Company plans gravel-mining operation in Summit County
An open house later this week could become the latest battleground for land-use planning in Summit County with a materials company pursuing a new gravel-mining operation on the Lower Blue River and a new citizens group organizing against it.
The open house will run from 4-7 p.m. Thursday at the Silverthorne Pavilion, 400 Blue River Parkway, where representatives of Peak Materials will discuss the company’s October purchase of 80 acres about 12 miles north of Silverthorne that’s been earmarked for a gravel-mining operation.
Previously owned by Julie Hillyard, the property is along the river west of Highway 9, about a mile south of Ute Pass Road, by the confluence with Slate Creek.
At this point, Peak Materials says it is trying to present the facts, work with neighbors and address any potential concerns as best it can before the company applies for the necessary permitting from the county.
Should Peak Materials apply for the permit, Summit County’s Lower Blue Planning Commission would consider the application before offering a recommendation to the board of county commissioners, which would then give approval to or deny the company.
“Nothing has been drawn up for any application anywhere, but we can’t have an open house with no plan,” the company’s general manager John O’Hara said during a Q&A with Jonathan Knopf, executive director for Friends of the Lower Blue River. FOLBR is a nonprofit group comprised largely of landowners in the Lower Blue River Valley.
Over the phone, Knopf said that Peak Materials knew of group’s interest in local conservation issues and actually reached out to the nonprofit to discuss the gravel-mining operation.
The conservation group intends to remain neutral on any permit application and not participate in the hearings or interfere with the process in any way. While FOLBR has a few board members who also serve on the Lower Blue Planning Commission — including FOLBR president John Longhill — they have all recused themselves from any FOLBR involvement regarding the operation.
Instead of taking an advocacy role, the nonprofit will continue pushing out information about the potential project, and a news release describes the group’s primary function as being a “clearing house” of unbiased information.
Citing conversations with the company’s general manager, FOLBR says that Peak Materials would like to mine the 80-acre property for up to 10 years starting in 2020.
It’s estimated the new mining operation would generate an estimated 115 truckloads per day, including 115 trips with trucks going to the site empty and 115 more with trucks going out full. Mined materials would go to the processing plant by Maryland Creek Ranch.
After mining the site, Peak Materials is proposing a two-year reclamation project that would bring a lake, a park and access to the Blue River to the area.
At the same time that Peak Materials is preparing to dispel rumors about the company’s plans at Thursday’s open house, a newly formed citizens group is trying to organize the opposition.
The group, called “Lower Blue Residents United,” is being led by local nature photographer John Fielder, who resigned as FOLBR’s vice president to lobby against the potential mining operation.
In a call to action sent in an email blast last month, Fielder says he started the new advocacy group in hopes of evaluating all of the impacts and raising money to fund a campaign to “stop this outrageous attack on our beautiful valley.”
Speaking with Knopf, O’Hara said he hopes for a large turnout at Thursday’s forum.
“I know there’s going to be people that don’t want it to happen no matter what (Peak Materials does) to mitigate or to try to work in their concerns into a plan,” O’Hara said. He added that the company might not win everyone over, but being a good neighbor starts with communication.
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