East Third Avenue between 29th and 32nd streets is a popular place to access the Animas River Trail, the park and the river. Parking is in high demand especially for rafters, kayakers and tubers. Why, then, does this residential street have drive-up rural mailboxes? They greatly reduce the number of usable parking spaces along this public street. Residents post signs saying, “Don’t block the mailbox.” One creative person emphasizes the point with a mailbox in the shape of a large assault rifle. Why doesn’t the postal carrier simply deliver to the door like the rest of town? – Sign me, “Frank Chambers”
To suggest that Animas City be “like the rest of town” invites the wrath of Durango’s most cantankerous enclave.
Animas City is filled with staunch libertarians, contrarians, renegades, obstructionists and mavericks.
In other words, the nicest neighbors you’d ever hope to have.
As a proud inhabitant, Action Line can attest to the neighborhood’s mile-wide independent streak.
Animas City is in Durango, but it’s not really Durango. It’s its own thing. History is to blame.
Established in 1874, Animas City was a farming settlement several years before Durango even existed.
Then the railroad came, and civil leaders insisted the Denver & Rio Grande pay a premium price for Animas City land.
But the railroad, being a railroad, rejected the offer and built its own city, Durango, a couple miles to the south.
Adding insult to injury, the railroad didn’t even put a station at Animas City.
In the ensuing years, Animas City and Durango bickered over water rights and utilities.
Finally, facing a budget crisis in 1947, Animas City put annexation on the ballot.
Some 294 residents supported the shotgun wedding while 114 opposed. Thus, Animas City “became” Durango but maintained its semi-rural character and unique identity.
Then came the early 2000s, when the city decided that 5-foot-wide sidewalks were indispensable.
Every other Durango neighborhood had sidewalks. So Animas City needed to be “like the rest of town.”
Oh, and residents had to pay for unwanted concrete runways across their yards.
That reawakened Animas City’s fighting spirit, and residents stormed City Hall, albeit without torches and pitchforks.
After getting scolded and admonished over the course of several meetings, city planners capitulated.
Animas City was allowed to keep its quirky vibe, which includes rural-style roadside mailboxes.
But that doesn’t answer the question: Why doesn’t the U.S. Postal Service establish a walking route delivery?
We asked our good friend Terrell “T” Strauss, supervisor of city and rural carriers for the Durango USPS branch.
“Walking routes work great in places like south Durango, where houses are close together,” he said. “But Animas City’s lots are much larger and front-door delivery would take a longer for fewer homes.”
“Also, without sidewalks, carriers would also have to walk around every fence or hedge. It would be incredibly inefficient.”
Please, let’s not ask the Post Office to be less efficient.
The best way to deliver in Animas City is with little white Jeeps hopscotching to roadside postboxes.
But when recreationists park in front of a box, the mail won’t be delivered and residents go postal.
And this causes a rift between the river-rafting riffraff and law-abiding Animasonians.
Mailboxes in Animas City are a source of historical pride.
For some, they might even be a monument to defiance.
Don’t be surprised to see a bumper sticker: “I’ll give you my Animas City rural mailbox when you pry it from my cold, dead hands.”
Well, maybe not so much.
But the message is delivered.
Email questions to [email protected] or mail them to Action Line, The Durango Herald, 1275 Main Ave., Durango, CO 81301. You can ask for anonymity if you knew Frank Chambers is the character in “The Postman Always Rings Twice”