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Town does an about face on North Face weeds

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Here come the herbicides

By John Colson

Sopris Sun Correspondent

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Carbondale’s elected leaders decided Tuesday to use herbicides to knock down a persistent weed problem at the North Face Bicycle Park, which goes against a long-standing policy against using toxic chemicals on town parks.

But the move is needed, the trustees decided, in order to prevent a crop of noxious weeds from taking over the bike park and spreading onto nearby properties, both public and private.

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The issue arose when Darryl Fuller, chair of the town’s Bike-Pedestrian-Trails Commission (BPTC), stood up to talk to the trustees during a time reserved for “persons present not on the agenda,” meaning anyone who is not there for a specific agenda item.

“This is not something we typically do,” remarked Mayor Stacey Bernot, but she and the trustees agreed to go along with the ensuing extended discussion about weeds and related topics, which featured remarks by Fuller, Garfield County weed control specialist Steve Anthony and others.

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Fuller said the weed problem has been debated at BPTC meetings, as well as with the town’s Parks and Recreation Commission and the Environmental Board, seeking ways to keep the weeds at bay that included a discussion of using goats as a natural method of weed control.

But the talks always returned to the idea of using weed killer, “kind of more as an emergency measure,” remarked Becky Moller, chair of the Parks & Recreation commission.

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Anthony suggested the town employ a specialized weed-control company to conduct “spot spraying using backpacks” loaded with herbicide, which would kill the offending weeds but still leave them in place as a reminder of the problem.

Such a method, he suggested, could be used as an educational tool, to let the community at large know how serious the problem is and why the town decided to ignore its own “non-toxic” policy in this instance.

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Another area where weeds have infested a public planting zone is in Promenade Park, adjacent to Town Hall and the Carbondale Recreation and Community Center, a spot that the mayor said was particularly troubling to her.

She declared that the town had done “a great disservice” to the public’s property by not keeping up with maintenance and weed-control efforts at the park, which was created to considerable public fanfare when the Recreation Center was built.

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“I would like to see us really do something now to help protect that investment,” she said, suggesting that a treatment similar to that planned for North Face Bike Park might be the proper way to proceed.

Allowing weeds to flourish, she said, is “a huge risk to our neighboring landowners … quite onerous and not being a good neighbor.”

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She and others at the meeting agreed that engaging volunteers to pull weeds manually, while seeming to be in keeping with Carbondale’s overall philosophies, has not proved to be effective in this arena.

Trustee Allyn Harvey, agreeing that the use of herbicides seems to be warranted in this instance, said he had discussed the matter with Sloan Shoemaker, director of the Wilderness Workshop.

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“He surprised me,” Harvey said, noting that Shoemaker is “in favor of smart applications of herbicides” to deal with noxious weeds. Harvey said Shoemaker had approved of such applications even in the wilderness, such as an area near the Marble Ski Area that was being overrun by weeds.

Trustee Katrina Byars, agreeing that the use of herbicides seems unavoidable, said it should be followed by the planting of native plant species and fertilization of the soil.

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The trustees agreed that the treatment should be done soon, while the plants are in the early stages of growth and more susceptible to herbicides, and the mayor instructed staff to look into finding “the least toxic” substance available.

In other action, the trustees:

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• Heard from Mayor Bernot that the town has received two grants from the Federal Mineral Leasing District program of Garfield County — $48,900 to build a roof over the grandstands at the Gus Darien Riding Arena where the Carbondale Wild West Rodeo is held, and $25,000 to buy variable messaging signs for traffic control on the streets and highways. Although Bernot did not mention it, the Carbondale & Rural Fire Protection District also received an FMLD grant — $25,000 for purchase of communications equipment.

• Approved a mosquito-control program for the coming summer months.

• Approved a new liquor license for a new establishment: The Beat, an organic food and beverage cafe to be operated by Tobyn Britt at 968 Main St., where his mother and landlord, Cathy Britt, also operates a business.

• Approved liquor licenses for the Third Street Center (formally known as the Carbondale Community Nonprofit Center), for the center’s fifth birthday party scheduled for June 19.

• Approved a liquor license for this year’s Dandelion Days celebration, scheduled for the weekend of May 9 at Sopris Park.

• Approved a plan to build a roof-only shelter in Bonnie Fischer Park behind the Third Street Center, near the Community Oven and the newly named Demeter’s Garden. The project is to use $5,000 in grant money from the LiveWell Garfield County organization and $5,000 of unneeded funds transferred from the budget of the Parks and Recreation Department mapping program, at the recommendation of recreation director Jeff Jackel.

• Agreed to a request from the Garfield County Libraries District, to appoint a trustee to serve as liaison at quarterly meetings at the Carbondale Branch Library, where citizens can meet with library and town officials. The board of trustees will meet to select the liaison, and Mayor Bernot pledged to inform the library district of the lucky trustee’s name by May 1.