Carbondale tightens trash rules amid bear problems
Carbondale residents and businesses will now be required to keep their trash in a secured area or in a certified bear-resistant container prior to their scheduled trash pick-up day, under an emergency ordinance approved Tuesday by town trustees.
Police will also be keeping a closer eye out — and are asking others to do the same — for people who put their trash on the curb before 6 a.m. the morning of pick-up, a rule that was already on the books but can be hard to enforce.
Under the old ordinance, someone had to observe who actually put the trash can, or they had to admit it, in order to be issued a summons. Now, any adult resident of the house, the owner or the property manager could be cited.
“Mostly, we just want people to keep their trash in a secured area, that’s our main goal,” Carbondale Police Chief Gene Schilling said during a discussion Tuesday night with the town Board of Trustees.
“We’ll give out warnings first, but we will look at a citation on the second offense,” he said.
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The resulting fine would be $100 to start, then $250 and $500 on subsequent offenses, according to the newly revised ordinance.
However, trustees agreed unanimously that fines could be waived if a violator purchases a bear-resistant, or better yet bear-proof, container.
The new measure is intended to cut down on the number of incidents involving bears getting into unsecured trash cans and dumpsters.
The problem has been of particular concern in Carbondale and other Roaring Fork Valley towns this summer and into the fall, as the usual food sources for foraging bears, such as serviceberries and chokecherries, have been scarce this year.
“You are going to see more and more issues in Carbondale, and (unsecured) trash is the first problem,” said John Groves, area wildlife manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife, who was also on hand for the discussion.
“It’s not just bears. It’s skunks, raccoons any animal really,” he said. “If people can’t lock their trash up inside, it needs to be in a bear-resistant container.”
Once bears, in particular, figure out that trash is an easy food source, “they’re going to keep coming back,” Groves said.
“It’s important to cut them off in the early stage before they start breaking into houses,” he said, noting that hasn’t been a problem in Carbondale as it has in Aspen and other towns that have perpetual bear problems.
But it’s only a matter of time if the trash problem isn’t taken care of first, he said.
“This is by no means a cure-all,” he said of Carbondale’s new ordinance. “But it is a step in the direction we need to go.”
Carbondale Trustee Frosty Merriott, an outspoken proponent of wildlife protections in general, also said the revised ordinance should be just the start of a “larger conversation” about living with wildlife.
“We do need to get people that have garages or a shed to store their trash there,” Merriott said. “We don’t want to get to the point where we’re having to put down bears, and at some point people have to take responsibility.”
State wildlife rules require that so-called “nuisance” bears be euthanized after a second offense, whether it’s getting into trash or breaking into a building.
Trustees would also like to explore ways to make other things that tend to attract bears, such as bee hives and backyard chicken coops, more secure. And some board members asked that town staff look into replacing some of the public trash cans in parks and along streets with bear-resistant containers as well.
The board decided to remove one section of the new ordinance that would have required trash haulers to provide bear-proof containers to any customer that requested one, even if that means passing on the cost.
“We talked to some of the haulers, and that’s not a real workable approach,” Town Manager Jay Harrington said.
However, the town may work with haulers to possibly purchase the containers at a bulk rate, and make them available to anyone who wants to or is required to buy one because of a violation.
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