A broken promise
A bit of oft-forgotten history was commemorated earlier this week in the small Western Colorado town of Battlement Mesa.
Many residents of the Western Slope are either too young or didn’t reside in the state 50 years ago when a nuclear gas stimulation technology test occurred in Rulison between Rifle and Parachute.
Project Plowshare was a United States lead program for the development of techniques to use nuclear explosives for construction purposes. As part of the program, 31 nuclear warheads were detonated in 27 separate tests.
One of those tests occurred when a 40-kiloton (more than twice the size of the bomb that leveled Hiroshima) atomic explosive device detonated 8,400 feet below the surface 8 miles from Parachute.
With more than 60 people crowded into a room in the Grand Valley Recreational Center four members of the protest to stop Project Rulison reminisce about the day a half a century ago when the bomb detonated in the small rural Colorado town.
Chester McQueary, activist and former long time resident of Rulison was one of the 11 of 28 protesters that were on site hoping to stop the bomb from detonated in the fall of 1969.
Through many protests leading up to the test, McQueary said that they were promised by officials that they wouldn’t detonate to device if people were present on the site, but it went off anyway as he and the small group were scattered across the hillside waiting for the blast to occur.
“Why do we do this? … We think it is an important marker in Colorado History,” McQueary said.
“We must remember, though, this was a singular event, the atomic energy commission and its corporate partners were not thinking small scale, this was a test.”
McQueary said at the time officials had openly said if the test were successful they would set off up to a hundred in the twenty miles stretch between Parachute and Rifle to fully develop the Rulison gas field.
Although the test succeeded in freeing large amounts of natural gas, the gas had been contaminated and deemed unusable for public application.
To this day the site remains under active monitoring by the Department of Energy, with regular tests for radioactivity, making sure they are at an acceptable level and visitors can freely pass by the site along County Road 302 on the way to recreation on Haystack Mountain.
Support Local Journalism
Support Local Journalism
Readers around Glenwood Springs and Garfield County make the Post Independent’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.
Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.
Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.
Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.
User Legend: Moderator Trusted User
The Glenwood Springs-Rifle sports rivalry goes way back for GSHS baseball coach and former Demons multi-sport student-athlete Eric Nieslanik.