Harvey Gap Road closure concerns residents
It has been two weeks since a portion of Harvey Gap Road was closed following a partial collapse, and residents north of the closure are growing increasingly concerned about potential impacts to emergency services and frustrated about what they say is a lack of communication by entities involved in the project.
“We’d just like more information,” said Don Cummings, an area resident who voiced his frustration along with five others last week. “We’d like them to know we are tax-paying citizens out here, too, and we want our road back, and we would like a little truth out of them … not just passing the buck.”
“Them” refers to Garfield County, which is responsible for the road, and the Silt Water Conservancy District, which is responsible for the Harvey Gap Reservoir and associated infrastructure.
Cummings and others feel that the two parties have largely been avoiding blame, and consequently are failing to address residents’ concerns — a claim that does not match up with how the two entities view the situation.
Both the county and water district have worked together since the collapse, and the county is doing its best to communicate with everyone as staff fully assesses the situation and determines the best solution to fix the road, said Renelle Lott, chief communications officer for the county.
“We’re very concerned about the residents and are doing everything we can to move as quickly as possible with all parties … to make plans to put the road back in place.”
Similarly, Kelly Lyon, Silt Water Conservancy District board president, said the district has moved quickly in drawing up a game plan to augment a ditch that runs alongside the road. It could have all that work, which will likely cost around $200,000, completed in several weeks.
“We’re concerned about it, and we’ll do everything we can to get the water going,” Lyon said.
However, for many residents who live north of the closure, water is not the primary concern.
“They just want to say we have access to water, potable water. That’s not our main concern,” said Eileen Cummings, Don Cummings’ wife. “Our main concern is emergency services.”
Harvey Gap Road offers the shortest route into Silt and to the Interstate 70 corridor from Harvey Gap State Park. The road was closed Aug. 21 after a large chunk of ground east of the road gave way, causing a partial collapse of the road.
A large gully currently sits east of the road, which officials say remains unsafe for travel. Consequently, residents in the area, as well as people heading to Harvey Gap State Park, must take one of two alternate routes either from New Castle or Rifle.
That has meant an inconvenience for residents who have to haul potable water and now must travel to Rifle or through New Castle to get to the filling station in Silt.
“I was hauling water until 11 o’clock last night,” said Tony Stroncheck, another area resident.
While it now takes more time and money to haul water, Stroncheck, much like the Cummingses, is more concerned about how the road closure could impact emergency services.
His mother-in-law lives with the family and falls frequently.
The thought of any delays in emergency services, which would now likely be coming from Rifle or New Castle, “is scary,” Stroncheck said.
County officials who work in emergency responses were either unavailable for comment Friday or did not return a request for comment on whether or not the county has coordinated with emergency service agencies.
Eileen calculated the distance from her home to local fire stations, and found that the firehouse in Silt is 5.9 miles away, while New Castle is 14.6 miles away and the Rifle fire station is 16 miles away.
She said she reached out to the county to ask commissioners if they would put a water tanker out in the area for fire mitigation.
“They said they were not in the business of hauling water,” she said.
Fred Jarman, deputy county manager who has been in contact with Cummings, confirmed that the commissioners told him they were not willing to put a tanker up near Harvey Gap.
“I understand they can come from Rifle and New Castle, but it is a farther drive,” she said. “And so when you have a fire or emergency service needed, time is of the essence. Nobody wants to address that.”
All of the residents interviewed for this story said they understand that infrastructure problems arise and repairs cannot always be made immediately. However, the lack of communication has left them feeling as if they don’t matter.
And with no information from county officials as for when the road could be repaired, there is more anxiety that the hauling water issue, which currently is more an inconvenience than anything else and could become a safety problem if the project drags into the winter. Harvey Gap Road is much more maintained during the winter than other routes, according to residents.
“With them not giving us valid information, this hauling water is not that big a deal at this point in time, but when winter comes it’s a huge deal,” Don said. “If they bleed this out and keep playing the blame game … it can become quite an issue.”
Part of the reason for the perceived lack of communication is due to the fact that there has been little to report in the past week, Lott explained. The county hopes to have a report back from geologists sometime this week.
She did not want to speculate about when the road might be fixed but said road work cannot happen until the water district finishes work on its ditch.
“We’re not in first place,” Lott said in referencing the sequence in which work must be done.
That work could start in the coming days.
Lyon said bids have been received and the district was in the process of awarding the contract as of Friday morning. Lyon is scheduled to appear before the county commissioners Tuesday with a request for financial assistance on the ditch work, which includes installing a pipeline.
An estimate pegs the entire project costing $182,872.
“There hasn’t been anything like this that I know of, and I’ve been up there quite a while,” Lyon said of the severity of the issue.
An article published in the Post Independent on Monday, Sept. 5, incorrectly stated the length of the Harvey Gap Road closure The road was closed Aug. 21.
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