Opinion: Kit Carson Park belongs to the community, not the town of Taos administration

By Barbara J. Sheppard, Taos
Posted 8/1/19

I applaud Robert J. Silver for his July 11 My Turn ("Town distorting, deflecting, dissembling when it comes to Kit Carson Park") and having the courage to continue to show up …

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Opinion: Kit Carson Park belongs to the community, not the town of Taos administration

Posted

I applaud Robert J. Silver for his July 11 My Turn ("Town distorting, deflecting, dissembling when it comes to Kit Carson Park") and having the courage to continue to show up and speak truth to power. I, too, feel compelled to lend my voice and thoughts to encourage further dialogue regarding the future of Kit Carson Park.

I enjoy music, attending concerts indoors and outdoors and listening to Sting. I am also an avid walker and have walked in Kit Carson Park year-round, for many years. I've attended many smaller cultural events and festivals in the park, including the Big Barn Dance, the Wool Festival, environmental rallies and Taos Pride celebrations. I fully support using the park for these kinds of events. And back in the summer of 2016, I attended the Alabama Shakes concert and was amazed at the huge new stage and lighting, as well as the before and after street lighting that provided safe travel to concertgoers. "Well done, Taos!" I thought.

But since then we've had more large concerts with increasingly negative costs culturally, ecologically and socially.

So I was deeply disturbed when I learned that Sting has been contracted to play this coming Labor Day, knowing that the impact of his visit will compound all the problems we've already experienced. I was also upset knowing friends and community members will attend this concert without necessarily thinking through how this one simple act contributes to the very issues we are trying to change locally, across our state and across the nation.

Most if not all of these big name concerts are for privileged locals with means or people vacationing here.  While I can afford to attend, I choose not to, not because of the music choice or cost but because it is not financially or readily accessible for many in our community; it is disruptive to neighboring folks; and most of all it contributes to the destruction of our community park.

I understand that a primary motivator to create large (6,000- to 10,000-people) concerts is economically driven. Yet when the town of Taos is asked how the money will be used or what revenues have been brought in, the administration is silent. It is my understanding that the town of Taos invested nearly 1 million dollars to purchase land for a large music venue in another location but then failed to develop it. Nor did they offer a clear and reasonable explanation as to why it is no longer a viable option. Other venues within the town limits and in the county have attracted major performers in the past and will continue to do so moving forward. So why destroy our historical and cultural park in the center of town?

Kit Carson Park was once a park where one could enjoy the open space and green grass areas, flowers, trees and even watch a Little League game or folks playing tennis or volleyball. Those days are sadly almost gone.

Just last Saturday (July 20) I decided to walk in the park and look around. The park now has a state-of-the art stage surrounded by fencing and gravel while the rest of the park is very much in decline. There is little to no evidence that any restoration efforts are being made to replant or improve, or even maintain, the park except around the stage. The only lawn being watered as I walked through appeared to be in front of this stage. The so called "ADA bathrooms" near the ball fields were appalling and unsanitary, and one of them does not even have a lock on it.

In these troubling times we live in, I realize I cannot personally make large changes. But on a local level I can share my voice and take small mindful actions to not endorse, enable or encourage the town of Taos administration to make decisions with little or no public discourse that are exclusive of many and harmful to the environment and our beloved park. I urge everyone to visit the park (not just to attend a concert), become more informed and hold the town of Taos accountable for its actions and decisions that affect all of us and often benefit only part of the community.

Barbara J. Sheppard is a Taos resident and a community activist.

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