FREMONT COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) – The artist Christo wants to stretch fabric over the Arkansas River as part of a massive art exhibition called “Over The River.” But now a group of University of Denver law students are joining in on the fight to put a stop to it before it ever starts.
The critics call themselves “ROAR,” or Rags Over The Arkansas River. They’ve filed a lawsuit in federal court claiming the project is as risky as mineral development.
“They’re going to be in this canyonland drilling holes — 9,100 holes — sometimes 30 feet deep to place anchors to hold all this in place,” DU law professor Michael Harris said.
“We tried to work with the federal agency. We tried to work with state Division of Wildlife. We’re trying now to work with the two counties, Fremont County and Chaffey County. But we are at the point now where the best course of action is to stop this in federal court,” Joan Anzelmo with ROAR said.
The group cites environmental and disruption issues. According to the suit, the project will be built almost entirely within the federally-protected Arkansas Canyonlands Area.
The “Over The River” project would stretch fabric over several miles of the Arkansas River between Canon City and Salida. It still has quite a way to go before its unveiling in 2014.
The project is getting close to wrapping up the phase where the public can comment. Wednesday was the first of two days Fremont County commissioners were hearing from both supporters and staunch opposition.
Christo says he doesn’t mind hearing the opposition to his project, and there was plenty of discussion on both sides.
“I take it like a very exciting part of the life of the project,” Christo said.
“We’re concerned about the impacts to wildlife,” Ellen Bouder with ROAR said. “We believe there’s risk to the people who live there, commerce, public health, safety, traffic and crowd control.”
But the artist and his team feel like all aspects of the project have been assessed and hope it’s not long before it moves forward.
“It’s the only work of art in the history of man that’s ever gone through an environmental impact statement,” Steve Coffin with the Over The River project said.
“I say in the very beginning it’s incredible gratification to see the people talking so much about my work of art,” Christo said.
Another public hearing will be held in Canon City Thursday evening. The folks from ROAR believe there will be much more opposition at that meeting.
The Fremont County commission is expected to make their decision on the permit within the next 3 weeks.
In November 2011 artist Christo spoke at a press conference unveiling two original preparatory collages for “Over The River” donated to the National Galley of Art in Washington. See a photo gallery from the event.
Related Video Clip
In 2010 CBS4 Critic at Large Greg Moody interviewed Christo about his vision for the “Over The River” project. Watch the report in an archived video clip.