Opinion | Susan Knopf: Stop the gravel pit

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Susan Knopf

How do you feel about a new gravel pit on Colorado Highway 9 in northern Silverthorne? Visualize 230 more truck trips per day going up and down Highway 9, stinking up the air. Take a deep breath as you bike up Ute Pass.

I’m not too happy about it. I live near Peak Materials’ proposed 80-acre gravel pit. If you’re not happy, go to Friends of the Lower Blue River. Check out the talking points. File a comment with the Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety (DRMS File No. M2020041). The Mining Reclamation Board cuts off requests for public comments Oct. 8.

Your voice matters. Here are a few points to mention:

  • We don’t need the gravel (see below).
  • The additional truck traffic is hazardous to our health. It will tear up our roads, snarl our traffic, be dangerous to bikers and destroy the tranquility of the Lower Blue River Basin.
  • Mining operations likely would contaminate the Blue River harming an already fragile ecosystem and intrude, deplete and contaminate local well water.

I’m not feeling the love. When Tom Everist won approval for a higher density development at Summit Sky Ranch, he talked about restoring the area. It appears the reclamation plan is behind schedule. Instead of winding down, the new owner Peak Materials, a division of Kilgore Companies, is looking to expand.

I bought Tom’s BS about the operation winding down. Talk to folks who have lived here several decades. Mining operations don’t have a history of keeping their promises.

I read the trucks are scheduled to run just eight months per year. BS. I drive by Peak Materials every day, and the trucks run 365 days. What about the recycled aggregate and recycled concrete I’ve seen roll into the plant? Do they have permits for that?

They say we need the gravel. I don’t want to play the NIMBY card. The last time we bought gravel, it was cheaper to truck it from Kremmling, 16 miles farther away than Peak Materials.

Here’s the scoop on gravel. We’ve got a lot of rock cut from the old mines. High-density concrete can’t be contaminated by certain things like oil shale. We’ve got oil shale running through the county at about 60 feet deep. The old mines went deeper than that. Thus that material isn’t suitable for high-density concrete needed to build multistory buildings, parking garages and freeways. We don’t need high-density concrete for every job that requires gravel. And the jobs that need that kind of gravel aren’t usually in northern Silverthorne. Those are often in Breck.

Ask Peak Materials about the gravel right under their feet. They said they plan to move their buildings and start mining in their Silverthorne location. That’s supposed to take another decade or two. They really don’t need to be tearing up one of the last pristine valleys in our county.

Would you buy a house with a gravel pit next door? Probably not. When we bought our house, there was an old ranch; it’s still there. That’s where Peak Materials wants to put an 80-acre gravel pit. Next door there’s a multimillion dollar luxury home right on the Blue River. On the other side, is a lovely ranch.

We felt protected by the Summit County Master Plan, which calls for the Lower Blue River Basin to “maintain (its) existing rural character through protection of elements such as agricultural land uses … open spaces, abundant wildlife and fisheries, and scenic views while protecting private property rights and promoting low density development.” We knew locals had chased away a golf course. So we felt pretty confident: What you see is what you get.

When we heard about Peak Materials trying to expand its operations right in our neighborhood, a group of neighbors tried to compete and buy the property. In the final round, Peak Materials used pressure tactics to get widow Julie Hillyard to capitulate with just hours to make a decision. Hillyard told me she didn’t have all the water rights lined up. They moved aggressively to strip locals of the opportunity to protect their neighborhood.

Keep the fox out of the henhouse. Stop the pit!

Susan Knopf’s column “For The Record” publishes Fridays in the Summit Daily News. Knopf has worn many hats in her career, including working as an award-winning journalist and certified ski instructor. She moved to Silverthorne in 2013 after vacationing in Summit County since the 1970s. Contact her at sdnknopf@gmail.com.


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