Critical to comment now!
The United States Forest Service is accepting public comments on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement regarding the Eldora Mountain Resort proposed expansion, which was presented at a couple of public hearings in the last few weeks. The deadline for public comment is Monday, April 14. It is the last chance to let the Forest Service and the resort administration know how you feel about the expansion.
It is also the last chance to make suggestions or offer compromises to the proposal. The expansion would include 15 new ski trails on 58 acres and 57 acres of new tree and glade skiing areas.
Two new lifts, a six-chair detachable Placer lift and a four- or six-chair Jolly Jug lift are part of the proposal. The four-person Corona lift would be replaced with a six-chair lift, and the existing Cannonball and Challenge lift at the front of the mountain would be replaced with a six-person lift.
A 16,000- to 20,000-square foot Challenge Mountain Facility would be constructed below the top of the Indian Peaks lift and the Lookout restaurant would increase to up to 9,700 square feet. About 560 parking spaces would be added.
About 40 people showed up at the March 25th meeting at the Nederland Community Center, most of them expressing their concerns about the environmental impact of enlarging the ski area boundaries to include the Middle Boulder Creek on the north side of the area. Town of Eldora residents said they could live with expansions within the present boundaries, with replacing and improving lifts and upgrading lodges, but they were adamant about their opposition to expanding the boundary.
While some Boulder residents relished the idea of more skiable terrain, Nederland residents saw the proposal as a threat to their wilderness experience as backcountry and cross country skiers.
The Indian Peaks Group of Sierra Club refused to endorse any of the expansion alternatives, saying that EMR can accomplish its objectives by replacing lifts, adding lodge facilities, and opening more ski terrain within its boundaries. The group cited disruption of the wildlife corridor, destruction and degradation of habitat, and destabilization of the steep slope. They encouraged EMR to consider the infill alternative.
The Middle Boulder Creek Coalition opposes the expansion beyond its current boundaries, saying that the land between Eldora and Hesse should remain a high-quality habitat and a wildlife movement corridor, a scenic backdrop to the major gateway into the Indian Peaks and a buffer between the noise of the ski area, back country travelers, and the town of Eldora.
EMR planning director Jim Spenst said that leaving the current boundaries does not utilize the topography “that Mother Nature has given us.” He added that there is a need for increased vertical space and variety to compete in the marketplace.
The USFS will consider all the written public comments; the final version of the impact statement will be completed sometime in September and the Forest Service will have a final decision on the Eldora expansion plans in December.
It is time for the Forest Service to listen closely to what the public has to say and to take a focused look at the possibility of working with Eldora’s need for expansion and the residents’ need for growth without negative impact to the Middle Boulder Creek drainage environment.
This is more than a Not in My Back Yard demand. It is a reasonable request to probe into the possibilities of working together to create a solution that will work for everyone, for now and in the future.