Guest opinion: South Canyon Coalition leery of city lease plan
A new citizen’s action group has formed called South Canyon Coalition to prevent the construction of two RV parks and a commercial hot spring in South Canyon.
We are not an anti-development group. We very much support the idea of development in South Canyon, but insist that it be done in a manner that honors the canyon, its resources, the safety of the public and, especially, the citizens of Glenwood Springs.
This is 1,849 acres of city-owned land that we’re talking about. The parcel includes the landfill and the gun range. The lease has the potential to give away control of land in South Canyon for up to 101 years.
The developer has stated that only 25 acres of this parcel will be developed. It seems extremely unreasonable to give away control of all this land in exchange for potentially no or little revenue.
City Council is poised to sign a lease that will give the developers until July 31, 2018 to assess the property. This includes drilling test wells to determine if there is enough potable and geothermal water to proceed with development.
South Canyon Coalition is asking the City Council to not sign the exploratory lease because we hope they understand that the proposed building of two RV parks and a small hot spring development is a completely inappropriate use of city-owned land and it will not benefit the residents of Glenwood Springs.
It should then be logically clear that assessing the property for geothermal and potable water potential is unnecessary. The exploratory process risks creating damage to the land due to bulldozing an access road to the hot spring for test drilling. It may not be possible to mitigate that damage.
The development is being touted as a hot springs development first and as RV campgrounds second. We believe this is misleading. Most people who have heard of the proposal have an initially favorable reaction because they think another hot spring development would be nice, and they might get to enjoy it. It’s unlikely that they will.
In an article in the Jan. 22 Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, Steve Beckley “said he doesn’t think there’s enough water to develop a major hot springs attraction, but it could be enough to support the RV park.” It seems that it will be a very crowded soaking experience for the occupants of 110 RV sites. It also seems there would be little room for the public if they are even allowed. Even Mr. Beckley stated in the Sentinel article, “Glenwood Springs could use more commercial camping spaces.”
Also, construction of the South Canyon Mountain Bike Trail System started on March 12. There is a large investment in this trail system. Phase 2 is of equal magnitude and it is waiting in the wings.
Combined with the Grandstaff Trail on Red Mountain, which the Council also generously and enthusiastically funded and supported, it is destined to make Glenwood Springs a very popular destination for mountain biking, which will be a boon to our tourist economy.
The South Canyon Trail system is threatened by the proposed building of the two RV parks as they are to build right on top of parts of the trails. This will diminish the quality of the biking experience and create possible access restrictions.
Another reason we believe that the RV parks are ill-suited for South Canyon is the risk the visitors and the occupants of South Canyon will be subjected to due to the existence of the burning underground coal seam. No one should forget the sobering lesson of the Coal Seam fire of 2002. A fire can erupt from the seam without warning and then there are only minutes to escape after the fire has blown up in the canyon. Fourteen people died on nearby Storm King in 1994 because they had only minutes to escape a fire racing at them at 45 miles per hour.
Charlotte Hood escaped South Canyon during the Coal Seam fire in her flaming pickup truck. Evacuating motor homes, fifth wheelers and the like from 110 RV sites, plus the residents of South Canyon, will create a chaotic bottleneck with the potential for significant loss of life and property.
If fire doesn’t ravage the RV parks, the robust bear population at the landfill will. These bears are completely de-sensitized to human presence and they will come to the campgrounds looking for food. They will not fear humans and there will be many conflicts which could lead to human death or injury and destruction of property. Parks and Wildlife will be called upon to kill a great number of bears because they cannot be relocated. This will become a very negative publicity situation for Glenwood Springs.
Beyond all of those concerns is just the general low quality camping location for these RV Parks. The lower site may become a joke due to its proximity to “the dump,” and it will also be harassed by the constant flow, noise and smells of the garbage truck traffic.
There are other considerations that make this development inappropriate, if not illegal. There are historical sites which qualify for listing on the National Registry; the lease agreement itself may be considered an illegal land swap; and the citizenry of Glenwood Springs is being bypassed in this decision.
Steve Barbee is a long-time Glenwood Springs resident and co-founder of the new South Canyon Coalition.