Opinion: Town distorting, deflecting, dissembling when it comes to Kit Carson Park

Fans applaud the conclusion of Lake Street Dive's performance Friday (July 5) at Kit Carson Park in Taos. Morgan Timms / The Taos News

Have you seen what they've done to Taos' Kit Carson Park? It's now dominated by an aesthetically appalling, outsized, out of proportion and out of place rock music concert stage. Bob Fies sure had it right when he detailed the park's devolution ("The devolution of Kit Carson Park," May 30). Just when you hope that town governance may have changed for the better, the mayor and town manager instigate another likely community conflict, one of Couse Pasture and Holiday Inn Express proportions.

In stark contrast to the park's historic nature, as a "cherished open space, including expansive lawns, enriched by cultural events, acequia flows, the shade of towering cottonwood trees" (Taos Parks Plan), Kit Carson Park is being systematically converted to a large, late-night, rock concert venue, with attendant peace-disturbing sound levels, crowding, increased traffic, parking problems, restricted park access, site degradation, negatively impacted property values and more.

Those living in close proximity to the park report concert sound levels sometimes reaching 120db (the sound of a jet engine). For them, these events constitute a continuing public nuisance, degrading the quality of their lives and episodically rendering their homes uninhabitable. There are complaints from county residents living as far from the park as Blueberry Hill Road. Multiple pleas to the Taos council for relief have been to no avail.

Despite the absence of meaningful, informed community participation and demonstrably broad support for the repurposing of this town treasure, and in the face of citizen protest, Mayor Dan Barrone and town manager Rick Bellis have plowed ahead with their park-as-rock concert initiative. Critics of the change have gathered over 700 signatures of people opposed the park's repurposing. To make matters worse, distorting, deflecting and dissembling false narratives have been the administration's tactical orders of the day.

Our too clever by half town manager points to planning documents to support his contention of broad community support for Kit Carson Park's transition to a permanent rock music venue. But nowhere in that planning process had its participants been informed that they would ultimately be said to endorse the elbowing aside of other community priorities in favor of repeated rock concert events attended by thousands that violate park curfew, alcohol, camping and sound level rules and ordinances.

The administration has argued that town finances, dependent on gross receipts tax revenues, require that Kit Carson Park be commandeered to serve as a large-scale concert venue. Well, I'd bet that one as famous and as talented as Sting, scheduled for Labor Day weekend, could draw thousands of concert-going, gross receipts tax-paying fans to the gravel pit south of town that Taos spent over $900,000 acquiring for this very purpose. It doesn't have to be staged in Kit Carson Park.

The administration's public posture regarding recent protracted closing of a large section of the park has been particularly and personally offensive. Reaching a pinnacle of indecency, the administration hid its concert venue development activities behind claims of meeting the needs of the disabled. We were led to believe that the major construction effort requiring the park's closure was principally related to bringing it into conformity with Americans with Disabilities Act standards.Yet even a cursory inspection of the construction site reveals that little was done as far as ADA compliance is concerned. Much construction work had however been done in the service of concert venue development. Have they, at long last, no shame?

And when the mayor isn't hiding his concert venue construction motives behind the needs of the disabled, he trots out little league baseball players and "Movies on the Green" family audiences to justify his otherwise offending park transformation activities. In which universe, one wonders, are the sounds of youth baseball and family movies transmitted at 120db to late-night, alcohol-consuming, curfew-ignoring crowds of thousands? That the mayor would hide his park renovation motives behind children and families is nothing short of draw dropping.

Regrettably, the administration has either ignored or resisted any and all community requests for dialogue and negotiation around concert community concerns. This leaves those opposed to the park's rock concert venue conversion - and/or those with unanswered questions - little alternative but legal action. New Mexico statutes prohibit public nuisance.

Mayor Barrone often preaches commitment to unite the people of our various Taos communities. His administration's persistent distortion, deflection and dissembling indifference achieves precisely the opposite result. (For more information, visit kcparkfriends.com.)

Robert J. Silver lives in Taos.

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