Forest Festival fundraiser

eldora trailBarbara Lawlor, Eldora. Next Tuesday night, June 23, Nederland will be the lucky recipients of a concert consisting of local musicians who are well-known nationally.

Vince Herman of Leftover Salmon, Gipsy Moon’s Dan Rodriguez, Bonnie Paine and Bridget Law of Elephant Revival, Banshee Tree, and Julie Davis will perform at the Forest Festival Fundraiser at the Nederland Community Center to save the Hessie Wetlands.

The concert will cost $20, the funds going to pay for the attorney who will advocate for the myriad groups trying to stop Eldora Mountain Resort and the United States Forest Service from expanding their boundary to include the Hessie wetlands at the bottom of Indian Peaks.

eldora  trails and pondAfter about three years of working on the  expansion proposal, EMR planned to begin construction this coming summer. The deadline for the objection period was extended to August 7 and the Middle Boulder Creek Coalition, the Sierra Club, Trout Unlimited, Boulder County Commissioners, the Town of Nederland, and the Colorado Fish and Wildlife Department have all joined forces to try to stop the resort from building a chairlift down to the Hessie Wetlands and a bridge across Middle Boulder Creek.

The objectors are okay with improvements within the resort boundaries but are ready to fight the expansion into Hessie. On May 4, Mike Chiropolos, attorney for objectors Middle Boulder Creek Coalition and Sierra Club India Peaks Group, sent a 69-page letter of objection to Arapahoe-Roosevelt National Forest Supervisor Glenn Casamassa, saying that the MBCC had many concerns about the possible impacts from the proposed expansion, and had submitted these concerns in the scoping comments on August 31, 2012.

eldora bridge

Chiropolos stated that the Forest Service had ignored their comments and gone ahead with the worst elements of the action alternatives in the Draft Record of Decision.

“The FEIS and DROD that the agency is currently leaning toward violates applicable law, fails to respond to many concerns raised in public comments and falls short of  adequately analyzing several important issues. The Conservation Groups request that the FS either issue a new decision that blends components of the Infill Alternative with those elements of Alternative 3 that minimize environmental  impacts while still achieving the goals of the project; or remand the documents for issuance of a supplemental EIS that redresses the legal violations and better addresses the intense public controversy set forth below and in other objections to the current decision.”

On May 3, Nederland resident Randy Lee, representing the Nederland Parks, Recreation and Open Space Advisory Board registered objections to certain parts of the EMR Projects Draft Record of Decision.

He stated the critical balance between active recreation and wilderness would best be achieved by denying the expansion of the resort boundaries to Middle Boulder Creek. The letter also states that the Town prefers an approach that avoids the potential for degradation of water quality over one that monitors for changes and attempts to remediate after the damage has been done. The Town is alarmed by the heightened potential for carbaryl contamination posed by the expansion.

eldora kim and wetlandsMiddle Boulder Creek is Nederland’s sole source for drinking water and the intake facility is next to the Nederland Middle Senior High School below the resort. If EMR is allowed to expand to the creek, Nederland will have to test for carbaryl in the water supply.

Lee says that last year’s comments urged sustainability goals with creative suggestions but there were no requirements for reducing vehicle usage. He asked them to add the following achievable sustainability requirements: reduce the ratio of vehicles to skiers by 10 percent each year; recycle 90 percent of removed chairlift components; power all new chair lifts with renewable energy; document that all new buildings are constructed to LEED standard, and recycle 90 percent of all office and restaurant waste by 2030.

During peak EMR hours, traffic in Nederland is extremely congested and often gridlocked. This will only grow worse with expansion, says Lee, and EMR should partner with the impacted entities, to implement the construction of a roundabout at the intersection of CR 130 and Hwy. 119.

“EMR will meet most of its objectives if expansion towards Middle Boulder Creek is denied, while much of the concern about wildlife movement, aquatic habitat, water quality and the view sheds will be quieted. We again urge you to make sustainability a meaningful part of the expansion; business as usual is no longer acceptable in the face of rapidly accelerating human-generated climate change.”

eldora kimLast week, Eldora residents Kim Stefane and Laura Fisher walked along Middle Boulder Creek across from where the bridge would be constructed and pointed out where the new lift would come down to the creek and the surrounding wetlands and wildlife corridor. With a month of rain behind them, the land was saturated, the ponds spreading, everything green and growing, quiet except for the birds and the sounds of the four-wheel drive visitors.

“Imagine hundreds of logging trucks coming through here, pulling out the trees for the lift, the sound of construction equipment, the sound of the lift in winter. Imagine all the snow-making chemicals running down into the creek, then traveling downstream to Nederland’s drinking water. We have seen lynx and martens and boreal owls, elk, moose, foxes, and bears. We are trying to preemptively protect these guys. This is the main corridor to the Indian Peaks Wilderness.”

Stefane says the benefit concert will be a huge community event. Backdoor Theater is offering the auditorium at the Nederland Community Center, Peter Fiori will be bringing in a sound system, and there will be a silent auction.

“This event symbolizes so much more than just the expansion. There has been constant encroachment. They say there is not a significant loss, but when is enough, enough?”

Both of the Eldora residents say that the gain of another lift would be insignificant as the wind will always be a factor on that side of the mountain and the removal of hundreds of trees will add to the wind impact. They fear that creating a liftline and trails to the Hessie area will be one step to expanding the resort area further west in the future.

Barbara Lawlor

Barbara is a reporter for The Mountain-Ear.