Solar array slated for Delaney Nature Park in Carbondale
Post Independent Staff
CARBONDALE — A controversial solar array, meant to help the town meet its alternative energy goals, will be built near the Roaring Fork Water Treatment Plant on part of the 35-acre Delaney Nature Park property, despite objections from some local residents.
The Board of trustees voted 5-1, with Trustee John Foulkrod dissenting, to place the solar array on a parcel of land known as Site B, rather than Site A, which would have conflicted with plans for a future active recreational resource such as a soccer field.
The solar array at the Delaney Nature Park is part of a three-pronged effort by the town to use solar-generated electricity to offset power consumption at municipal facilities.
The other two proposed sites are the town’s public works garage just off Highway 133, and the roof of the PAC3 music hall attached to the Third Street Center on the south side of town.
Foulkrod, who said he is not opposed to finding alternative ways to meet the town’s energy needs, said he believes it is inappropriate to use Delaney Park.
“It’s the coolest place in town, because it’s the lowest place in town,” he said of the park, noting that it is not only used by dog owners as a place to let their pets roam, but also by people looking for a comfortable place to walk and talk that is out of the heat of the summer and out of the hustle and bustle that dominates the town’s core areas.
“I think there are other ways to reduce our energy [use],” Foulkrod told the rest of the board at its meeting on Tuesday night.
Expressing skepticism about the town’s goal of getting 30 percent of its municipal energy needs from renewable sources by the year 2015, he declared, “You’ve created unrealistic goals, and now you’re destroying one of the most beautiful things you have in town to meet those goals.”
Residents Frank Smotherman, Terry Kirk and Randy Morley agreed with Foulkrod that the nature park is a bad choice for what they termed an industrial use of the land.
“Just for the record,” said Morley, “I don’t think these arrays should be down there. It’s a beautiful area, and there are other alternatives.”
Several town officials, including Town Manager Jay Harrington, pointed out that the town and its consultants had gone through a list of 14 potential sites, and had found that the three sites now being discussed were the only viable options.
Most of the board, in the end, was in favor of installing the panels at the park, even if they did feel there were problems related to the idea.
“It’s a beautiful field, there’s no doubt about that,” said Trustee John Hoffmann. But, he added, the atmosphere of the Earth has recently surpassed the 400 parts-per-million mark concerning C02 emissions, which are known as “greenhouse gases” that contribute to global warming.
“Something drastic is happening to the planet,” Hoffmann said, arguing that the burning of fossil fuels for energy has been “throwing all the [Earth’s] feedback systems out of kilter.”
Urging the other trustees to add their voices to a chorus calling for a reduced “carbon footprint” for Carbondale, Hoffmann said, “It’s a hard choice, but it’s a choice we need to make. We need to start doing something.”
Coupled with the vote to use the Delaney Nature Park site, the trustees agreed to dedicate energy-cost savings to benefit the park, and to hold further discussions about other possible uses of the park land, which the town purchased from the late Bob Delaney at a reported cost of approximately $500,000.
Among those topics will be a question, raised by Hoffman, about the advisability of irrigating the park property in the future, and whether irrigation might be in keeping with the property’s historic use as a hay field.
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