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New County Road 3 is paying dividends

Lynn Burton

The tourist season has barely hit, and a new section of Gunnison County Road 3 into Marble is already paying dividends.

“It’s brought more people into town. People used to turn off Highway 133 then turn around,” said Nancy Fenton, owner of Fenton’s Antler Art. “And it’s just a nice drive now.”

That nice drive was 11 years in the making, and some Marble folks wondered if the road would ever be completed.

The two-lane stretch of smooth blacktop meanders along the Crystal River through spruce and aspen stands and past fields of sagebrush for 5.8 miles to the Marble town limits.

The road was rebuilt in fits and starts depending on weather, time of year and availability of money, said Gunnison County assistant manager Marlene Crosby.

“The valley was concerned about construction impacts on the town (Marble) during tourist season, so we couldn’t build from the Fourth of July to Labor Day,” Crosby said. “We had to stop and start a lot of times.”

Folks who lived in Marble or visited there in the 1980s and before remember County Road 3 as bumpy road with asphalt patches on top of asphalt patches. Vehicles were reduced to a crawl in places. Speeds above 30 miles per hour could be bone jarring.

The status of County Road 3 changed in 1990, when the Colorado Yule Marble Co. obtained a lease to reopen the historic Colorado Yule marble quarry.

Colorado Yule planned to load up multi-ton blocks of marble and send them on heavy trucks down County Road 3. All those trips would damage an already bad road. So the Gunnison County Commissioners required the company to help fix the road as a condition of its approval.

Crosby said she didn’t have any financial figures handy, but Colorado Yule ended up paying less than originally planned because it didn’t mine and sell as much marble as it projected.

Colorado Yule later went bankrupt in 1999. Its assets and the lease to the quarry were bought later that year by the Denver-based Sierra Minerals, said Sierra spokesman Rex Loesby.

The County Road 3 project started between Darien Bridge and the Marble town limits, then slowly worked its way west through the years. For two autumns, construction was halted due to bad weather, and one year county funds were not available.

“It took a while,” Crosby said.

The final leg of the project was about a mile long, from the Bogan Flats campgrounds to Highway 133. It was completed last fall. Feedback on the final project has been good.

“People were inconvenienced for a few years, but now everyone loves it,” Crosby said.


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