Girvin: Breckenridge’s endangered Reiling Dredge should die a dignified death |

Girvin: Breckenridge’s endangered Reiling Dredge should die a dignified death

I am one of those citizens who believes that we should let the Reiling Dredge die a dignified death and rust in peace in the grave she dug herself. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Nothing lasts forever and any preservation efforts, like a face lift on an aging Hollywood celebrity, will merely delay the inevitable.

Rather than preserving the Reiling Dredge as a “reminder of humans’ potential harmful environmental impacts,” let’s show how nature can reclaim from the devastation caused by decades of gold dredge destruction. Nature is reclaiming the Reiling Dredge and pond today. The old dredge is slowly decaying into her basin. Willows, mosses and other water loving plants are re-inhabiting the shores of the pond. Water bugs skim across the surface of the still waters and bats hunt the abundant insects that find a home around the small lake.

Rather than spend hundreds of thousands of tax-payer dollars at attempts to restore and resurrect the old Reiling Dredge, let’s build a museum of mining closer to town that will educate the community about mining and its impacts in a more accessible, year-round location. Let’s create a scale model of the devastation caused by the dredge boats from the Swan River valley to the Blue River, upstream into downtown Breckenridge, and the French Creek Valley to the grave of the Reiling Dredge. A scale model of the ravaging of nature caused by dredge boat mining over many decades will teach more about the impacts of this tool of annihilation, than will glorifying one single dredge boat. If museum-goers want to see the Reiling Dredge decaying in her waters, they can make the four mile trek out French Gulch Road, which is often impassable in winter for days after a snowstorm.

Perhaps some of the money saved from not restoring the Reiling Dredge could be used to repair stream corridors and fisheries habitat along stretches of French Creek that the Reiling Dredge ruined.

And why glorify an implement of environmental destruction? In 90 years, will we be clamoring to restore the Terex RH200 Heavy Excavator that is currently tearing up the Alberta forests for Tar Sands? I don’t think so.

Participate in The Longevity Project

The Longevity Project is an annual campaign to help educate readers about what it takes to live a long, fulfilling life in our valley. This year Kevin shares his story of hope and celebration of life with his presentation Cracked, Not Broken as we explore the critical and relevant topic of mental health.

There are other consequences to the restoration of the Reiling Dredge that will have negative impacts to the community. Few realize that the access road to the Reiling Dredge is the B&B Trail. In order to get vehicles and equipment to the dredge site, restoration crews will need to drive the B&B Trail, as the bridge over French Creek from the Reiling Dredge Trailhead Parking Area is inadequate for anything wider than a wheelbarrow.

The B&B Trail is a popular, year-round recreation single-track in the Breckenridge area. It is wet and soft in many places. That single-track experience will be destroyed by the construction of a road on the B&B Trail to access the Reiling Dredge in order to provide a means for vehicles and equipment to restore the dredge. To create a road where the trail currently exists, gravel and other materials will need to be brought in to harden the surface, forever altering the trail experience.

The natural environment will also suffer with the restoration of the Reiling Dredge. The dredge pond is the only still water for miles in French Gulch. The still water of the pond provides habitat for the previously mentioned bugs and bats, along with other creatures. In restoring the dredge, the pond will need to be altered to discourage the natural vegetation that is taking over. The willows, mosses, and plants will likely be torn out to provide a sterile environment to delay the decay of the Reiling Dredge.

If you feel as I do that the Reiling Dredge should be allowed to decay in place, please let your elected officials know. They are the ones who hold the purse strings and can re-direct funding toward a museum or stream habitat restoration. Write to Breckenridge Mayor John Warner at or call (970) 453-2251 and Chair of the Board of County Commissioners Karn Steigelmeier at or call (970) 453-3412.

Rather than glorify a destroyer, let’s allow the Reiling Dredge to decay in peace and show that humans can actually respect nature by allowing it to take back and reclaim the very thing that destroyed it in the first place. After all, it is our natural environment that is the most endangered.

Leigh Girvin lives in Breckenridge.

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