Our trout streams here in New York are subjected to many kinds of indignities, but at least no one has ever proposed covering six miles of blue-ribbon water with a tarp.
That’s essentially what’s happening in Colorado, and some in the local fly-fishing community don’t like it one bit.
At issue is a proposed installation by the artist Christo, who wants to “suspend 5.9 miles of silvery, luminous fabric panels high above the Arkansas River along a 42-mile stretch of the river between Salida and Caon City in south-central Colorado,” according to his website.
The panels, which would be hung between eight and 25 feet above the river, would be sort of see-through for people below them. Passersby on Route 50 would see the sky reflected. There would be eight sections in all, separated from each other by anywhere from seven-tenths of a mile to 15 miles of river.
The actual viewing of the installation, called “Over The River,” would take place over two weeks in 2014, but it will take two years to build and several months to dismantle. Construction will consist mainly of installing anchors along the banks of the Arkansas, to which the cables that hold up the panels will be attached. The whole job is expected to cost $50 million.
As with many of Christo’s grandiose artworks, “Over The River” has critics. In this case, their concerns include traffic, disruption of rafting and fishing businesses and adverse impact on wildlife.
Supporters — and there are many — include local businesses that would benefit from visitor traffic, the museums of Denver and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, whose city hosted Christo’s “The Gates” in Central Park. Bloomberg said OTR would show Colorado is “with it” and would “put Colorado on the map around the world.”
Of course, for fly-fishers, Colorado has been on the map for generations. The Arkansas is the longest river in the state, drains Colorado’s tallest mountain range and is
famous for its dense Mother’s Day caddis hatch.
“When people come in wanting to know where the hatch is, we tell them to drive along the river until you can’t see out the windshield,” said fly shop owner Bill Edrington in “Fly Fisher’s Guide to Colorado” by Marty Bartholomew.
How Christo’s panels would affect the caddisflies, the trout that eat them and the anglers who fish for the trout, I don’t know. But the very idea is having a negative effect on fly-fishing guide Carol Neville, who is outraged that a local chapter of the Sierra Club has endorsed “Over The River.”
“I am so angry,” Neville told the Los Angeles Times this week.
“People think we’re a bunch of Podunk hicks who don’t appreciate art.”
Christo apparently never thought of a project like “Over The River” on the Beaverkill River or the branches of the Delaware, and it’s probably just as well. Then again, maybe hiding some New York rivers under translucent panels isn’t such a bad idea. It might protect them from hydro-frackers looking for a source of water for their natural gas wells.
The Bureau of Land Management is scheduled to decide in April whether to give Christo the green light. If you’re curious about the project, information and renderings can be found at www.overtheriverinfo.com.