Securing Carbondale’s environmental rights |

Securing Carbondale’s environmental rights

Frosty Merriott

In the Roaring Fork Valley, we all want to breathe clean air, drink clean water, enjoy views of the starry night sky, and hike, bike, work and raise our families in the best possible environment. These desires drive why we live here and why people visit here. In Carbondale specifically, we really believe we don’t just want to have these things, we believe we deserve to have these things, thus a bill of rights.

We believe that all of our stated objectives will contribute to a healthier individual, physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually, and that healthy individuals make a healthier community.

In Carbondale, we believe our next step is to adopt an Environmental Bill of Rights, and we invite other communities to do the same. It is envisioned as follows:

EBOR Mission Statement: To uphold the existing ethos of our environmentally sensitive community by maintaining, protecting and enhancing the physical and natural environment for our citizens and our visitors.

Purpose: This EBOR is intended to be an overarching guide to Carbondale’s future environmental goals and objectives. This charter reflects that tourism is an economic driver for Carbondale which, by definition, means we must keep and improve those things that bring visitors to our town, such as clean air, clean water, open spaces, a beautiful view of the stars, western wildlife, gorgeous views, appropriate development, innovative energy and passionate people. These principles are intended to be used as filters by which we pass policy and land decisions rather than as fixed goals. These principle statements should empower all the employees, residents and visitors of Carbondale alike to move forward with the mission of our Environmental Bill of Rights.

So how did we get here? It wasn’t really a stretch as the town mission statement (developed in the early 2000s) already has in place 10 objectives to protect the physical and natural environment. They are:

1. Reduce emissions from solid-fuel-burning devices.

2. Create land use and building codes that have environmental protection as a major priority.

3. Preserve river corridors in a predominantly natural state and provide or acquire access to these corridors.

4. Maintain clear growth boundaries with redevelopment and preservation and acquisition of open space.

5. Maintain water quality and quantity.

6. Encourage solar and renewable energy sources and minimize waste of natural resources.

7. Protect and improve viewscapes.

8. Continue efforts to work toward reduction of solid waste and increase recycling efforts.

9. Support development of mass-transit alternatives in the Roaring Fork Valley.

10. Encourage alternatives to automobile use, more particularly, non-motorized transport systems and associated trails.

The EBOR committee, which consists of me; Trustee Heather Henry; Julia Farwell, chair of the environmental board; and Tom Dunlop of Dunlop Environmental Consulting, and others at the trustee public meeting on May 23 feel we need to incorporate the following five rights to reflect what we have learned in the last 15 years:

1. We must consider our effect on native wildlife.

2. Employ the latest water-, air- and wildlife-sensitive noxious weed control measures throughout town.

3. Maintain the quintessential Western night sky without interference of unnecessary artificial light trespass and pollution from houses and businesses.

4. Control excessive noise throughout town.

5. The town must lead by example with actions, town-owned assets and code enforcement, and continue to encourage grassroots and volunteer efforts to pursue the mission and goals of this Environmental Bill of Rights.

We should also modify the first mission goal to include: maintain clean air via renewable and clean energy, alternative transportation and particulate matter controls (e.g. wood-burning stoves).

I would be remiss if I did not mention that, based on what happened last week, it is all the more important that local governments do what we can within our purview to leave a world for our children and grandchildren better than what we inherited. There is a lot of hyperbole, negativity and extremist language on either side of the issue.

Yet the conversation occurring within our town limits is active, engaging of all sides of the dialogue, and inclusive. We encourage everyone to continue to engage in the local dialogue and be a part of crafting the town’s EBOR.

While this issue is contentious, it is the positive energy and constructive feedback that our residents bring to this dialogue that will make the Carbondale EBOR truly effective. Let us each ask ourselves if the seven-generation principle of the Haudenosaunee Tribe is important to us, and then act accordingly.

In Aspen in the 1950s, there were an average of 73 frost-free days, and that number has grown to 107 in the 2000s (so far). The 10 hottest years on record have occurred since 1998. While the causality of global changes continues to be debated, efforts to focus on creating a healthy and resilient Carbondale in the face of these changes can continue.

We will roll out our working draft of our EBOR on June 15 at town hall from 5-7 p.m. We encourage everyone to attend and share thoughts and opinions.

Frosty Merriott is serving his 10th year as Carbondale town trustee.

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