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No to Christo?

February 2nd, 2012

Photo credit: Wofgang Volz via Christo

For decades, a world famous artist named Christo has been wanting to suspend nearly 6 miles of fabric over a roughly 40-mile portion of the Arkansas River in Colorado. It’s a project aptly named “Over The River.”

The Arkansas River flows into (is a tributary of) the Mississippi River

Christo, who goes by one name, has done many of these large-scale fabric-based works before, it’s the kind of art he mainly does. He has hung fabric panels over buildings, around islands, and all throughout New York City’s Central Park. You can see more of his works by clicking here to be taken to his website.

Christo's 2005 Central Park display. Photo credit: Flickr user DogFromSPACE via Creative Commons

Of course, you can’t just go and do something like this, you need permission. And the Federal Bureau of Land Management gave Christo the go-ahead in late 2011 for “Over The River”. Construction on the project is set to begin later this year.

It would take two years to install the silvery fabric panels over the river … which seems like a lot considering the display would be up for two weeks!

Some wonder what even makes it art.

Illustration of proposed Over the River via ChristoJeanneClaude.net

The project is estimated to cost $50 million (!) which Christo plans to pay for from his own money.  Those who are for the project say they’re happy Christo wants to do his art there. He’s making and paying for something that would bring a lot of attention, about 400,000 tourists, and would generate $120 million for the area.

But the project also has a lot of opposition. A group of predominantly local residents and their attorneys calling themselves “ Rags Over The Arkasnsas River ” (ROAR) say not so fast. They’ve recently filed a lawsuit to try to stop the project.

They’re against Christo’s project for a number of reasons.

First, they say it’s bad for the environment. According to ROAR, Christo’s team will need to drill over 9,000 holes into rock, some of them 30-feet deep, in order to hold the fabric panels in place. They’re saying this violates the Federal Bureau of Land Management ‘s own aims for protecting land from development projects.

Illustration/Photo credit: Christo and Wolfgang Volz

The Federal Bureau of Land Management said in a press release that they had carefully considered the impact on the environment and steps would be taken to lessen any impact. They also noted it was a one-of-a-kind project, not an ongoing development.

But, in addition to the rocks that would need to be drilled into, ROAR argues that wildlife would be at risk, too, including Bighorn Sheep and Bald Eagles, whose habitats would likely be disrupted. ROAR claims that the land and the eco-system there are too delicate for a project like this.

Bighorn Sheep photo credit: Richard Giddins via Wikimedia Commons

ROAR also cites possible danger to people too. Cranes and high winds have caused two deaths in the past for Christo’s workers. Winds can be high in the canyon where work would be taking place.

There’s also the potential for over two years of traffic problems near the construction site. Some are calling that a minor inconvenience given all the potential benefits. But in a recent New York Times article one opponent argues that the scenery is spectacular on its own without Christo. And added that, “Colorodans are not New Yorkers — they come to the mountains for scenery, wildlife, recreation and peace and quiet.”

What do you think?

Christo on his project (YouTube video)

(Opponents on the project (YouTube video)

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