Officials plant idea of shadier courthouse plaza
GLENWOOD SPRINGS – An ancient Chinese proverb says, “No shade tree? Blame not the sun, but yourself.” But Glenwood Springs City Council members might modify that proverb to say, “No shade tree? Blame not the city, but the county.”The question of whether to allow more landscaping features at the city-county courtyard on West 8th Street came up Tuesday at a joint meeting between City Council and the Garfield County Commission. Freshman Commissioner Trsi Houpt asked why the courtyard was so devoid of trees. She was informed that the city’s tall plans for landscaping the courtyard were cut down in March 2002 because of security concerns brought up by then-Sheriff Tom Dalessandri. Glenwood Springs city attorney Karl Hanlon said Dalessandri wanted the courtyard to be a “free-fire zone” – free gunfire, that is, in case a jail inmate tries to escape. Last year, the Garfield County commissioners ruled that the area should be clear of trees to eliminate hiding places, prevent blocking of security cameras and protect employees of the sheriff’s department and nearby courts. Dalessandri was concerned that trees could provide cover for armed escapees or disgruntled people.But now that Lou Vallario has taken over the reins of the sheriff’s office, things could be different.”I’m fine with that,” Vallario said of the tree-planting proposal. “I’m not concerned about the wide visual range as much as the former sheriff might have been. Obviously I don’t want big tall trees in front of the building, but we can take a look at the landscape plan and work something out.”I think a few trees out front would be nice,” he added.The city’s original plan called for 42 trees in the courtyard. Right now there are eight – two next to City Hall and six along the 8th Street sidewalk. It is unlikely 36 more trees will be planted, but Glenwood Springs city manager Mike Copp said the old plan could be resurrected and modified. “The city would love to revisit the whole site plan,” Copp said.Commissioner Larry McCown said 42 trees would be too much, but City Councilman Don Gillespie allayed those fears. “I don’t think anyone wants to plant a forest out there,” Gillespie said. Commissioner John Martin also had some reservations about too many trees, explaining that he likes looking down on the open courtyard from the fourth floor of the county annex. As it stands now, one tree will be planted each year on Arbor Day, which falls on April 25 this year. Houpt pointed out that if more shade trees were planted, downtown workers would be able to be outside during the summer without being cooked by the sun. “Employees should be able to go out there and eat,” she said. In other business at the semi-monthly city-county meeting:-The council and commission discussed how to coordinate parking around the government buildings. The county might ask some employees to park in the lot west of City Hall. -The city and county will take the first steps in formulating a small group that will look at overall planning in the area. It will have a city and county planner, members of the city and county planning and zoning commissions, and a City Council member and county commissioner.-Councilwoman Jean Martensen requested a letter from the county supporting the city’s efforts to have Coal Camp, located in South Canyon, listed by the state as one of the most endangered historical sites. The listing would help the city garner state grants to improve the old coal mining town. Coal Camp failed to make the state’s most endangered historical sites list last year, but Martensen said the city will try again this year.
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