Pull the drapes on Christo’s river installation

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Ladies and gentleman, now for your viewing pleasure, the magnificent Christo — artist to some, vandal to others — will suspend gigantic red rolls of cloth over miles upon miles of the scenic Arkansas River.

Say what?

Yep, as you’ve no doubt heard by now, Christo, the Bulgarian-born American artist, has planned his latest feat right here in Colorado.

The performance calls for suspending nearly 6 miles of horizontal sheets of fabric — across eight spots along a 42-mile stretch of the river — eight to 25 feet above the water between the town of Salida and Canon City. It is designed to be viewed from U.S. 50 and from those rafting the river.

The installation would last two weeks, though construction, viewing and removal would take nearly three years.

Christo and his assistants rolled through town this week on a P.R. campaign aimed at gaining support as they await word on a permit request for the project.

They’ve made their case by saying their project will not only be pleasing to eye and the soul, it will bring tourists and tourist dollars.

Well, Christo’s probably right about that.

When he erected his “Gates” project, a series of solid-orange tapestries hung from archways through New York’s Central Park in 2005, it drew hundreds of thousands of people from around the globe.

And, that’s all fine, but, hey, Christo, this is the rugged, pristine Colorado outdoors we’re talking about here, not Central Park. What about the environment?

Hanging all that drapery will require a lot of anchors, cables, pulleys, people, vehicles and machinery — and draw 350,000 spectators, by Christo’s estimation.

The Bureau of Land Management released a draft environmental study last week, saying the project would have a moderate to significant impact on bighorn sheep and historical sites.

That should be enough to convince everyone that this is a bad idea.

But the BLM hasn’t decided yet whether to grant Christo his permit. It is only about halfway through a 30-day comment period and is expected to issue a decision in February.

Christo wants to drape his art over a region that is already art itself.

Anyone who has visited at the Arkansas River Valley has seen its beauty, its magnificence.

Why would anyone want to cover it — or think they could add to it?

The BLM should reject Christo’s permit. Then maybe he can come up with something we might all enjoy without disrupting sensitive wildlife areas. How about miles of cloth suspended over I-25?