By MIKE CORN

mcorn@dailynews.net

Apparently, I run in the wrong circles.

The controversy, if not the war, over the "Over the River" artwork proposed by artists Christo and the late Jeanne-Claude -- famous for the brightly colored pieces of cloth that have been unfurled around the world and used by AT&T in its advertising campaign -- and OTR Corp., is nearing an end.

I just learned about it. To be quite honest, I'm shocked that artists such as these or the Bureau of Land Management, which allegedly manages much of the land where this project would go, would even consider such a project.

What's being suggested is a three-year construction project that would allow for a two-week display. To be sure, they estimate 416,000 people would visit, but it would be visible only from the river or from the highway passing by.

How many gawking motorists will be killed as they try to see the sights.

And all this for a lousy two weeks. What silliness.

Yet there's a very real danger the BLM just might go for it.

Essentially, what Christo and his late wife propose is a gawd-awful display of shimmering fabric that will hover over a 5.9 mile stretch of the Arkansas River between Salida and Canon City, Colo.

It's a big curtain, held aloft by poles and wires and such.

The silvery material would be held aloft and shimmer in the sun and brisk winds that would sweep through the canyon, designated by BLM as the Arkansas Canyonlands Area of Critical Environmental Concern. I'm not sure what that means, as there was no way I was willing to read 2,000 pages of documents contained in the environmental impact statement detailing the "Over The River" project.

I did read the summary, and honestly, I'm aghast.

It's especially troubling to look at the two-page table detailing the effects from the project.

Oh sure, there's several spots where minor is the key word.

But there's the moderate impact to the bald eagle, the nation's symbol.

There will be moderate impact on mule deer and bats. Yet the 2,000 page EIS suggests the impact on bighorn sheep, elk, black bear and mountain lions will be minor.

Oh sure, these artists and their crews will spend three years hammering, jackhammering and driving to and fro in a critical area, all for a two-week display of someone's curtains, and there will be only minor impact?

That's because the bald eagle, the deer, the elk, the bears and the mountain lions will have better sense than a couple of wanna-be artists and flee the countryside.

I suppose, if they remain alive, the effect could be considered minor. Of course, wildlife health is in the eye of the beholder.

So let's look at traffic.

The only highway leading into one of the recreational hubs of Colorado will have to be closed frequently, as it is a small highway and the only way in or out.

Or, hey, cultural concerns will range from minor to significant. But who cares about culture?

The unfortunate thing is the comment period on the project ends Tuesday.

Natural art lovers need to unite and tell them to take their so-called art project elsewhere -- where they won't so adversely affect such a scenic spot or the wildlife associated with it.

Let's face it, these curtain-hangers will never outdo Mother Nature's artistic abilities. Even if they hang curtains on all the trees in Yellowstone Park.

Worse yet, how do you cover up three years of intrusion by a pack of curtain hangers? You don't.

And then what's next, draping the Grand Canyon and calling it a wonder?

* To learn more about the "Over the River" project and to comment on the proposal go to bit.ly/9ToDbg. Or drop BLM an e-mail at co_otr_comments@blm.gov.

This silliness needs to stop. If you want to see an artist's rendition of what the curtains would look like, stop by overtheriverinfo.com.