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A goodbye letter to Carbondale

Sections: Columns Published

By Katrina Byars
Departing Trustee

I am grateful for my life and time in Carbondale. I consider Carbondale my hometown, and I will always be connected to this place. Carbondale has given me many gifts.  

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When I was small, I learned to swim in our pool. I grew up knowing how to treat the water and mountains.  Here, I learned the terrifying art of public speaking, because I had to speak up for our watershed. I know that the dandelion is a nutritious, and medicinal flower, not a weed. It is in our culture to take care of the beautiful natural resources that support our lives and nourish our spirit.

We care about each other, we help each other, and together do great things like supporting independent media with KDNK and The Sopris Sun.  We create Mountain Fair together, protect our heritage together, and while we represent every political view under the sun, we make progress toward the things we know are important.

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As Trustee for the Town of Carbondale, it is has been my responsibility to oversee the health, safety, and welfare of our community. I have served on several boards related to social and environmental justice.  A year into my term a woman I know asked me how it felt to be a politician.  I told her that I was still an activist.

I worked tirelessly to protect my community from highly dangerous hydraulic fracturing operations in our watershed through a long succession of strategies.  I have pushed for inclusionary actions and resolutions to reach LGBTQ community members, Spanish speakers, differently abled people, senior citizens, at-risk youth, low-income families, and those in need of mental health support. I believe we are all in this together, and we are strongest when everyone’s voice is heard. The well-being of our environment is directly linked to the well-being of our society.

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I’ve had difficult experiences here that have helped me to cast a much wider net of compassion and empathy. I love this town. My struggle to secure affordable housing remains a problem that persists for individuals throughout the Roaring Fork Valley.  It is with a heavy heart that I leave behind our paradise to seek a stronger future for my family.

Our community has many strengths in volunteerism, community, and our environmental ethic. We could also use some improvement on attainable housing and inclusion of differently-abled citizens and seniors in our planning, and transportation. We need to do better on this as many amazing people are prevented from enjoying our parks, public spaces, and public events because we have not yet become adept in ensuring universal access. I have rallied for this issue for the last three years and I hope my friends and colleagues rally on to find meaningful solutions.

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This week, as I pass the torch, I know that our community will continue to speak up for what is right. Carbondale will continue to be a bastion of environmental stewardship striving for social equality. I appreciate all of the encouragement and support I have received, and I hope that I can count on it in the future as I continue to fight for our water on the county, state, and federal level.  

I am not leaving Carbondale behind as much as expanding our fight for clean water, clean energy, and social equality.  I have learned so much about the challenges we face as Coloradans, that I feel a calling to do all that I can to make our region more humane, more livable, more diverse, and more sustainable. Our challenges are many, but our wild spirit prevails. Farewell, sweet town.  Keep fighting the good fight!

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