Over the River will create a new way of viewing the “clouds, mountains, and vegetations”. Particularly for the golden eagle as it dangles upside down, trapped in an illuminating silver fabric panel. The merging of art and nature as humans and wildlife appreciate the one true lesson in life – adapt or die.

Not to worry though, the artsy folks at the BLM have that whole bird thing under control. They will require the installation of “bird diverters”. The smart ones apparently will know what this means when they see it.

Let’s face it, if the birds are really smart they’ll move along downstream. Nature can be both awesome and cruel – especially when Christo’s in charge.

Anyway, even though it will take two years to complete, it will all be over in two weeks’ time and the wildlife can have their boring old river canyon back. It’s all temporary.

Not to take away from the aesthetics of this canyon makeover, there is some serious money to be made here. Christo himself has estimated the project will generate $121 million in revenue for the state and hundreds of jobs. There he goes again. He is such an amazing artist. Not one steel cable has been strung across the Arkansas and he has already re-conceptualized my view of the economy. I thought revenue needed to come from taxes, and jobs needed to come from infrastructure projects. But that is so 20th century.

I’m sure a project like oh, say high speed rail through the mountains, or I-70 lane expansion would also generate jobs and revenue. But those projects would be permanent and would impact the environment forever. Christo is like the gas industry. They don’t plan to be here forever, just long enough to make an impact. Then one day they will be gone – poof.

It will seem like a memory of some alternate universe, like we were all watching the same movie. Then everything will be fine. Christo will guide us toward an awareness of the ephemeral nature of our landscape. What corporate interests have been drilling into us for generations. Nothing lasts forever. Show me the money.

Alas, as with all the job creators these days, Christo has his naysayers. The eagle freaks at Rags Over the Arkansas River – or ROAR – don’t want the river redecorated. Freelance writer and Salida resident Ed Quillen thinks those environmentalists are a bunch of hypocrites because they drive and eat and live, and stuff.

I just think they might be approaching this the wrong way with letters and lawsuits. Be creative. Fight art with art. If they really believe the wildlife will be impacted, then show us. Make a meaningful contribution to Christo’s vision. When the construction crew begins work, volunteers should be ready to wrap up the dead sheep, deer, birds – any animals that die during all phases – in blood red fabric.

Once the project has been completed and all that revenue and all those jobs are money in the bank, then the greenies can let their artistic selves blossom and show their true appreciation for such an awesome gift. In the same spirit that Christo’s projects define the natural world in an urban context, environmentalists can seize the opportunity to turn conceptualization on its ear.

Bring Colorado to Manhattan and pave Times Square with elk droppings.


The BLM will be accepting additional written comments on the Final EIS within the 30-day availability period ending August 29, 2011.

Written comments may be submitted by any of the following methods:

Fax: 719-269-8599 (please write OTR Comments in the subject line)
Mail: BLM Royal Gorge Field Office, Over The River Comments, 3028 E. Main St., Cañon City, CO 81212
Please write “OTR Comments” in the subject line of comments that are emailed or faxed.


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