Carbondale's community connector

Trustee Heather Henry: Recreation roots run deep

Locations: News Published

By Justin Patrick

Sopris Sun Contributor

It is not uncommon to fondly remember playing sports as a kid, but most people don’t reflect back years later on a parks and recreation infrastructure that allowed them to participate in the first place.

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Heather Henry does.

Having become the University of Connecticut’s starting goalkeeper in a national championship soccer match, as well as having served on the Carbondale Parks and Recreation Commission for four years, Henry has made the connection. “The recreation programs that I got to do as a kid are what set me on a path to play higher and higher level soccer,” she told The Sopris Sun. “I attribute so much to playing sports and being involved in group dynamics … . Those are the things that raise great citizens.”

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Henry is the newest addition to the Carbondale Town Trustees, having been chosen to take the place of A.J. Hobbs, who recently stepped down. She plans to bring her experience with Parks and Recreation as well as the Planning and Zoning Commission, to take a pragmatic look at how Carbondale’s infrastructure can best accommodate its active — and growing — population.  “It’s a whole new world for Carbondale,” she said.

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Public service

Henry has a long history of public service in the Roaring Fork Valley.  She moved here in 2000 to work as a landscape architect for Design Workshop, where she worked for 10 years. During that time she travelled extensively to job sites, typically in resort communities. She spent time in Montana, California, Seattle, Mexico and Maryland, to name a few. But she couldn’t shake that warm feeling she got returning home. “I’ve travelled to some beautiful places in the west,” she said, “but I can’t think of a single time where I landed in Aspen and didn’t think, ‘I’m so glad to be back in the valley.’”

After she met her husband playing softball in a local league, the couple purchased a home in Carbondale in 2006. They have a daughter. “We pretty much had to put everything on the line,” she said of her home purchase. But now that she has roots here, Henry intends to make the community a better place.

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Henry began participating in local public life almost as soon as she arrived. Her employer, Design Workshop, encouraged community involvement, and she “seized on it right away.” She joined the Aspen Community Foundation’s Springboard, which encourages young people to make an impact in their communities. She helped found nonprofit startups including Youth Zone and Battle of the Bands in Basalt. “It was a great way to get involved in the community and be with people that are a greater cross-section,” she said.

In 2002 she went through the Aspen Leadership program (now Roaring Fork Center for Community Leadership) and subsequently joined the board. She then accepted a position on the board of the Aspen Historical Society.

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In 2010, Henry stepped down from the boards and Design Workshop to start her own landscape design company — Connect One. She later founded another company, Plantium, a cloud-based app that allows users to find the right plants for their property.  Together, the companies employ eight people in Carbondale, Basalt and Denver. Although she was busy launching her business, Henry wanted to continue giving back to the community.

“I really missed it,” she said.

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Then, two openings popped up in Carbondale, one on the Parks and Recreation Commission, and one on the Planning and Zoning Commission. Henry was interested in both positions. “Can I do both at the same time?” she asked town officials. They told her they didn’t see why not.  

Henry spent four years on each commission, where she learned the challenges and intricacies of the town’s inner workings. A lot changed in those few years, she said.  “There wasn’t as much traffic …  When you see how bustling we are now, you see how quiet those years really were.”

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On Parks and Recreation, Henry helped write a new master plan that addresses improvements to the trail system and sidewalks, identifies gaps, and works on expanding programming in a fiscally responsible way, as well as maintaining existing assets, such as playground equipment.  

On Planning and Zoning, Henry was concerned with “how to create density while still holding on to community values.” She believes that the town should balance access and transportation issues with its unique character. “I see everything as interconnected,” she said.  “It’s how I see a lot of issues.  Very few are siloed (sic).”

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Henry said she is honored and excited to serve as Carbondale’s newest trustee, and brings a diverse skill set to the table. She believes that to be a good public official “you have to suppress your ego” and make the decisions with the best outcome for the most citizens.

“I take extremely seriously the fact that I’m not there to make decisions based on my personal perspective. That is what representational government is all about.”

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Published in The Sopris Sun on September 29, 2016.

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