Carbondale’s Bull Pasture Park is being renamed Nuche Park, an important step in recognizing those who were displaced from the Roaring Fork Valley when settlers and miners first arrived here just over a century ago.
The unanimous vote last week by the Carbondale Board of Trustees to change the name was prompted by a petition that well exceeded the 30-signature requirement for such name changes, and followed a 45-day public comment period in which no opposition materialized.
“You don’t see controversy because a lot of folks think it makes a lot of sense,” supporter Rita Marsh told trustees.
The petition was circulated beginning in November and presented to the Parks and Recreation Commission in February. Members of the Turnbull family, after whose bulls the park was originally named, were among the first to sign.
“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 petition read in part. “The park would be 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 ‘nooch.’”
“Ute is only a word that was given to us,“ explained McCook, the great-great grandson of chief Ouray. “Our name for ourselves is the Nuche, which means people of substance, with all the feelings the creator endowed upon us.”
The name change was effective immediately, although it will take some time to change signs. A soft celebration is planned for sunrise June 21, with a more formal ceremony later in the year.
The park, which sits between the Crystal River and Highway 133 just south of town, will likely see a few enhancements over the summer. Right now, it’s still not much more than a pasture — a stretch of long grass with a lazy ditch winding through and cottonwoods clustered along the river bank. When the park is closed in the winter, eagles from the adjacent sanctuary sometimes nest there. A pair of deck chairs and a few maples and burr oaks planted by the Carbondale Tree Board are the only recent improvements.
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. Its wild character, along with its location at the entrance to town from the south, was one of the main reasons supporters chose the space. They hope the Utes will be able to use it for ceremonies.
“It’s a meaningful gesture,” McCook observed. “An apology, to me, is like the wind — it goes away the moment you say it. The park will give whatever Ute people might pass by there a sense of belonging.”