By Art Wilbur, CCA President
The CCA Board that took office at the end of August 2021 are working on behalf of CCA members on a number of fronts. Apart from seeking to foster a sense of community through organizing various events such as the Carson Fall Festival and Thanksgiving Feast, the CCA Board has been working steadily behind the scenes on two key projects. These are: (1) gain attention and action regarding the state of S Carson Road, and (2) develop ideas for our new Carson Community Center. We will address Forest Road 556 once we have made some progress on S Carson Road.
S Carson Road
The main issue around S Carson Road is ingress and egress during an emergency, whether that emergency is community wide such as in a wildfire, or simply for our emergency services crew to gain access to someone’s property and provide assistance (most of our Fire Department’s calls are to attend to medical emergencies).
The most urgent problems we face are in regard to both the surface of the road, which makes it impassable at times, and the width of the road, which creates problems when an emergency vehicle comes face to face with an oncoming vehicle, such as a car, truck, or UPS delivery truck.
We have been trying to engage Taos County to either adopt the road as a County Road and bring it up to County specifications, or to provide turnouts at regular intervals, with signage, together with improvements to the surface and subsurface. We have written to the County Manager, the County Commissioners, the NM State Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, our elected representative at the national level Teresa Leger Fernandez, and the Secretary of the Interior Debra Haaland. The only traction we have gained has been recently with the County, through our elected Commissioner Darlene Vigil and the County Director of Public Works Jason Silva.
We should feel fortunate that the County has adopted S Carson Road as a County Maintained Road, since road adoption normally occurs only after the road has been engineered to County standards by a developer. In Carson’s case, the road had become established as a simple access route after the area was opened to homesteading in 1909. The County’s responsibility for S Carson Rd, as a County Maintained Road, is to plow the road of snow, and to periodically grade the surface. Because the road is not used by public transport or school buses, improvements to the road are not a priority for the County since there are many such roads in the County. We would need to seek new sources of funds for improvements to S Carson Road.
CCA Vice President Scott Freeman, Secretary Paul Green, and I met with Taos County Commissioner Darlene Vigil and Director of Public Works Jason Silver recently. One item we discussed was options for improving the very worst section of S Carson Road, the dogleg at the extreme south as it turns eastward. The road at this point is narrow, poorly surfaced and poorly drained. The County plans to contact the Forest Service to access the easement since this section of road is bounded by Forest Service land on both sides. The remaining sections of the road to the north would need agreements with owners or land purchase depending on the legal status of the easement.
The $32 million received by the State for infrastructure improvements has already been allocated to priority projects. Jason Silva commented that we need new sources of funds (such as the proposed soda, liquor, and cigarette taxes) for the County to even consider projects such as ours.
Silva suggested that the County might be able to help with the construction of turnarounds to improve the situation regarding two-way traffic on the road. He said he would look into available funds for such construction work, and CCA could lead discussions within the community to persuade landowners to agree to the construction of such turnarounds on their property.
I raised the issue of services received in our community for taxes paid, and Jason Silva said that he would look into the possibility of establishing a transfer station in Carson, or the periodic short-term use of roll-on roll-off containers for trash removal from the community.
New Carson Community Center
Board members and a few others have been discussing ideas for our new Community Center. We’ve been collecting ideas from members of the Carson community and have put together a “program” document together with a sketch of how the floorplan might look when we accommodate the various needs raised by community members. We plan to hold a CCA Special General Meeting of the community to get some feedback to these ideas. This will be held at the Carson Fire Station on Saturday April 23 at 10 am. Our goal is to be ambitious and to plan the center we would like, and then to attempt to raise funds for those. Members of the CCA Board have met with Taos County Planning staff who have gone through the planning application process with us, so we are apprised of the many steps that we need to go through to build our new center. We have developed a timeline of activities needed for planning and constructing our new center.
Currently, Carson Community Association owns a one-acre lot of land close to the post office and fire station, with a 20×18 ft Quonset hut (above right) and a 15×10 ft wooden shed. Our Quonset hut is presently used each week to prepare and host the CCA’s food bank, which serves the communities of Carson, Ojo Caliente, the Star Community, Three Peaks, and Two Peaks. The wooden shed provides storage for used clothes given out during the food bank sessions.
The Quonset hut is without electricity, has poor natural lighting, a wood stove for heat, and no insulation. The food bank struggles with cold in winter and heat in summer, while people with hearing difficulties struggle with the poor acoustics of the small space and uninsulated metal wall.
The Quonset hut has been used for CCA General Membership Meetings, and some social meetings. However, realistically, the hut is too small to comfortably accommodate community meetings, and is suitable for storage only. Whenever feasible, we have tried to organize events, including community potlucks and Firewise meetings, at the CVFD firehouse. The firehouse is more spacious and has basic heating but does not provide the facilities required for more general social purposes. Moreover, it is not always convenient for CVFD to move equipment and clear the space for our use.
The main purpose of the new Carson Community Center will be to provide a meeting center for the Carson community, and members of some surrounding communities, for a variety of existing and new community activities. The main benefits of the new Carson Community Center will be to bring members of the community together for social programs, to promote social well-being, and to enable educational and recreational activities.
We aim to fund the planning and construction of the new Carson Community Center through grants from government, community, and private foundations, and donations. There will thus be no financial burden on members of the community, although community members are encouraged to make donations to the CCA; you can choose to specify that your donation should be restricted to support the new Carson Community Center. We will design a building that includes everything we want, cost it, and then raise the funds to plan and build it. Our philosophy will be to front-load the costs, and construct in a manner to minimize long-term maintenance and running costs, which should also minimize carbon and other emissions.
Our vision for a new Carson Community Center is to build a space large enough to comfortably accommodate 100 people in a climate controlled flexible space, with electricity, water, bathrooms, and kitchen facilities. The main open space could be adapted to a variety of community uses by using tables and chairs for different seating configurations, or left open.
Roughing Out Our Ideas
Here we some of our thoughts on the construction, layout, and usage possibilities for the new center. By law, accommodating 100 people requires a minimum square footage of 1500 sq feet. A kitchen is typically 15% of the square footage so our draft layout added that to one side, together with space for plumbing and electrical rooms and restrooms, including our legal requirement to provide an ADA compliant bathroom. We were advised that storage should be about 10% of the floor space, and community centers never have enough storage for tables, chairs, and other equipment, so we added that to the north end. That was our basic plan in a square building. Then we considered how those 100 people would be accommodated when not standing, ie seated either theatre style, or around long or round tables, the latter being most space consuming.So we increased the dimensions of the building to provide an open area that could, at a minimum, accommodate 100 people at round tables. The draft plan presented here for community consultation is for a 70 ft by 60 ft square building, which will provide around 2000 sq ft clear open space.
We view the Community Center’s primary use as a social space for a variety of activities. The main hall can remain an open space for activities such as dances, table tennis, yoga, tai chi, and others. Flexible use of tables and chairs can adapt the space for different activities and meetings. With spaced out tables, the Center could be used for craft days, food bank assembly, cooking lessons, etc. Round table seating that facilitates small group interactions would be good for young family meet ups, home schooling, other study groups, book club and bird club meetings, games (Bingo, Scrabble, Rummikub), etc. Oblong tables could seat larger numbers of people for community meals, for example. Chairs could be arranged theatre style for movies, presentations, concerts, etc.
We originally envisaged a metal walled building in order to minimize costs and build times, with a tan color to minimize visual impact, with exceptional insulation from heat and cold. However we will consider all options including metal wood frame, pumice-crete, and even adobe, bearing in mind that with the recent steep rise in steel, metal may be less feasible and adobe will be very expensive. Door placement, size, and numbers reflect consultation with the fire department to comply with fire regulations.
For performances and similar activities, a stage and podium will be at the rear of the building. At the front will be the entrance doors to allow for entry without disturbing those already inside. Bathrooms will be positioned at the rear and to one side for the comfort of community members, and a kitchen will provide opportunities for preparing and serving food.
All windows will be thermal pane. Lower windows will be fixed (not openable) for security reasons, while upper windows will openable for ventilation and climate control. Southern and western windows will have overhangs to minimize solar gain during the summer. All windows will have interior black-out blinds to enable use of the building as a movie theatre.
System designs will be guided by minimal carbon outputs, with costs being front-loaded for minimized long-term running costs. By minimizing or eliminating our use of fossil fuels we aim to protect ourselves from future dramatic rises in energy costs. As the site does not provide electricity or piped water, the building will be powered by roof-mounted solar voltaic panels, with storage in new-generation maintenance-free solid-state batteries. Water will be collected from the roof and stored in three 1700 gallon underground water cisterns (= 5100 gallons). The 4200 sq ft roof will yield 26,170 gallons from 10 inches of rain. Two inches of rain will fill the cisterns from empty. The underground cisterns will be positioned to allow truck access for hauled water as necessary. Water will be filtered and sterilized using a UV light system prior to consumption. Bathrooms will be conventional with a septic system to receive the waste. All plumbing will be confined to the eastern wall of the building.
Heating will be passive solar through a well-glazed southern aspect and, additionally, from roof-mounted solar-thermal panels, channeled through a large hot water storage tank and thence to sub-floor circulation. This system will be always “on”, controlled via a thermostat, and will cost close to zero to run, and will be clean and emission free. We will also assess the suitability of electrically powered heat pumps with mini-splits: if suitable, we will scale the photo-voltaic system to match. The solar-thermal sub-floor heating can be retrofitted with propane top-up to the same system if necessary.
The kitchen will be all electric, with induction cook tops, microwave oven, dishwasher, and refrigerator. The kitchen will have food prep surfaces and be stocked with flatware, dishes, and cookware. The kitchen will be connected by a serving hatch and doors with the main social space, and a serving counter will run the length of the connecting wall.
The concrete slab will extend east and west by ten feet. The eastern outdoor space will be covered and will serve food bank patrons in summer. The westward extension of the floor slab will provide a warm outdoor recreational space for the summer. All four sides will be served by roadways for deliveries and emergency services. Plat design will include vehicle parking around the front of the lot by the Quonset hut. Internal roads will provide access for emergency and service vehicles (water delivery, trash collection) with a T turnaround for emergency services. We will provide parking for a minimum of 50 vehicles, and in addition at least three ADA parking places, including one van accessible. The outdoor area will be landscaped according to Taos County code, taking account of storm water retention and native xeriscape plant species.
We will upgrade the access road from S Carson Road to the minimum width needed for simultaneous ingress and egress. It will be engineered to enable access by heavy emergency vehicles, such as the fire department’s water tender.
The CCA Board welcomes your input on the concept and design of the building, either by email, mail, or at the upcoming CCA Special General Meeting on April 23, 2022.
This is an edited version of two articles that appeared in the April issue of Carson O Pinon.