Udall impressed with efforts to preserve land
BRECKENRIDGE – U.S. Congressman Mark Udall told Breckenridge and county officials Friday he is impressed with grassroots efforts to purchase the B&B Mines property, implement a transfer of development rights program, build affordable housing and clean up mine contamination east of town.”You guys have really made lemonade out of lemons,” he said during a tour of the Wellington Neighborhood and the B&B Mines property northwest of there. “Those mine tailings are really ugly.”Udall said he is interested in helping obtain funds to purchase and clean up mines on the B&B Mines property, 1,800 acres that begin in French Gulch east of Breckenridge, straddle Gibson and Humbug hills and end in the Swan River drainage east of the town’s public golf course.”The sooner you can give me the blueprints, the better,” Udall said, adding that he already has asked for funds in this appropriations period. “We ought to be thinking about something for next year, for sure.””There’s nothing not to like here,” said Breckenridge Councilmember Larry Crispell. “This is the town and county working well together. It’s something we’re really proud of. It’s not what we’ve done here, what we’ve done there. It’s how the community has pulled together to make it happen.”Plans to address community concerns – open space, affordable housing, the environment and growth – began eight years ago with the creation of the Joint Upper Blue Master Plan (JUMP). It set the tone for growth, build-out and land use guidelines for the valley, and initiated the development of various programs to ensure the success of the valley.Among them are the Transfer of Development Rights program, which allows landowners to voluntarily transfer their density rights from backcountry parcels to areas closer to the urban core. The program was the first – and among the only operating – program in the nation.Other aspects of JUMP include the creation of a backcountry zone, cleaning up mines that have contaminated nearby waterways, and building affordable housing for year-round residents.Udall, who has proposed a bill to clean up mine contamination, said he was impressed with what the town, county, Environmental Protection Agency and local residents – collectively known as the French Creek Remediation Group, or FROG – have done to clean up the Wellington-Oro mine complex in French Gulch and improve fisheries downstream in the Blue River.Instead of waiting for the federal government to conduct the work, the various groups got together and developed a plan to clean up mine tailings and underground water that leaches heavy metals from the tunnels in the valley. Surface waste has been buried or disposed of to prevent aerial contamination, and efforts are under way to address the water issues.”We said in the beginning we wanted to do the cleanup so they (B&B Mine owners) can come out of it,” said Turk Montepare, who sits on the town’s open space committee and is negotiating the purchase. “And everyone’s been involved: developers, off-road vehicle users, tree huggers. It’s been a little bit of everyone.”Breckenridge Town Manager Tim Gagen reiterated the importance of obtaining the $9 million needed to buy and clean up the B&B property.”Mortgage lenders don’t want to go anywhere near a risk,” he said. “If we had enough money to buy it all, we’d buy it. The more able we are to get a bigger chunk of money, the less we have to look at other options.”Jane Stebbins can be reached at 668-3998 ext. 228 or email@example.com.
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