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.”

over the river DU Law Students Aim To Halt Over The River

An image showing how Over The River would look. (credit: CBS)

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.

Photo Gallery

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.


Comments (19)
  1. Howard Mulvihill says:

    Mr. Harris,
    This is just another frivolous lawsuit brought by uninformed lawyers bent on making a name for them self or, in this case, trying to gain recognition for their school? Look before you leap.
    First of all, you are only suing one party involved, the BLM. The Colorado State Parks, private property owners, and the Denver- Rio Grande Railroad also are stakeholders who have blessed the project.
    Second of all, I have read the environmental impact studies which fail to give merit to your claims. Additionally, I have been a professional river guide on the Arkansas river since 1982. The traffic on highway 50 as well as the raft traffic has not impacted the Bighorn Sheep. In fact they are allowed to be hunted again as their populations are consistent with Elk populations in Yellowstone National Park before the re-introduction of the Wolves; meaning there is over crowding of the species because of lack of predation. Bighorn Sheep are often drinking water at the riverside while rafts float by. More Bighorn Sheep were killed by train traffic, which no longer exists, and the highway traffic, which still does; while rafting and hikers have had no impact.
    Third, if you really want to take on an environmental project to get a name or to educate your students, you might consider taking on a real opponent such as the oil companies who are using Hydrolic Fracturing in order to get at our supply of natural gas. This process really hits our home. No clean water = no animals = no people!
    The “Over The River” project promises to bring an estimated 400,000 visitors and contribure 121 million dollars in economic output. I never saw you or any of your associates attend any of the meetings that have been going on since 2001. You seem completely uninformed and one woman on the news, Joan Alanzo, could not even pronounce Chaffee County properly!
    It disappoints me to see such a prestigious institution waste their time on a lawsuit like this.
    Howard Mulvihill

    1. Cleansox says:

      Ha ha ha! Nothing like an uneducated raft instructor (who has seen a few sheep with his very own eyes) to teach all those silly university officials and lawyers about the pros and cons of a million-dollar invasion. Quoting directly from the artist’s own self-promoting website is not exactly credible, Mr. Mulvihill. And constantly posting your uneducated opinion on Denver news articles to make yourself feel important doesn’t change the fact that you are a loser, and properly overlooked by the very newsmakers you like to comment about.

  2. denvervet says:

    I am beginning to this this is all about Christo, nothing more. Notariety. Its a stupid idea, makes no difference in the world and never should have even gotten off the drawing board. Take all THAT MONEY and help people find jobs! Now there would be your publicity stunt Christo. Go to some poorer country and do this and give them the money, just keep your wild idea which COST people money they dont need to be spending away from here.

    1. Matteo says:

      ” Take all THAT MONEY and help people find jobs! ”

      You fail to realize that this project will create Jobs. I can never understand why so many Americans fight against the Arts.

      “Man climbs a mountain because it is there. Man makes Art because it is not there.” Carl Andre

      Please try to have an open mind.

      1. gorawengw says:

        The art is already there. It’s in the canyons and the rivers, the trees and the native plants. Why in the world would anyone want to ‘paint over an already perfect canvas’?

        What a horrific waste of money and an insult to nature.

  3. Leslie Taylor says:

    Good for the University of Denver law students!

  4. Grace says:

    Why aren’t the DU students up in arms about all the ATV roads people are making for themselves in the Arkansas basin? These roads are tearing up the national forest and scar the landscape for decades. Yet they go all crazy over anchor bolt holes.

    These people are crazy.

  5. Hooligan says:

    The only people who are crazy is the artsy person, Christo, and his backers. The conceit of this man is unbelievable in that he thinks he can improve on the beauty of nature. What a pompous you-know-what! It is going to cost millions for this project and ‘may’ generate $10-$50,000 in revenue! Do any of those people know how to do the math? Seriously? Why not take the millions it is going to cost and give it to the schools that are supposed to benefit from these “rags”. Cheers to the DU students and faculty for taking steps to block this debacle.

    1. Dave says:

      You forgot to mention “…give it to the schools,puppies,old people,unemployed,food stamps and welfare people and anyone else at the government teat.This is totally private money.

      1. Matteo says:

        Thanks Dave. I was going to say the same

    2. Jaime says:

      LaShaunda, I just took a break and came over to the blog. During the summer homtns, I’ve been watching more movies than I normally do during the regular TV season.Well, I know where to find you and you know where I’ll be after 7 each night lol

  6. Dave says:

    This is a southern Colorado issue not a Denver issue. Denver, stay out of our part of the state! We can manage without you. I f you have a small business along the river, this will bring in dollars and then go away.

  7. matt says:

    DU students need to stay in Denver, leave us alone. If you want to be enviromentalists, than maybe all your students could ride a bike or take a
    bus to school, and your enormous parking lot could be sold to help
    finance education

  8. Senior Citizen says:

    Please keep us informed about this AWFUL idea. It is NOT Art but Egotism. Thank you.

  9. MIke says:

    I grew up in Fremont County, and spent a lot of time in Chaffee County as well. It was a good place to grow up as a kid, but there was, and is, still relatively little to keep an educated person interested in staying in the area. That said, I recreate in Fremont and Chaffee counties on a regular basis even though I moved away for college and work. It is a great place to hunt, fish, camp and raft. I’ve been reading a lot of pros and cons of OTR for years and personally think it’s a great idea. Seriously, what is the long-term impact of 9100 holes/anchors when compared to tens of thousands of holes drilled for blasting the routes of HWY 50 and the railroad in the same corridor? What about the affects of the annual use of mag chloride, sand and salt on HWY 50? What about the lingering contamination of the raillroad and mining in the area? The point has already been made, but this state has many other issues(oil companies absolutely raping the state, and general mis-use of public lands) that have much longer and non-recoverable affects than OTR. Now, I’m not quite sure what percentage of the two county’s revenue comes from tourism, but it has to be huge. Here is an opportunity to add to the coffers of businesses and local governments that really could use a little help.

    1. Rikki S says:

      Trying to justify one project because another was done is just smoke and mirrors. Each project should stand on it’s own merit and not passed just because another project was done. I am a lifelong (nearly 60 years) resident of Chaffee County and have traveled that Hwy 50 corridor enough times over the years to know that a project of this size will make a huge impact (negative) on that winding, two lane hiway.

  10. IT Law says:

    Nice post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed browsing your blog posts.

  11. Rikki S says:

    The thing that seems to be so totally overlooked is that this “2 week art project” will take 2 years to “create” and another year to take down. That’s THREE years of disruption on one of three major east/west routes across the state. Mos folks seem to jumping on the bandwagon for this project are doing so because of the $$$$ that it is going to create. Wrong reason!

  12. Uja says:

    Cavs, Christo has been setting up these so-called art mtitallsenns for decades. Decades! Almost half a century! That kind of flabbergasts me when thinking of it in reference to Christo’s art. I’m not even remotely a fan of Christo, but my money’s on him and the Sierra Club doing this stupid ridiculous project. Personally, I think the money wasted on setting up such a temporary thing could be put to much better use by, oh, I don’t know, donating it to environmental groups.

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