One of Durango’s leading river stewards received national recognition last week. Ty Churchwell, of the Five Rivers Chapter of Trout Unlimited, was recognized as Colorado Trout Unlimited’s 2009 Volunteer of the Year last weekend at the group’s Spring Rendezvous.
Churchwell commented that he volunteers out of a sense of obligation both to the Durango community and the Animas watershed. “Those trout keep me sane and our rivers are my ‘church,’” he said. “Healthy rivers are the lifeblood of our communities, and I’m thankful Durango recognizes the value of the Animas to our community.”
The award also spotlighted the Animas River Restoration Project, which Churchwell is helping to spearhead. The City of Durango was awarded an $86,000 grant from the Colorado Division of Wildlife for habitat improvements and bank stabilization for the stretch of river between 9th Street and the Highway 160 bridge. The project, which is planned for August, is meant to improve fish habitat while restoring riparian areas along the western river bank. With the high flows and increased use of the area in recent years, a number of native cottonwoods and shrubs along the banks have disappeared, leading to further erosion and habitat damage.
“The restoration project we are doing on the Animas is symbolic of the spirit of Durango,” he said. “The great success we are experiencing at the chapter is a function of the wonderful people in Durango who come out and donate to our causes. We could not do this type of project without the people who support us.”