City Council delivers the green for `sodless park’ |

City Council delivers the green for `sodless park’

The new ballfields at Sopris Park will get sod after all.

Glenwood Springs City Council members reversed an earlier decision to cut costs on the new park and agreed Thursday to spend an extra $58,000 to buy sod.

Seeding the park would cost $5,000 to $8,000, but would also delay use of the park until fall 2003. By laying sod next spring, the ballfield could be used almost immediately.

“Reports of the sodless park stirred up a lot of people about when the park could be used,” city parks and recreation manager Dan Rodgerson said.

City Council members heard about it, too, and were easily persuaded to pull the $58,000 from the fund that collects parkland dedication fees.

The original cost for sodding the park was bid at $90,000 by the park’s contractor, Gould Construction.

Rodgerson said Little League families offered free labor to place the sod, and landscape architect John Taufer suggested that only the ballfield itself be sodded. Those savings cut the cost of buying sod to $58,000.

Councilman Larry Emery said the expense would still leave enough money in the fund to pay for tennis courts at the Community Center.

In a split vote of 5-2, the City Council endorsed conservationists’ favored plan for managing the Roan Plateau resource area northwest of Rifle.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management is seeking public comment on alternatives for managing the 73,600-acre area.

The agency set out six management options, ranging from intensive oil and gas development to an emphasis on ecological diversity and nonmotorized recreation.

Conservationists favor Alternative F, which calls for preserving the natural landscape and setting aside 21,400 acres in three wilderness areas. Gas drilling would be allowed at the base of the plateau, but restrictions would be applied for disturbing the land.

“Alternative F does a really good job of creating a balance, and it goes the farthest to protect recreation,” said Clare Bastable, Western Slope conservation coordinator for the Colorado Mountain Club.

It would leave 136 miles of roads open on the plateau, closing another 123 miles to motorized uses. Livestock grazing would continue.

Bastable described the Roan Plateau as a natural oasis surrounded by large areas open to gas drilling, and said it’s one of four areas of this size in Colorado with such a wide range of ecological diversity.

“If we can protect it, why wouldn’t we?” asked Erica Johns, of Glenwood Springs.

“This is not an extreme alternative,” said Jim Neu, of Glenwood Springs. “There is so much development in the valleys. Do we want to see it encroach on every last inch?”

Councilman Dan Richardson said the gas resources that could be lost by protecting the plateau amount to a four-month supply, and made a motion to endorse Alternative F. Emery seconded it.

Councilman Dave Merritt disagreed. Locking up energy resources in the United States increases the country’s dependence on foreign oil supplies, he said. “We need to keep this available,” he said.

But Councilwoman Jean Martensen said banning drilling atop the plateau could push research on alternative energy.

“There are plenty of places to drill other than the top of the Roan Plateau,” said Mayor Don Vanderhoof, closing the discussion. “I don’t see a problem with putting that off limits.”

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