We built it this way and we should not let it go - an opinion
Vibrant community threatened by new mining
Posted: Friday, October 6, 2017 3:31 pm
by Ellwood Barrett, Special to The Flume
Hear a retelling of our local legacy from one who was here for the last forty years.
By 1976, mining had abandoned this high windswept valley. The towns of Alma and Fairplay may have seen better days, but you couldn’t tell by looking at them. The miners of old left no enduring civic endowments or architectural masterpieces. Tar paper and tin was part of the building code, apparently.
In those days, Alma seemed to be a good place to be if you were running from the law or just released from prison. Alma’s downtown businesses were two bars, a realty company and a shop that sold teepees. Many homes in Alma were left over shacks from the mining days built just off the dirt, without foundations or water systems, many with wells and outhouses, with no insulation – and this was the mid twentieth century. These relics were readily available for sale, and they were extremely affordable, especially so to hard-working ski industry employees and tradesmen from Summit County. But in the 1970s, getting over Hoosier Pass was far more difficult and to live in Alma was a challenge even to the most hardy. The repopulation began anyway, these new pioneers leading the way, proving that Alma was in fact a very nice place to live and affordable. These new pioneers worked hard on their piece of the rock, improving on their funky pads, putting in foundations, new plumbing and windows and all the things you see on the home improvement shows on TV.
And so the character of Alma developed. These folks became town board members and small business owners. They came together to make decisions important to maintaining their visions of how they saw their community. They also saw great resale value in their homes. Each decade saw even newer pioneers claiming Alma to be their hometown, and property values kept going up. Yes, there was some mining in the area, the local gravel pits stayed modestly busy, a few hobbyists kept their claims active, and the Sweet Home mine produced the beautiful semi-precious rhodochrosite. And up in Mosquito Gulch were some larger older mines. The London Mine was a shadow of its former self in terms of production when in the late 1980s its holding ponds gave way and poisoned Mosquito Creek. That was the end of that mining era for the London Mine.
So here we are. We have a vibrant community that we have built ourselves. Mining has left us nothing but poisoned creeks and rivers and scars on our mountain sides. To say that mining is our legacy and we are descendants of that is not right. Mining had abandoned this place and we resurrected it with our own hard work and vision. We brought this place back to the beautiful colorful Colorado paradise we love.
What this new mining is bringing us now is loss of our quality of life and lower real estate values. These are the values that the new pioneers built up in our community. The real estate value that is the working class salvation, that we look forward to seeing go up, is being threatened by this invasion of mining and men that are indifferent to the locals they are impacting so severely. We love the quality of life and the peaceful joy of our community. We built it this way and we should not let it go.