By on January 6, 2015

DISSTongueThe art of seduction: A river runs through it 

It is unconscionable to perceive how the same federal agency that bans hunting, four-wheeling, biking, dogs, camping (without a fee or permit), fishing (without a fee), canoeing (without a fee), drones, fireworks, or the removal of so much as a pine needle, would allow someone to decorate a piece of public land with “silver fabric” – whatever that is.

Christo’s Over the River art project has now cleared nearly every hurdle on its way to BLM approval with the latest ruling of a Federal District Court judge. The ad hoc group ROAR (Rags over the Arkansas River), led in part by former GTNP supervisor Joan Anzelmo, has battled the environmental artist every step of the way only to find itself on the brink of defeat. Unless the State of Colorado can stop the installation, Christo will drape 5.9 miles of the Arkansas River (between Salida and Cañon City) with huge sheets.

Abhorrent #creepytings vandalism in Yosemite National Park. PHOTO:

Abhorrent #creepytings vandalism in Yosemite National Park. PHOTO:

Granted, BLM is much more lenient than NPS with what it will tolerate as far as land use. But both agencies fall under the Department of the Interior. ROAR has fought Christo using NEPA and other environmental grounds, citing the project will disrupt things living in the canyon including bighorn sheep, peregrine falcons, and about 5,000 Homo sapiens. What about another angle? How is Christo’s project any different than Casey Nocket’s “creepytings” art vandalism of Yosemite and Canyonland national parks?

What about just telling him no rather than the expensive lawsuits? That’s what Anzelmo did in the mid-1990s when Christo approached GTNP for permission to wrap rocks on Blacktail Butte. When Christo asked officials at the Grand Canyon, they said no, too.

Backers of the artwork say it will bring tourism and spur interest in public land use in the area. After all, it will only be up for two lousy weeks during August. Think it’s worth it? Think again.

The $50 million installation will take place over 27 months. That’s more than two years if you’re counting. It will require a crew of 3,000 workers, drilling 9,100 holes into the ground – some as deep as 30 feet – in order to anchor the polypropylene panels with 9-foot bolts and steel cable. “It’s essentially a two-and-a-half year mining excavation,” Anzelmo says. “And it is obscene.”

A rendering of Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s Colorado project. PHOTO:

A rendering of Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s Colorado project. PHOTO:

Equally alarming is the way the deal has come about. Pat Shea was the BLM Director when he first heard about Christo’s intentions. His initial reaction, printed in the Salt Lake Tribune: “My first reaction as a Westerner was that someone who drapes buildings or puts hundreds of umbrellas up in Japan is not what I would consider art.” But then Shea went to dinner with Christo, and it’s not clear who paid the bill but a funny thing happened after that. Shea left the agency and began working FOR Christo, pro bono, as an attorney and helped him push his art project through the process.

Planet Jackson Hole obtained an email from Shea to BLM State Director Helen Hankins that stated, in part, “Helen, if it is possible for you to give me a call, I think we might be able to keep the lid on the pressure cooker surrounding the OTR [Over the River project].”

DISSTongueRoad to nowhere

The proposed road connector (Tribal Trail Road to Coyote Canyon) that may someday link South Park Loop to Highway 22 is a bad idea. Creating alternate routes through residential neighborhoods is poor traffic planning. Highway 22 needs to be widened to four lanes.

If teachers and parents of kids at Teton Science Schools in Coyote Canyon can’t get back onto 22 because of the steady flow of worker bees driving to and from their jobs – tough shit. It should not have taken a genius or a six-figure traffic analysis to figure out Highway 22 is a bear. It has been the busiest two-lane highway in the state for some time now. And it’s only getting worse. Where were county officials when ingress/egress was discussed during the approval phase of the school?

An eventual connector road will be needed to allow West Bankers to get north of town without having to battle bumper-to-bumper tie-ups on Broadway. But simply installing more pavement through residential suburbs will make Jackson Idaho Falls.

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