After rockfall, Dickman busy removing boulders
Post Independent Staff
GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” It’s been three days since a large collection of rocks ” some the size of cars ” broke free from a ridge at the top of Red Mountain and careened 1,000 feet to the mountain’s base, tearing into brush, trees, a retaining wall, pavement ” and Ron Dickman’s house.
The rock slide left a six-by-10 foot hole in the south Glenwood Springs house, where a boulder smashed through a wall. Another boulder hurtled into Dickman’s home office.
No one was hurt, though the house received extensive damage, prompting city officials to ban Dickman and his renter, Jimmy Farris, from living in the house until engineers determine if it is structurally safe.
Dickman hired Pattillo Associates Engineers of Glenwood. Inspectors have looked over the house to determine if it’s structurally sound to live in. Dickman is currently staying with his daughter, Dana Gonzales of New Castle, while waiting for a letter of occupancy from the engineering firm. Farris is staying at a local lodge.
Besides dealing with the trauma of a couple of multi-ton boulders ripping through his house, Dickman is also facing construction costs to rebuild the portions of his house demolished by the boulders. His homeowner’s insurance does not pay for damages due to rock slides.
“I’d hate to put a number on what repairs are going to cost,” said Cameron Lobato, an engineer with Yenter Companies, “but I do know Ron has a lot of work in front of him.”
Dickman hasn’t wasted any time. Lobato and a crew from Yenter worked all day Wednesday attacking the boulders. Using a hydraulic rock splitter, workers drilled holes in the red sandstone rocks, breaking them into smaller pieces.
“They did a great job,” Dickman said. “They worked harder than bulls, busting up all that rock. I have nothing but positive things to say about Yenter.”
Yenter is a geotechnical company that specializes in rock stabilization projects. Lobato said the company has been involved in numerous rock slide mitigations, including considerable work in Glenwood Canyon.
“Our main office is in Arvada,” Lobato said. “But there’s so much work around Glenwood, we have an office here as well.”
Geologically, the Glenwood Springs region is a prime area for rock slides.
“De Beque Canyon, McClure Pass, South Canyon, Glenwood Canyon,” said Lobato, ticking off local highways highly susceptible to rock falls. “There are plenty of places around here I wouldn’t let my children play.”
Glenwood Springs community development director Andrew McGregor said even though Glenwood is home to some of the top engineers and geologists ” experts who honed their talents in the Glenwood Canyon Interstate 70 project ” “it’s hard to predict what nature will do.”
“It becomes a matter of probabilities,” McGregor said. “We live in a geologically active area.”
At this time of year, rock falls are common in Colorado.
Lobato said immediately after finishing Dickman’s job, he sent a few crew members to Georgetown, where a rock slide closed I-70 for several hours Thursday.
“It’s rock slide season,” he said. “Actually, we consider March, April and May prime months for slides.”
Lobato said the incidents of rock slides goes up in the spring because of the great fluctuations in temperatures combined with increased precipitation. He also said many rock slides, like the south Glenwood and Georgetown slides, occur at night, though he said he’s not sure why.
Lobato said Yenter was working with Dickman before Tuesday night’s slide.
Dickman has been planning to build a tall steel chain fence above his property to deflect rocks and protect his house and a lot he owns below it, between Hager Lane and the Roaring Fork River. Dickman is applying to subdivide and build on his lower lot.
A six-foot rock wall coated with stucco, installed by real estate developer Kent Jolley, runs along Midland Avenue, just to the south of Dickman’s house. It too was hit by boulders Tuesday night, which took out big chunks of stucco.
The fence Dickman wants to build is on Red Mountain on the uphill side of the city’s Midland Avenue right of way, so City Council must approve his plans. On Feb. 5, council denied his application 4-3. Dickman said there were concerns over the fence’s visual impact.
Dickman will go before City Council again on April 15, seeking a license to encroach onto city-owned property in order to build the fence.
“He’ll need to demonstrate to the council that this is a good use of public right of way,” McGregor said.
Dickman pointed out that the fence will not only protect his property, but will serve as a safety barrier for Midland Avenue which crosses through prime rock-fall space.
“There certainly are benefits,” said McGregor. “There’s no denying that if a vehicle had been at the rock slide location on Tuesday night, there would have been ugly consequences.”
McGregor said he realizes the difficulties Dickman is facing.
“Ron has been through some real horrors the last few days,” said McGregor. “We’re coming at this situation from a perspective of wanting to help him out and protect his safety.”
Contact Carrie Click: 945-8515, ext. 518
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