Beckley column: Take the survey to help guide South Canyon planning
We have proposed development of a small portion of South Canyon. There are obviously some strong opinions regarding this proposal. I’d like to clear up a few things about our plans and ask the community to help us determine the future of this unique property. Jeanne and I care deeply about this community and want to do what is right by the environment and by the citizens.
The idea for this potential development came about because we identified a spot where there’s illegal dumping, shooting and camping, unmonitored campfires and dangerously polluted hot springs. A recent water test showed that the E. coli levels in the existing pool is 23 times what it takes to close down a public beach.
It’s a shame to see this land in its current state. On one recent visit, we saw a dumped refrigerator surrounded by piles of trash, two rotting dog carcasses, wads of toilet paper all over and piles of human waste.
Our intention is to come up with a way to remedy these issues and turn the site into an asset for Glenwood Springs that provides travelers with more recreational activities and lodging options.
We have asked the city of Glenwood Springs for an 18-month land lease to allow us to conduct a feasibility study. If approved, we will use this time to drill a well, six to eight inches in diameter, to test the water quality and flow rates. There is already an access road to the spot where we’d drill; there will be no damage to the existing hot springs pool. Our study will also determine the availability of potable water for drinking, and evaluate septic systems, the impact to wildlife, fire mitigation and evacuation plans.
During this phase, we plan to hold public forums to gather input from the community, as well.
The idea was well-received by many citizens who were excited about our plans to bring positive change to this abused land and hot springs; however, the proponents have been less vocal than the opponents. When we first brought the idea to City Council and city staff members, they were encouraged by the possibility of relieving the problems and liability posed by the current condition, as well as the potential for an additional revenue stream for the city.
There has been a lot of misinformation about our proposal going around. I’d like to clear up some of the confusion so that you have the facts when forming your opinions.
• We support the mountain bike trails groups and will work with them and the city to maintain their trail system as part of the camping development. There’s a bike kitchen in the plans for the lower RV park for riders to make necessary repairs.
• Our plans do not impact the historic sites, the archery range or the gun club.
• If development does take place, the lease will be 30 acres at most, as broken down below.
• The city will benefit from lease terms that include a percentage of revenue and by having a 24-hour presence to curtail illegal activities.
• The long-term lease we are seeking is for 20 years, with two 20-year extensions. At the end of that time, the improvements will belong to the city.
There are three parts of our plan:
1. A public hot springs attraction with between three and five mineral pools, showers, locker rooms and a general store. This site is approximately 6 acres in size and is located in the lower area of the canyon.
2. A year-round lower RV park with 40 full-hookup sites and onsite staff 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This site is also approximately 6 acres and is adjacent to the hot springs area described above.
3. A seasonal upper campground with 60 primitive sites, pit toilets and a camp host. It will be closed during the winters and is approximately 14.5 acres in size. The city and the Roaring Fork Mountain Bike Association already have plans to develop a mountain bike trail through this area.
Right now, we are in the conceptual stage and have identified four options for consideration: 1. Hot springs attraction only; 2. Hot springs with the lower RV park; 3. Hot springs with the lower RV park and the upper campground, 4. No development at all.
Again, we want to reiterate our desire to do what is right by the environment and endorsed by the majority of citizens. We appreciate your arguments both for and against the various aspects of the proposed three-tiered development concept and hope that you’ll spend a few minutes of your time to let us know how you feel about it.
To gather public input to help us determine the best usage, if any, for this land, we have developed a short survey. Go to bit.ly/southcanyon by Saturday, April 7, to give us your feedback.
Steve Beckley and his wife Jeanne are owners of the Iron Mountain Hot Springs and the Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park.