Breckenridge sides with residents who want heavy trucks off Tiger Road
June 6, 2018
Breckenridge leaders have aligned with a group of concerned citizens fed up with the high numbers of large trucks traveling up and down Tiger Road.
At the heart of the issue is the Swan River Restoration Project, which is generating a significant amount of rock-hauling traffic from the Williams Placer, combined with a private company's request to start a new rock-crushing operation at the Mascot Placer just upstream.
According to the Upper Blue Planning Commission's April 26 meeting agenda, the company, Peak Materials, was hoping to add a milling and rock-crushing operation to the Mascot Placer. Doing so would allow for the removal and sale of dredge materials as well as continuing to facilitate the Swan River Restoration effort.
Based on truck traffic and other concerns, the county planners denied the permit, and Peak Materials has since appealed that decision to Summit County commissioners, who are scheduled to take up the issue June 12.
As Summit County Manager Scott Vargo explained the issue, it's likely going to be a matter of balance. "We want to do what we can to balance the concerns of those residents that are impacted with the environmental improvements that come through these restoration projects," he said.
In March 2016, the Upper Blue Planning Commission approved a five-year conditional use permit to allow rock-milling activities as part of the Swan River Restoration Project. With the stream buried underneath tons of loose rock, remnants of the area's mining past, the goal was to bring it back to surface level, reconnect the North, Middle and South forks of the Swan River and restore plant and wildlife habitat to the scarred landscape.
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The rock processing that's been happening at the Williams Placer on Tiger Road has aided the restoration effort on two fronts, said Breckenridge director of recreation Scott Reid, who used to be the town's Open Space and Trails planner.
By removing the large piles of cobbled rock, he said, the stream can be returned to surface level. By selling that rock, a hot commodity for many local builders, that money can be funneled into the restoration effort, he added. In explaining the county's and town's roles in the restoration project, Reid said the county took the lead while the town has worked in a supporting role.
When the project began, some Breckenridge residents and members of the Summit Estates Homeowners Association, a neighborhood along Tiger Road in unincorporated Summit County, raised concerns over the breadth of the work and the amount of rock that would be hauled out on Tiger Road, a popular corridor for mountain and road bikers.
After learning of the company's appeal, on Friday over a half-dozen residents, most of whom live in unincorporated Summit County, asked Breckenridge's elected officials during one of the town's regular coffee talks to step in and help stop the barrage of trucks they're seeing.
It's worth noting that unprocessed rock has been being hauled out of the Mascot Placer for decades under a state-issued permit, and it's unclear how much traffic, if any, could be pushed off the road by squashing the proposed rock-processing operation there.
"It's going to get moved out of there one way or another," said Sam McCleneghan, manager of Rock Island Land LLC, which owns the Mascot Placer and contracts with Peak Materials. "Whether it goes out like it is or if it gets crushed, it's going to get moved."
McCleneghan doesn't think denying Peak Materials the permit will have much effect on the number of trucks on Tiger Road, which he pointed out is a public road open to all different kinds of traffic, including trucks.
Diving into Breckenridge's history, McCleneghan also recalled other major restoration efforts that have dramatically changed the town and gave it many of the riverfront properties it has today. Many Breckenridge neighborhoods were formed the same way.
"None of this can happen until the rocks get moved," McCleneghan said matter-of-factly.
Since the property owner and Peak Materials have agreed to work with the county and town on the Swan River Restoration project as it extends from the Williams Placer up to the Mascot Placer, it's unclear how denying the permit could affect the restoration work at Mascot Placer, if at all.
On Tuesday, another push to get the town involved in a county decision came from in-town residents, as the heavy traffic hasn't gone unnoticed among the individuals whose homes sit on the portion of Tiger Road that runs through the town.
Those people have expressed many of the same concerns as the county residents, saying they're dealing with a seemingly endless stream of large trucks going up and down a residential road that's not made for such heavy commercial traffic. Noise complaints, the hours of operation, wear and tear on the road and fears over public safety have also crept into the conversation.
To gauge the problem, Breckenridge town staff enlisted the help of their police department to get a count on the number of trucks traveling Tiger Road. What they found was, during peak times, more than 30 an hour were traversing the stretch.
While the trucks do generate a significant amount of noise, the high decibel levels are not beyond what town ordinance allows, according to town staff.
Still, ahead of the commissioners' Tuesday meeting, the town of Breckenridge will submit a letter signed by Mayor Eric Mamula encouraging the county to uphold the denial of the permit. Also, Breckenridge Town Councilman Gary Gallagher, along with Lawrence and town manager Rick Holman, has volunteered to attend next Tuesday's meeting and speak on behalf of the town.
Beyond that, council is considering other ways to cut down the noise, such as reducing the 35 mph speed limit on the portion of Tiger Road that goes through town down to 25 mph for vehicles over 10,000 pounds.