CARBONDALE - More than 100 area citizens seem to want to help craft an open space program for Garfield County, if turnout at four public-input meetings held by the Garfield Legacy Project is any guide.
"In Carbondale, open space has always been a priority," noted Carbondale Trustee Ed Cortez, who on Thursday opened the last of the four meetings, which was held in Carbondale.
A tax-funded open space district was proposed for the county as a whole approximately a decade ago, but while creation of the district won voter support, the tax did not.
The Garfield Legacy Project meetings, held Nov. 15-17 in Glenwood Springs, Parachute, Rifle and Carbondale, were meant to gather ideas from citizens about what kind of open space program they would support, and what areas in particular they would like to see protected.
According to organizers, the meetings were well-attended, with more than 40 apiece at the Carbondale and Glenwood Springs gatherings, around 20 in Rifle, and about 10 in Parachute.
On large-format paper sheets posted around the room, those taking part in the Carbondale meeting indicated that they want to protect ranching and other agricultural activities from being overwhelmed by housing projects and other development.
In addition, meeting participants want to preserve wildlife habitat, water and air quality, access to local rivers and public lands, and iconic views that bring tourists into the region, among other things.
The "Greenprint for Conservation and Economic Opportunity," as the program is called, has been under way for months, funded primarily by a Great Outdoors Colorado grant of $75,000.
The first step was an online survey that ended recently, but participants at the four meetings also got the chance to answer the 15-question survey.
The Garfield Legacy Project (GLP), started in 2009, is a coalition of citizens and organizations from around the county and the larger region.
The partners behind the GLP include the Aspen Valley Land Trust, the city of Rifle, the Sonoran Institute and the Trust for Public Land, among others.
The Trust for Public Land conducted the final public input meeting, in Carbondale on Nov. 17, and promised to quickly report on the conceptual results from the four meetings.
Kelley Hart, of the Trust for Public Land, noted that Garfield County's population currently stands at approximately 60,000 people in more than 3,000 square miles of rugged terrain.
That represents population growth of more than 30 percent in the past decade, she said, adding that the population is expected to double in the coming two decades, to 120,000.
"You're at a critical juncture," she told residents at the Carbondale Town Hall on Thursday, maintaining that the county needs to determine its future starting now, in terms of how growth will be directed and what places will be protected from that growth.
The plan, according to Mary Noone of Glenwood Springs, a key member of the GLP, is to put together a "completely voluntary" open space program.