By John Colson
Sopris Sun Staff Writer
Carbondale’s citizen managers of the town parks and recreation facilities will meet next week to consider a proposal by a local ranching family to make some improvements to Nuche Park, a rustic expanse of pasture and grassland tucked between the Crystal River and Highway 133 at the south end of town.
The topic is scheduled to come up at the Aug. 10 meeting of the Carbondale Parks & Recreation Commission, which will take place at 7 p.m. at the Sopris Park Picnic Shelter, rather than in the confines of a meeting room at Town Hall, according to Recreation Director Jeff Jackel.
“It’s really exciting,” Jackel said of the offer by the unnamed local ranching family, whom he declined to identify until after the commission meets and discusses the matter.
He wrote in a memo to the parks and recreation commission that the town was approached about the improvements by local real estate agent Sherry Rubin, who is working with the family in question.
Jackel explained that the family offered to pay for the construction of an undetermined number of parking spaces along with the placement of a picnic shelter and possibly some informational signs outlining Carbondale’s historic ranching culture.
This would be the first effort to add significant improvements to the park, which has been owned by the town since about 1990, when it was dedicated as public open space as part of the approvals for the River Valley Ranch subdivision.
At that time, it was called Bull Pasture Park, so-named after animals once owned by members of the Turnbull family that would graze on the parcel.
But in 2014, the name was changed after a group of local citizens gathered signatures on a petition asking for a new appellation for the park in honor of the Ute Native American tribes who lived in the Roaring Fork River region before white settlers started taking over.
A news story at the time of the name change quoted the petition as saying, in part, “We are proud of our ranch heritage but would like to take our history back another 9,000 years by acknowledging the indigenous people who came before. The park would be [formally named] Nuche-Mu-Gu-Avatum-Ada’he, Ute for ‘the people’s place of the heart,’ a name given to the valley by the Ute elders Roland McCook and Clifford Duncan. We would call the park ‘Nuche Park,’ pronounced ‘noosh.’”
McCook, the great-great-grandson of famed Ute Chief Ouray, noted at the time that the name, Nuche, is “our name for ourselves” and means “people of substance, with all the feelings the Creator endowed upon us.”
He said the name Utes is simply a label applied by whites.
At the time of the name change, according to the news story in the Glenwood Springs Post Independent, “petitioners hope to provide a nicer path to the river, plant a few more trees and potentially install a garden with native and medicinal plants. Otherwise, the parcel would be left in as natural a state as possible.”
The article noted that, in the winter months when the park is closed, bald eagles have been known to nest in the cottonwood trees along the banks of the Crystal River adjacent to Nuche Park.
Jackel, who said he was not sure whether the ranching family would be present for the parks and recreation commission meeting, indicated pleasure at the idea of dressing up the park.
“This will really make for a nice gateway entrance (to Carbondale) as you come from the south,” he remarked, assuming that the commission would go along with the proposal.
In other planned discussions at the meeting, the parks and recreation commissioners will be examining ideas for replacing playground equipment at Sopris Park in the middle of town; going over a draft budget proposal for the parks department for 2017; and considering a plan to increase the public lighting in the vicinity of Gianinetti-Sewell Park along Village Road in the northern section of town.
Published in The Sopris Sun on August 4, 2016.