It might be one of the best-kept secrets in Carbondale: a vibrant green space surrounded by mature trees, with a walking labyrinth for meditation and a small fountain area with stone benches to sit in tranquil contemplation. It is frequented by butterflies and songbirds going about their daily business.
Where is this hidden gem, you ask? At just under a half-acre, the plot of land is nestled between Graceland Drive on one end and abuts Crystal Meadows Senior Housing on the other.
The story of how this park space went from private ownership to being donated to the Town of Carbondale is one of selfless altruism.
Roger and Judy Harvey, who lived in the home adjacent to the property, owned Ramey-Harvey Park. While the space was a “private park,” it was always considered “open to all.” Over the years, the Harveys had the labyrinth, pond, benches and picnic tables installed.
As the Harveys were getting ready to sell their property in early 2021, they approached Town staff about gifting the park to the Town.
Eric Brendlinger, Director of Parks and Recreation, said some ongoing maintenance concerns, including weed management and watering, needed to be considered before accepting the donation.
The property had few invasive weeds, so Brendlinger spoke with the Harveys about how they managed that. “They were using vinegar, soap, salt and other natural products and were super diligent about it. This spot is where an integrated weed management plan without chemicals works. That helped me to say, ‘Hey, this park is cool for our inventory,’” he said.
The park is watered with the Town’s existing irrigation system. Brendlinger explained, “We treat it like other Town parks — we aerate it, fertilize it and reseed it every season.”
Minutes from the June 9, 2021 meeting of the Carbondale Parks and Recreation Commission noted: “The commission members thought the park would be a unique addition to our park inventory.” The Board of Town Trustees accepted the donation a month later and the legal transfer of ownership was completed in November 2021.
As they say, timing is everything. This is where the Age-Friendly Carbondale (AFC) steering committee entered the park’s evolution into what is now called the Human-Nature Garden.
Nancy Peterson, AFC steering committee member, said the group has always had an interest in community spaces with their mission “to make Carbondale an ever-better place to live for people of all ages and abilities.”
AFC collaborated with the Town to install a new concrete pad with two park benches, and two flower planters were installed by Public Works personnel. Previously, AFC worked with Public Works on a similar park bench installation project near Heritage Park.
“We were very purposeful in placing the benches into a conversational arrangement on the concrete pad because we wanted to make sure that someone using a wheelchair could easily access the space and visit with others,” Peterson explained.
Improvements resulted from countless hours of dedicated efforts by AFC steering committee members working closely with Town staff. AARP and Rocky Mountain Health Foundation provided funding.
A plaque was later installed to honor the memory of Carbondale resident and AFC steering committee member Kristi Nicholls. A psychotherapist, triathlete and mother of four, Nicholls died in October 2022.
The gift from the Harveys is indeed a generous one. Brendlinger shared, “What I was pretty impressed with was that the Harveys invested a lot of money in that park, with its upkeep and maintenance, and I was pretty impressed that they decided to give it to the Town.”
If you plan to visit, remember, as is true of all Carbondale parks, smoking is prohibited. Consider bringing a book or bag lunch. Before you visit, Peterson recommends downloading Merlin ID, a free bird identification app, onto your smartphone to identify birds by their songs and calls.
Surrounded by a tapestry skillfully woven by Mother Nature, Peterson said, with a beaming smile, “We have a fantastic view of Mt. Sopris, and if you love birds and nature, you can sit here and listen to and see all kinds of birds. I already see and hear robins, crows, house finches and even a cedar waxwing. Isn’t it lovely?”
It certainly is.