Weighing Christo’s plan to drape fabric over Ark. River, BLM lays out seven options
The Denver Post
The federal government on Friday put forth seven versions of the artist Christo’s plan to drape fabric across the Arkansas River, ranging from doing nothing to doing exactly what Christo has proposed.
The Bureau of Land Management and its consultants spent more than a year compiling the 750-page Draft Environmental Impact Statement, exploring Christo’s 17-year-old proposal to drape shimmering fabric across the Arkansas River between Salida and Canon City.
First proposed in the early 1990s by Christo and his late wife, Jeanne-Claude, the $50 million privately funded project would temporarily suspend fabric across 5.9 miles of a 42.4-mile stretch of the Arkansas.
Over the past four decades, the 75-year-old Bulgaria-born artist – his real name is Christo Javacheff – wrapped Germany’s Reichstag building, erected 7,500 gateway panels in New York’s Central Park and blanketed an entire coastline in Australia. Christo already has spent $7 million on research for his “Over The River” project, which includes paying for the BLM report.
The BLM’s seven alternatives include adjustments of four components of the project: size and location of the panels, traffic management, visitor management and the timing and duration of the display.
The plan calls for four information centers, five staging areas for the construction process and a 900-space parking lot.
Three of the alternatives keep Christo’s requested length of 5.9 miles of fabric intact, while three others reduce the amount of fabric to as little as 1.4 miles across four areas of the river.
For Christo, who spoke recently in Denver, protecting his artistic vision is paramount. He and Jeanne-Claude, who died in November, already adjusted their plan from 10.4 miles to 7.7 miles to today’s 5.9.
“A shorter ‘Over The River’ is not ‘Over The River,’ ” said Christo’s project spokesman Steve Coffin, managing principal at Denver’s GBSM public-relations firm. “I think the priority for Christo is the miles of fabric.”
The BLM’s study also weighed the potential impact of the project, which would take as long as 28 months to erect. The report shows that the three alternatives that keep Christo’s proposed length intact are likely to have “moderate-significant” impact on the area’s bighorn sheep herds and a variety of birds.
Those three variations also could have “significant” impact on transportation and traffic.
The BLM also found the project would have “significant” impact on recreational and aesthetic resources and “minor” impact on air, water, soil and geologic resources.
Christo’s proposed 9,100 holes that need to be drilled on both banks of the river to anchor the panels is an “industrial assault” on the canyon, said Dan Ainsworth, president of the Rags Over the Arkansas River opposition group.
“This is three years of construction,” Ainsworth said. “The equipment they will need is huge. It’s going to require lots of highway closures and . . . this is the main east-west route across southern Colorado.”
The BLM is planning meetings in August to gather public input. A 45-day public-comment period ends Aug. 30.
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