Settling for "drizzle’ |

Settling for "drizzle’

Whitney Childers

The problem with science is that it isn’t always exact.

This poses a problem for me.

I tend to see things in black and white. You look outside your window, it’s either raining or not – none of this “drizzle” stuff.

Maybe that’s why I’m skeptical about – or maybe just resigned – to think we, as human creatures of discovery, will never make the “right” decisions – at least where science is concerned.

Sometimes we just have to settle for getting “close enough” or “not as bad as it could be.”

Last week, the Breckenridge Town Planning Commission unanimously agreed to grant a gondola variance to Breckenridge Ski Resort.

This was just one milestone in a long and continuing process to the ski resort’s proposed improvements to the Peaks 7 and 8 area bases.

The biggest sticking point with the gondola is its placement – the variance is planned to bisect the Cucumber Gulch area on Peak 8 for the eventual installation of a hand-dandy, blend-in-with-the-surroundings, super-duper gondola.

Problem is, the gondola’s placement goes through wetlands and bisects the Preventative Management Area (PMA). What’s a PMA? – well, that’s a fancy way to say that biologists have studied the area and deem it important to wildlife and wetland health (or, no humans should mess it up).

And, yes, before you start sending me letters, let it be made clear that the gondola towers are not in the wetlands. The super-duper gondola will “glide over the wetlands,” as one letter writer elegantly put it.

But, in most cases like this, both sides hire or request assistance from a different scientific consultant. And, you guessed it – biologists and consulting firms from both sides disagree whether the area would be negatively impacted.

There’s that “not exact” science thing again.

There’s no doubt the ski resort is going to elaborate means to try and ensure there is little impact to the PMA and the surrounding area. It even has promised to pull out noxious weeds by hand, revegetate the area within 72 hours of digging large holes and educate workers about boreal toads in the area.

These mitigating efforts seem terrific. But, are we fooling ourselves in believing we can put an environmentally sensitive area back together after construction?

Besides, for some reason, we can’t come to a conclusion whether the area really is that sensitive or not.

Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against the gondola. In fact, on one hard and fast level, I support the Breckenridge gondola proposal. I agree it will improve people movement, increase guests’ experiences and generally make us warm and fuzzy inside.

I’ll certainly ride it.

But, I have to question why we want to have our cake and eat it too. Is it possible to improve the resort and attract more guests without losing some preservation of Cucumber Gulch? Biologists and scientific consultants can’t even agree if it should be preserved or not.

I think planning commissioner Dave Pringle said it best, “We all have a warm and fuzzy feeling about Cucumber Gulch, but it’s circled by roads, it’s girdled by development, it’s criss-crossed by trails. It’s hard for me to say a gondola is going to be the one thing that will throw it over the edge and ruin the gulch.”

I certainly wouldn’t advocate giving up the reins to the ski resort and letting them go wild with development plans and construction.

I applaud the town and the planning commissioners for remaining steadfast in their detailed questions and hard decision-making in this matter. I also applaud the ski resort for working with the town to reach a compromise.

I guess I just can’t get past that nagging feeling that we don’t know and may never know what kind of impact the gondola will have on the area.

I wish I knew – with a black a white answer – if we are making the “right” decision.

I guess I’ll have to settle for a little drizzle, after all.

Whitney Childers is the editor of the Summit Daily and may be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 227 or

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