Opinion | Susan Knopf: Blue Christmas and a gravel pit | SummitDaily.com

Opinion | Susan Knopf: Blue Christmas and a gravel pit

A couple good ideas for your evening tomorrow: You can go to Blue Christmas, or check out Peak Materials’ open house at the Silverthorne Pavilion. Chances are good that either beats another night at the same watering hole, or watching Netflix.

Blue Christmas is an evening designed to uplift those who struggle between the darkness and the light, those of us who struggle with depression, or what Winston Churchill used to call his “black dog days.”

The open house at the Silverthorne Pavilion 4-7 p.m. tonight may be quite lively. A number of residents say they’re ready for a fight. Peak Materials, a subsidiary of the $700-million Denver based publicly traded company, Summit Materials, will have representatives available to tell the public about their new plans to excavate gravel on Highway 9, about 10 miles north of their existing operation in Summit County. The proposed gravel pit is just a mile south of Ute Pass Road, on the west side of Highway 9. It is set in the middle of a string of family ranches and luxury homes.

The new mining operation would generate an estimated 115 truckloads a day. That’s 115 empty trucks headed to the new site, and 115 truckloads of gravel heading south to the old Everist Materials site for processing. Peak Materials would need a permit for the existing site to process gravel from another location.

Full disclosure, I live across the street from the proposed gravel pit. A neighbor who lives next door to the proposed 80-acre site wrote to county officials, “If we would have known the possibility of a mine starting operation next door, we would have never invested in this Silverthorne property! … What will the value of my home be worth? What will the quality of water air and noise be for us? Is the county going to reimburse us for the loss of property value?”

This neighbor expressed concern for the health and well-being of the Steller’s jays, red-wing blackbirds, great horned owls, red-tail hawks, osprey, deer, elk, coyotes and fox, many of which she has photographed on her property. The proposed gravel pit backs onto the Blue River, formally a Gold Medal trout fishing stream that has struggled to maintain aquatic habitat given the constant ebb and flow of a river downstream from the Dillon Dam. This past dry summer the river looked like a creek in several places. Many question whether the gravel pit will do further damage to this fragile river.

Renowned wildlife photographer John Fielder is spearheading a citizens group to advocate against the proposed mining project. The group called “Lower Blue Residents United,” is raising funds to mount a professional campaign to stop the gravel pit. Peak Materials will need a “Conditional Use Permit” to begin operations. That process begins with the Lower Blue Planning Commission and then is reviewed by the Summit County Commissioners.

Three members of Lower Blue Planning Commission are also board members of the local non-profit Friends of the Lower Blue River (FOLBR), including FOLBR president John Longhill. To avoid any apparent conflict of interest, those FOLBR board members will refrain from discussing any of the issues pertaining to this project. FOLBR is working to inform locals about the progress of the conditional use permit application and will remain neutral through the proceedings. According to Peak Materials general manager John O’Hara, that application is expected to be filed sometime in 2019. Full disclosure, my husband is the executive director of FOLBR. Another FOLBR board member is recusing herself. She is employed by Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission and will work on the wildlife impact studies required for the permitting process. (It’s a small county.)

As the open house winds down, Blue Christmas will be getting started at the Summit County Community and Senior Center, 83 Nancy Place in Frisco, 7-8:30 p.m. If discussion about a gravel pit in the neighborhood gives you the blues, then Blue Christmas is your next stop. There will be opportunities to visit with others who find the lights and festivities of the holidays less joyous than others. Instead of the typical holiday hubbub, you can sink your hands into some clay, or try your hand at poetry. There will be people to help facilitate meditation. We could all use some quiet meditation this time of year.

Blue Christmas is sponsored by Building Hope Summit County and the Summit Colorado Interfaith Council. Both organizations are working to support those who battle the holiday blues. The event will offer people an opportunity to confront their own sadness, grief, suffering in a supportive environment. There will be guided opportunities to reflect on ways to create personal strength, resolve and tranquility, to still those dark waters.

Susan Knopf is a Summit County resident, and a regular contributor to the Summit Daily. Susan has won awards from the Associated Press and United Press International for her news reporting.

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