2018 Year In Review: 12 months of growing pains punctuated by troll removal, nixing of a rock-crushing permit (No. 3)
In 2018, battles were around almost every corner. From proposed housing developments and a planned parking garage to requested mining permits and new cellphone towers, efforts to shape Summit County’s ever-evolving landscape proved to be an ongoing fight that played out on a number of different fronts.
Few local headlines garnered more national attention during a year punctuated by Summit County’s growing pains than a 15-foot trailside troll made of reclaimed wood and named Isak Heartstone.
Perhaps more interesting, though, is how some of these conflicts — not all but some — arrived at resolutions squarely in favor of the people who live here.
Before the troll could come to life in Breckenridge, the company Peak Materials was seeking a permit from the Summit Board of County Commissioners to mill rock on Mascot Placer into gravel, a move that many nearby residents feared would be to the detriment of their quality of life.
During the hearing, the commissioners’ meeting room was so packed with residents who claimed an expanded operation would exacerbate the high volume of truck traffic they’ve already been seeing on Tiger Road, that they ran out of space to stand. But the Mascot Placer is also a key piece of the Swan River Restoration Project, and denying the permit could jeopardize that.
County staff had recommended against issuing the permit, but a company representative disagreed with the county’s assessment and argued the existing traffic was largely due to the county’s work on an adjacent placer.
The representative said Peak Materials would start slow with only a few trucks and gradually ramp up the numbers as the county trucks decreased, resulting in the same amount of truck traffic on the road, not more.
The company also introduced consultants showing Tiger Road could handle the traffic and existing road damage was caused by weather, not trucks, and there shouldn’t be any cumulative effect on the roads.
All that left Summit’s Board of County Commissioners between a rock and a hard place, so to speak, though the commission ultimately sided with the residents by upholding a lower body’s decision to deny the company’s permit request.
Not long after that, Breckenridge found itself in national headlines when a 15-foot sculpture of a troll blew up social media and became too popular for its own good. The troll was a result of the Breckenridge International Festival of Arts, which wrapped up Aug. 18.
The plan was to leave the sculpture, built alongside a trail by the Wellington neighborhood, up for as long as he could withstand the elements. The artist who created the troll, Thomas Dambo, has said that should be about three years.
Those plans didn’t come to fruition.
Problems emerged because the trail leading to the troll runs along a berm and directly behind a handful of homes in the neighborhood. These homeowners, working people in the community, saw dramatic increases in trail traffic, as people numbering in the thousands flocked to see the troll, along with illegal parking, leaving trash behind and a host of other problems from the high volume of traffic.
In October, the homeowners finally complained about the problems they had been seeing to Breckenridge Town Council, but council remained reluctant to have the troll removed.
After the town’s attempts to control the tourist traffic failed, town council began to see the troll as a potential safety hazard and reversed course from its earlier decision to keep the troll in place. Isak was taken down in November.
As the town would have it, this story could have legs — arms, ears, eyes and just about everything else — going well into 2019. That’s because the town has since announced its plans to bring Dambo back to Breckenridge in hopes the troll can be moved to a better location.
How local officials try to control development, traffic and the future of Summit County consistently ranked as a top story of 2018. Still, this is an ongoing story that isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
Another is already brewing for 2019 with Peak Materials announcing it hopes to again start seeking another county permit, this time to gravel-mine 80 acres about 13 miles north of Silverthorne. At the same time, a citizens group is mobilizing against it.
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