Idea of road progresses amid opposition
SUMMIT COUNTY – The group of local businessmen and public officials investigating a possible Frisco-Wildernest road connection met for a second time Wednesday morning. The meeting was almost canceled, however, after a tense pre-meeting exchange with members of a newly formed opposition group.
Nearly a dozen local residents showed up unannounced at Wednesday’s private gathering to voice their opposition to the road proposal. After the tense exchange, the investigating committee’s leader, Frisco businessman Bob Starekow, invited the opposition group to choose two people to stay and participate in the discussion.
After a heated discussion, the opposition chose two representatives, Linda Polhemus and Jim Anthony, to stay and join 10 local leaders, including Starekow, local engineer Gray Pearson, Frisco Town Manager Alan Briley and Buffalo Mountain Metro District chief Gary Drescher in a discussion about the current status of the proposal.
In light of the recent attention the issue had received among residents and in local media, members of the investigating group were eager to reiterate that the proposal is “conceptual” and still in the early stages of development.
“We are so very preliminary,” Starekow said. “We are in the process of really just gathering information.”
“I think as far as information goes, each (meeting) gives us a little bit more.”
Early on, the committee had envisioned a road that would connect Buffalo Drive in Wildernest with the cul-de-sac at the end of Summit Blvd in Frisco. Although details on the exact route had not been firmly established, it was to pass east through forest service land, run parallel to Interstate 70 and skirt the well-known Giberson property.
But as potential difficulties with the route became apparent, a revised proposal emerged that, currently, shows the road accessing Wildernest at Buffalo Drive and connecting with Dillon Dam Road via a bridge over I-70.
Other options included using an existing service road to the Old Dillon water tank to access the dam road, building a supplementary gated emergency services road feeding into an additional Wildernest access point and a drilling a tunnel under I-70. The tunnel was dismissed as not economically viable.
“All of these roads that I’m conceptualizing here fit the terrain very well,” said Pearson, who has thus far taken charge of outlining the technical aspects of the proposal.
Still, he characterized each of his drawings as “cartoons” and still in the “doodling on a napkin stage.” He said that since the committee had yet to agree upon anything in particular, plans were far from set in stone.
The proposed routes are, nevertheless, serving as a foundation for the group’s discussions, and members have contacted officials from different agencies, from the Colorado Department of Transportation to the Forest Service, to notify them of the concepts and
The routes proposed to date have also formed the basis of Pearson’s cost estimates. The current proposal stands in the ballpark of $4.3 million. The previous proposal had been estimated at around $3 million.
“The bridge is pricey,” he said.
While support for the project seemed relatively strong among some meeting participants, others remained on the fence.
“The (Buffalo Mountain Metro) District has not taken a position on it,” Drescher said. “First of all, people need information, and they need a fair and balanced idea of what this involves.”
“We have had more communications about this than anything we have done in Wildernest in the past 15 years. (We) haven’t heard anybody yet say this is a great idea.”
Drescher also pointed to questions surrounding the burden of costs for the proposal. At the investigating committee’s initial meeting, the idea of a bond issue including Frisco, Wildernest and Mesa Cortina had been floated.
“There’s a healthy degree of skepticism, especially in terms of financing,” Drescher said.
Alan Briley said communication with governmental authorities would be crucial to any progress on the issue and that as soon as plans are finalized, the towns and county should be brought on board.
“If you can’t get the towns and the county as an entity to support this … I don’t see this going much further,” he said.
After organizing a meeting Tuesday that saw 37 local residents sow the seeds of opposition to the proposal, Anthony said his own views were still strong and that he planned to continue his efforts to stymie the development.
“Nothing has changed in my view,” he said after listening to the committee Wednesday. “It’s still the same concept. It still has significant impacts.”
“I still oppose it,” he said. “My feeling is its still being driven by Frisco business people and that their motives are for business reasons – to bring business to Frisco from the Mesa Cortina and Wildernest subdivisions, which will have an impact on Silverthorne and Dillon, obviously.”
While Tuesday’s opposition meeting involved a significant amount of confusion on the part of participants as to what such a road might actually entail, it was clear in its message that any such road would face considerable hurdles in the form of public opposition.
Anthony pointed to nearby elk calving grounds and wilderness areas as potential problem sites, and other participants voiced concern that cutting through forest service land could isolate a chunk of land that the department then might sell to developers rather than maintain.
Anthony said participants agreed to write letters to the editors of local papers to “bring the issue to a higher focus,” in addition to composing a formal position paper and contacting other local residents who might be interested.
Starekow, for his part, said he was “optimistic” after Anthony and Polhemus’ participation.
“I think it allows them to get first-hand information as we get it, rather than hear rumors and (false) information,” he said. “I think that’s valuable.”
Starekow said he hoped to include further participation from Anthony’s group in subsequent meetings, which he said will be ongoing.
“”This process has to pull itself along rather than be pushed by any one of us, which is what we really hope to have happen,” he said.
Further discussion would help solidify the project in everybody’s mind, he said, and would allow progression beyond the conceptual and preliminary stages.
“We hope to have at least two or three possibilities outlined by the next meeting,” he said of firmly establishing potential routes.”That’s going to help us delineate problem areas that need to be solved.”
Aidan Leonard can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 229, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
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