Little concern so far over Carbondale ranger station project

Forest Service Engineering Staff Officer Greg Rosenmerkel shows the design for a proposed new building for the Carbondale Aspen-Sopris ranger station.
Thomas Phippen / Post Independent

The demolition and reconstruction of the Carbondale Aspen-Sopris ranger district station might be delayed a year, but the Forest Service is still pushing to finish designing the bigger, better structure.

The current site was never intended to be a district ranger station, according to the Forest Service, and no longer serves the needs of the rangers.

About 25 people attended an open house Friday in Carbondale to look at the designs, according to Cindy Thrush, Facilities Engineer for the Forest Service.

“No matter what, a redevelopment of that site is going to come with some concerns,” Carbondale Town Manager Jay Harrington said at the board of trustees Tuesday.

One concern was that the plan calls to remove two spruce trees in the back part of the lot, Harrington said.

The tall spruce at the corner of Main Street and Weant dubbed the Christmas Tree, which is decorated each winter, is unaffected by the proposal.

The need for a new building is clear. The current ranger station uses 6,912 square feet between the two existing buildings.

In the current setup, some staff members are working out of basement offices, and the conference room isn’t big enough to hold a staff meeting.

Anytime the Forest Service wants to hold a public event, they have to rent a space.

The new building would increase the size to 7,222 square feet and make more efficient use of space, allowing for offices all on one floor, with room for events and meetings.

A rendering of the proposed new Forest Service ranger station in Carbondale.

Thrush said she also got comments about the potential of developing housing on the lot.

While not part of the plan right now, housing development could be part of future developments.

“That’s why we’re saving the back part of the parcel,” Thrush said.

The parcel has room between the parking lot and Sopris Park, also owned by the Forest Service.

The authority of the Forest Service to lease land to municipalities for things like housing projects is also fairly recent — it was part of the 2018 Farm Bill — and requires a partnership.

The town has been working with the Forest Service for some time on the designs for the new building, Harrington said.

Trustee Lani Kitching, who attended the open house, said a more prominent Forest Service presence on Main Street “would draw attention to Carbondale’s regard for our natural environment.”

But the funding might not be available to start demolition and construction in March 2021, as the Forest Service hoped.

“Ideally, we want to do it next spring, but we’re really looking at the bank account and figure out if we’ll have enough money or if we’ll have to wait another year to secure additional funding,” Thrush said.

The project could be fully funded through the recent sale of several Aspen properties, but it would deplete those funds, Thrush said.

In the meantime, design work will be completed this summer, which could help the project be more competitive for grants from the federal office of the Forest Service.

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