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CMC’s soccer sinkhole

SPRING VALLEY – A 20-foot deep sinkhole has gobbled up a chunk of the soccer field complex at the Colorado Mountain College Spring Valley campus, and the fix job will require 100 dump truck loads of dirt and fill material.

“We found it a week ago Monday,” said Alan Wizer, physical plant manager for the Spring Valley campus. “It will take about 500 cubic yards to fill it.”

The sinkhole, round as a biscuit and 30 feet across, has smooth, steep sides which plunge straight to the hole’s bottom. There’s a good chance the hole formed in a matter of seconds.



“It could have been instantaneous,” said Jonathan White, an engineering geologist with the Colorado Geological Survey.

White, who helped map Roaring Fork Valley sinkholes for the Geological Survey, said a “chimney effect” mostly likely created the CMC sinkhole. Here’s how he explained the chimney effect:



Imagine a chimney with a cavern, void or loose rock at its base. As the void’s roof slowly caves in over the years, the void migrates toward the surface. Eventually, the void works its way to the chimney’s top, and the top layer of soil and rock cave in under their own weight.

White said parts of the Roaring Fork Valley are particularly susceptible to sinkholes. They are due to the layer of volcanic basalt that lies above the porous Eagle Valley evaporate, also known as gypsum, whose soils are prone to dissolving.

White said there are many sinkholes in the Spring Valley area, and hundreds in the Cattle Creek area. Another sinkhole on the Spring Valley campus is 200 feet long and 60 feet deep.

“That sinkhole is hundreds of years old,” White said.

The new soccer field sinkhole sits like a wide open mouth between soccer fields 4 and 5, which are situated head-to-head with each other, and run north and south.

The hole encroaches on the north end of field 4, but its presence should not affect early season play.

“We can shorten the field if we need to,” Wizer said.

There are five fields on the 12-acre Gates Family soccer complex. The Glenwood Springs Soccer Club, aided by a $500,000 Gates Family grant, constructed the fields in conjunction with Colorado Mountain College from 1995 through 1997.

Colorado Mountain College employees will use a school dump truck and fill dirt stored on campus to plug the hole. “It should be ready to sod by the third week in March,” Wizer said.

Wizer hasn’t calculated the cost to fill the hole, because most of the expense is staff time. “This isn’t exactly a line item in the budget,” he said.

The Glenwood Springs Soccer Club hosts a statewide tournament Memorial Day weekend, and will need all five playing fields. Wizer is optimistic the sinkhole problem will be fixed. “The field should be ready by then,” he said.

As for future sinkhole problems at the soccer complex, White said it’s sometimes possible to locate holes before they surface by testing with ground penetrating radar, drill borings and other methods. Even then, the tests aren’t always conclusive.

“It’s hard to discern sinkholes, even when they are shallow,” White said.

Contact Lynn Burton: 945-8515, ext. 534

lburton@postindependent.com


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