Carbondale trustees talk safe night routes |

Carbondale trustees talk safe night routes

Ryan Summerlin

Carbondale trustees are getting their feet under them in addressing community safety following a pair of recent night assaults on women earlier this summer.

The board appears to be going in a couple of different directions on this issue, but during a work session Tuesday the board largely focused on how it can develop “safe routes” through high-traffic night corridors in Carbondale.

In the immediate term, town staff will hash out details of what it would take to improve lighting east of Colorado 133 between Village Road and Cowen Drive — this being universally identified as a problem area during the work session.

Since early in this discussion, Carbondale women have been asking for lighting upgrades to illuminate some of the town’s darkest corridors.

“You can light up the Rio Grande Trail, but ultimately it’s a corridor with no eyes on it.”
— Heather Henry, newly appointed trustee

During an Aug. 23 trustee meeting a dozen Carbondale women, saying they no longer felt safe in town, chastised the board for inaction.

Recently appointed as a new trustee but not yet sworn in, Heather Henry suggested analyzing the safe routes through town, approaching them much like the safe routes to schools.

The board focused upon pedestrian and bike routes starting at the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority Park and Ride and moving into town.

Henry suggested identifying gaps in the safe routes, deciding whether added lighting or added police patrols would benefit them, and then advertising to the community where those safe routes are.

Police Chief Gene Schilling said he has an idea where the problem areas in town are, and several board members wanted an analysis of where lighting upgrades would do the most good.

The east side of Colorado 133 around the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority Park and Ride received much of the attention, as did the Rio Grande Trail.

Because the Rio Grande Trail is RFTA’s jurisdiction, the town can’t make any final decisions on its lighting.

Trustee Ben Bohmfalk, the board’s RFTA representative, said RFTA is open to working with the town to improve lighting on the trail, but Carbondale will have to do it on its own dime.

The area east of Colorado 133 between Village Road and Cowen Drive is unbelievably dark, said Erica Sparhawk, a Carbondale resident.

And walking east from there on Village Road, pedestrians come to a sidewalk that winds through Gianinetti Park and is completely unlit. Jay Harrington, town manager, said the town already budgets money annually for connecting sidewalks in town, and the Gianinetti sidewalk could be pulled back to the lit section of the park.

Others wanted the board to consider dark neighborhoods on Colorado 133 south of City Market.

“You can light up the Rio Grande Trail, but ultimately it’s a corridor with no eyes on it,” said Henry.

Other trustees and commenting women had misgivings about using the Rio Grande Trail as a primary safe route through town.

“The least safe place is the least populated at night,” said Bohmfalk, who noted that pedestrians are fenced in at some points on the trail and would have no where to escape if they were attacked.

“There cannot be a community tolerance for violence against women,” said Trustee Katrina Byars, who was still optimistic that Carbondale police will arrest the perpetrator.

Schilling has since said that investigators no longer suspect these two assaults involved the same perpetrator, and he’s noted that only one of them was a sexual assault.

The chief agreed that his night patrol officers could take note of town lights that have gone out and pass that information along to public works.

The town annually surveys lighting that’s gone out, and Schilling suggested a survey of areas that need more lighting.

In the past, the town has battled against residents that complain of lights that are too bright.

The town is also developing a Carbondale Police Department Facebook page for getting alerts out quickly.

Schilling also recommended an online survey of residents to find the high-traffic routes in town.

Yet some women in town still felt the trustees weren’t moving fast enough. Courtney Eagleton, who lives on Wheel Circle and has two teenagers, said she wants to see the board do something sooner rather than later.

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