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Rodeo arena going roofless again this summer

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By John Colson

Sopris Sun Staff Writer

People sitting in the bleachers at the Gus Darien Riding Arena on Catherine Store Road, gathered to watch the rodeo next summer, will not have a sheltering roof above them, although Carbondale officials had been planning to erect a roof over the bleachers this spring.

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The project, which is to cost close to $70,000 (and is to include renovation of the announcer’s booth) will take place next fall, after Garfield County put the brakes on approvals for the construction project in order to review a permit application for the project and memorialize the county’s understanding of uses for the property.

The funding for the project comes from a $49,000 grant from the Garfield County Federal Mineral Lease District, $10,000 from the Town of Carbondale, and $10,000 from the Carbondale Wild West Rodeo board of directors, according to Carbondale Recreation Director Jeff Jackel.

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The rodeo arena, which have been owned by the town since 1991 and operated as a rodeo grounds for about the last dozen years, is under two different use classifications, Jackel indicated.

The property, which is located in Garfield County, currently is zoned rural/residential in county documents, a classification intended to cover dispersed residential growth, Jackel said, though Carbondale’s comprehensive plan refers to it as “parks and open space,” which allows for public gatherings and events.

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As a result, when the county learned of the disparity between the zoning and the use, officials opted to get the legalities in order before the roof can be put up, Jackel said.

The rodeo grounds have been used without interference from the county since around 2003, Jackel said, because the events held there “started out small.”

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But as the weekly rodeo events grew in popularity, they began attracting ever-bigger crowds, “and then parking became an issue,” Jackel continued.

“I think Garfield County is just wanting to get the town to identify what the current use is” in a formal way, Jackel said. “They want to have something on record, before they issue a building permit.”

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Since the town only learned of the problem recently, it has not yet submitted a formal application.

Jackel said he hopes to get the application to the county in April or early May, but because he is unsure how long the review process might take, he decided to put off the construction project until after rodeo season ends.

“The last rodeo is in August,” Jackel told The Sopris Sun on Tuesday. “We’re hoping to start construction probably in September. I wanted to make sure we had plenty of time” to get the project done without the pressure of a looming rodeo circuit.

Published in The Sopris Sun on March 24, 2016.

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