It’s common for Bayfield construction workers to clean the dust off their throats with an after-work beer at the Billy Goat Saloon and moan about having to run errands in Durango.
The 20-mile journey to the strange land of athleisure wear, traffic and holistic medicine isn’t pleasant for some. And people in Durango, well, they simply don’t go to Bayfield – is there even Wi-Fi in Bayfield? some of the lesser-aware might ask. (There is.)
The two towns land soft jabs at each other in the form of bumper stickers (like the one in the saloon that says, “Bayfield, still better than Durango”), Heritage Day Parade floats and in casual conversation.
Michaela Wilson is a Bayfield resident and a senior anthropology major at Fort Lewis College. Having an ear in both camps, she said she frequently hears comments about the other. Wilson says Bayfield is described as “the rural, redneck community nobody likes” and “Durango is full of rich people who want to eat all these healthy foods.”
In one of her anthropology classes, the professor used the Bayfield/Durango beef as a metaphor for the Spanish conquistadors. Durangoans are the Spanish empire staking claim to territory that doesn’t belong to them.
Brenda Marshall, assistant director at Pine River Library, said she’s not a conqueror, though she is a transplant from Essex, England. She moved to Bayfield in 1997, so she’s local with a fancy accent.
“If you have been here for 20 years, you have seen a lot of changes. Bayfield has grown tremendously in that time,” she said.
Marshall said there is a perception in Durango that the people of Bayfield are just one type of person with one political opinion. But, she said, Bayfield is full of diversity, which she said she is conscious of as an expat. The feeling in Bayfield is that people in Durango look down on them because they aren’t as cool or trendy.
“Bayfield feels like the stepchild to Durango and that Durango has its nose up in the air,” said longtime Ignacio-area rancher J. Paul Brown. But overall, he doesn’t think there is much of a rivalry. Of course, that’s easy for someone from Ignacio to say.
There is a joke in Bayfield that goes, “It’s much further from Durango to Bayfield than it is from Bayfield to Durango.”
Maybe this is where the disdain comes from: Residents of Bayfield wisely choose to live away from the tourists, the traffic lights and the trustafarians, but are forced to frequent Durango for more food and job options. People in Durango don’t have to do the same.
Jokes aside, there is more to Bayfield than sheep and tractors. Bayfield is the fastest-growing area in La Plata County, its agriculture sector is a critical contributor to the local economy, and it has excellent sports teams and a community deeply committed to them. It has also mostly escaped the drawbacks of gentrification. Marshall said she originally wanted to move to Durango, but affordability was an issue. Her family bought a home in Bayfield.
In hindsight, she says she’s happy that Durango was unaffordable. She takes a lot pride in the place she raised her children. She loves the school system, her job and the people in the community.
In the end, maybe city and county residents will always be at odds.