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Trustees OK solar array at C’dale Nature Park

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By Lynn Burton

Sopris Sun Staff Writer

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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“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.”

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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.

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“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.”

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