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Four Corners Motorcycle Rally proposes campsite, activities southwest of Durango

Published in General News

Neighbors express concerns; Labor Day organizer says event can be held safely

A proposal to use a camp near Hesperus for the Four Corners Motorcycle Rally, which could draw hundreds of people, has residents in the rural part of the county concerned about noise, fire and drunken driving.

For years, the Four Corners Motorcycle Rally was held in Ignacio during the Labor Day weekend, but after a host of complications, the event fell under new ownership in 2017.

The new owners, Trevor Bird, who runs Durango Harley-Davidson, and John Oakes of Freeze Management have submitted a plan to La Plata County to create a campground for the event on 320 acres near Hesperus.

“For the last three years, we’ve been searching for a piece of land we would be able to operate for additional camping,” Oakes said. “It won’t be open to the public. It will be a ticketed, three-day camping package.”

According to the plan submitted Thursday, the camp would be at 10683 County Road 120, about 10 miles southwest of Hesperus, on land leased from Rod Woodruff, who runs the Buffalo Chip Campground, which serves the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.

The location would be up and running Sept. 4-6 and feature on-scene live music and entertainment, food and alcohol, and up to 150 campsites. “Amplified music” would stop at 10 p.m., according to county records.

This year, because of crowd restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the rally would allow 500 guests and about 50 staff members. Oakes said that cap might change when new public health orders are issued in the coming weeks.

“From an operational standpoint, we’ll adjust, adapt and comply with every law and regulation,” said Oakes, adding the event will self-certify with San Juan Basin Public Health.

This week, a virtual community meeting with neighbors brought out nearly 30 people, most of whom opposed the rally, said Daniel Murray, a La Plata County planner.

As a result, the organizer’s attempt to obtain a special event permit, which is usually approved by the Planning Department, will instead go before La Plata County commissioners for a vote.

Commissioners said Thursday it was too soon to comment on the matter. It is expected commissioners will hear the request July 21.

“That is a project that is not something commissioners should be forming opinions about until the matter is formally before us for consideration, should it come to us,” Commissioner Julie Westendorff said.

Jim Harris, whose property is adjacent to the campground, said his main concerns were fire danger and noise. He also expressed concern that live bands would play into the night, and a liquor license could lead to drunken driving.

“This is a rural, residential area, and that just doesn’t belong here,” he said. “It’s nice and quiet out here, and that’s why everyone moved here.”

Kate Ishay, who lives about a half-mile from the property, was concerned that partying might get out of hand.

She pointed to an article in the Argus Leader, which said the 2019 Sturgis rally saw 135 DUI arrests, 83 felony drug arrests, 842 citations, 26 injury crashes and two fatal crashes.

“There are some of the same organizers at Sturgis,” Ishay said, referring to Woodruff’s lease. “They didn’t do a great job there, so why would we expect they’d do a good job here?”

Ishay also said western La Plata County is the wrong place for a temporary campground.

“I don’t want people to think we’re against motorcycles; my husband has a motorcycle,” she said. “The problem is this is not the location to have this event.”

Calls to Jenny Burbey of the Florida Mesa District Planning Group, which helps on land-use issues in that part of the county, were not returned Thursday.

Oakes, for his part, said event organizers share residents’ concerns.

“We have listened, adjusted and adapted our plans to produce a safe event,” he said. “We will operate a safe and successful event.”

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