Roger Baker, Gilpin County. We received an email last week from the Public Affairs Specialist for the Arapaho/Roosevelt National Forest, announcing that the formal comment period for the Eldora Mountain Ski Area Project Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) had closed, and describing the next phases of the environmental assessment process.
In Gilpin County government, we had been watching this project with somewhat detached interest; one of the three identified alternatives (Alternative 3) involved extending the Jolly Jug chairlift into a bit of private and Forest Service land in Gilpin County. That could have potentially triggered some review process at the County level, in addition to this massive federal review.
That’s probably not going to be the preferred alternative, so there probably won’t be a formal role for Gilpin County to play. But watching the whole process is interesting and instructive, since we are involved in what could trigger a similar EIS in Gilpin County.
This past Friday, Forest Service officials discussed draft “scoping letters” for the regional sports shooting cooperative project which has been going on for more than a year. Gilpin, Boulder, Clear Creek, and Larimer Counties have participated with the Forest Service and other entities in initiating this process, which we have written about many times already.
Given that the scoping notices for the Eldora project went out to 220 interested parties in July, 2012, and the agency is just finishing up identifying alternatives on that project, that gives a sense of how far in the future formal action identifying a preferred shooting range site in the mountains will be.
As the counties are just now identifying potential sites on Forest Service, State Parks, and private land in their boundaries that could be utilized as shooting ranges, it’s unfortunate (though probably inevitable) that some folks are sounding alarms as though we’ll be breaking ground next week on a new firearms facility.
These folks seem to have forgotten that the whole shooting sports process kicked off with a series of public open houses last summer in Gilpin, Larimer, Boulder, and Clear Creek counties. Similarly, during the scoping period for the Eldora project, two open houses were held in 2012, and another two public meetings this March in Nederland and Boulder. The comparison should serve to remind people that there will be ample opportunities for comment on any shooting range proposals, especially if the preferred alternatives are on Forest Service land.
Of course, there’s a possibility that the best site for a shooting range could be on private land; if that land is in Gilpin County, then that would trigger a different process of local review that would involve hearings in front of our Planning Commission before any proposal even came to the County Commissioners.
The volunteers on our Planning Commission represent the public interest in evaluating this sort of project, utilizing criteria (mostly from the Master Plan) that current and past members have developed over the years. Still, such a project would undoubtedly involve a series of public hearings as well.
Planning Commission meetings, like the County Commissioner meetings, are open to the public, and the materials reviewed are available to the public. Both have public comment periods during their meetings, but we all recognize that a more formal process of public input is required for major decisions, like siting a shooting range—or expanding a ski area.
And citizens who desire a greater sense of involvement in these processes are of course welcome to apply for vacancies on the Planning Commission, as they arise—or to run for County Commissioner.
Which reminds me: If you received a ballot in the mail for the primary election, return it. Your vote is, after all, the ultimate mechanism for public comment. Use it.