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Trustees OK solar array at C’dale Nature Park

By Lynn Burton

Sopris Sun Staff Writer

The Carbondale Board of Trustees voted 5-1 to allow a 170-foot-long solar array at the entrance to the Nature Park on Tuesday night, but not before John Foulkrod invoked one of the environmental movement’s most quoted songs.

“We’re paving paradise to put up a parking lot,” said Foulkrod, paraphrasing one of Joni Mitchell’s best-known songs. “ … we’re destroying one of (the most) beautiful things we have left in town.”

Foulkrod voted against the array. Voting for it were Stacey Bernot, John Hoffmann, Elizabeth Murphy, Pam Zentmyer and Allyn Harvey. Frosty Merriott was absent.

The question of whether to let an outside party build three solar arrays in Carbondale in exchange for tax credits as part of an Xcel energy program that will produce free power for the town was first put to the trustees in January. Town manager Jay Harrington said that of the 14 solar array sites first presented, only three were suitable: the Nature Park (aka Delaney dog park), the Third Street Center roof and the public works building behind Grand Junction Pipe on Highway 133. All three arrays must be built for the project to work.

Two locations at the dog park were eventually proposed: At the entrance (Option B) and on the east side of the 37-acre park (Option A). The town’s environmental board and parks/recreation commission both recommended the trustees go with Option B.

A handful of dog park supporters turned out at Tuesday night’s meeting to argue against the solar array, or to argue for Option A.

“Site A is not being utilized,” Melissa Sumera told the trustees. “It will only affect the view-plane.” She then said people who go to the park use the entrance as a community gathering center and talk there.

Terry Kirk, another dog park user, implored the trustees not to turn a nature park into “an industrial park.”

Former trustee Frank Smotherman argued against the array, saying that future boards will be asked to “nick away at this gem … It’s too nice a piece of ground to mess around with.”

A sympathetic board of trustees said the choice between lowering the town’s carbon footprint to fight global warning, versus preserving the park as is, is a case of competing goals.

“It’s not a decision taken lightly,” said Bernot.

Hoffmann later added that the solar array is a step in the right direction, “… even if it’s a step on a beautiful flower in the process.”