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Trustees send parks plan back for tweaking

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By John Colson

Sopris Sun Correspondent

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The Carbondale Board of Trustees was expected to give its stamp of approval for a new, 10-year Parks, Recreation and Trails Master Plan last week, but instead decided to send the plan back to staff and the Parks & Recreation Commission for a bit of last-minute tweaking.

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For one thing, according to Recreation Director Jeff Jackel, the trustees wanted a better understanding about how the plan might make available a 12-acre, town-owned River Island in the middle of the Roaring Fork River, east of the Highway 133 bridge over the Roaring Fork, which has essentially been unused for years other than as a stopover point for occasional boaters.

The draft Master Plan calls on the town to look for ways to use the island “as a rafting campsite and/or day-use rental space if financial benefit can be found and ecological integrity can be maintained.”

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The plan also suggests that the town link up with the Roaring Fork Conservancy, a Basalt-based non-profit that keeps its eye on river health in the Roaring Fork River drainage, “and other river ecology experts to determine if environmental quality can be achieved while allowing access.”

But the trustees seemed unsure if the plan contains sufficient guarantees that the environmental integrity of the island will not be compromised, Jackel recalled.

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The trustees concerns, Jackel said, included direction that he “look at the environmental impacts to the island” that might occur if it was more actively used.

He said it appears as though a study should be done, by a paid consultant, to determine exactly what those impacts would be and how they could be handled.

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But, he added, “It’s not a high priority” for the town right now, particularly since the island has been all but vacant and unused for the past several years.

Besides the issues related to the island, Town Manager Jay Harrington said the trustees were concerned about whether issues about river ecosystems elsewhere through town had gotten enough attention in the master plan, and asked that those aspects of the plan be examined and modified.

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ADA concerns

In addition, the trustees wanted more clarity on how the town will deal with the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which mandates that public facilities be equipped in order to allow easy access to all, including the handicapped.

“They wanted to make some very minor changes,” Jackel said of the ADA compliance issues, including refinements concerning how the plan would meet what are known as “Universal Design” standards for ADA accessibility.

The “Universal Design” standards, according to online information sources, originated at the Center for Universal Design at North Carolina State University, and are based around a set of principles aimed at providing access for all.

According to the Wikipedia online encyclopedia, the term, “universal design,” was coined by an architect and industrial designer named Ronald Mace, a polio victim who “devoted his life” to designing buildings and public spaces with accessibility in mind, and who specifically worked to highlight the issue of accessibility for the handicapped as well as non-handicapped, according to the New York Times. Mace worked as senior research associate, professor and director of the Center for Universal Design. He died in 1998.

Jackel said on Monday that he already had made some changes to the plan, in response to the trustees’ suggestions, and that the Parks & Recreation Commission signed off on the changes at its meeting on March 11.

He said the plan is expected to be in front of the trustees again for adoption either at the March 31 meeting or the meeting on April 14.

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