On Monday, the controversial and internationally renowned artist Christo cleared his final significant hurdle in getting his divisive art installation, Over The River, cleared for construction over the Arkansas River by the BLM. (Read the full story in October’s “Vision Quest.” ) But the BLM’s Record of Decision (ROD) isn’t really surprising. In late July, the BLM released a nearly 1,700-page Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) approving Christo’s proposal in its entirety, though it included a plethora of mitigation measures to address the impact of the project. Naturally, the official ROD followed the EIS recommendations.
Although I was somewhat conflicted about Over The River after interviewing both sides—I can say that I am genuinely thrilled for Christo and his team to have gotten this news on Monday. In July, I had the good fortune to get a personal tour of the Over The River site from Christo himself. I spent the morning looking at the Arkansas River through the artist’s eyes as he pointed out particular bends in the riverbed, or the way the sunlight glinted off the rapids, or an angular riverbank where the fabric would be ripple just so. I understand the concerns about disrupting the bighorn sheep who make their habitat along the river, and the traffic congestion the project will create; and yes, those things—and more—concern me, too. But I’d be remiss if I didn’t say that Christo’s enthusiasm and devotion—his unadulterated love of the art that he and his late wife Jeanne-Claude had envisioned—was infectious. Then again, that’s the funny thing about love…it can be blinding.