The gazebo and stage at Paonia Town Park now has an official name. At the March 22 town meeting the Paonia board of trustees voted unanimously to approve the re-naming of the gazebo in honor of Howard Berkman, a staple of the local music scene until his untimely death on Oct. 31, 2011.
"The late great Howard Berkman was a consummate musician, adept in the genres of jazz, blues and rock, with a talent for writing lyrics and complex arrangements," wrote Paonia Library staff member Laura Lee Yates, who submitted one of three letters of support for the dedication. "Besides his commercial performances throughout the region, he delighted attendees of the annual meetings of the Paonia Library. I can think of no person more appropriate to lend their name to the gazebo park. I hope it can become a memorial to a man who was taken too soon, but left a legacy of sound for our community. Howard Berkman deserves commemoration."
Sarah Bishop, president of the Mountain Harvest Festival, submitted the request, and Mountain Harvest Creative executive director Heidi Hudek presented it to council, along with letters from musician/friends Rick Stockton and Mike Gwinn, and Yates. In her request, Bishop called Berkman "a remarkable musician who performed in the Chicago area alongside several of the city's legendary blues performers. He later moved to the Roaring Fork Valley and eventually to Paonia. He left our community a musical legacy that should be honored.
"Howard was instrumental in creating a musical legacy along with many of the current local musicians."
Berkman was also a regular on the stage. Gwinn and Stockton, friends and contemporaries, will design a small dedication plaque, to be engraved with Berkman's name and an image of his favorite guitar.
A dedication ceremony and concert to benefit purchase of a new sound system for the Blue Sage Center for the Arts in Paonia, will be announced at a later date.
Berkman's family established a fund to support students exploring their musical talents, which the Mountain Harvest Creative administered, according to Bishop. Due to waning interest, the family decided to spend the remaining funds on the plaque, with the balance to be divided between the Blue Sage and KDNK public radio in Carbondale, where Berkman lived prior to moving to Paonia.
Before the vote, the board formally approved the policy and procedures by which proposals for renaming town-owned property can be considered. Persons for whom the feature is named may be living or dead, provided they have made a significant contribution nationally, to the state or community and are of good character.
In addition, facilities "may be named for donors who have made a significant contribution of money or land and the donor stipulates naming the facility as a condition of the donation."