RIO GRANDE COUNTY
IMAGINE an RV park at 11,500-feet with 54 spaces in the Summitville area. That’s a plan Erwin Young has submitted to Rio Grande County and is drawing attention from locals.
In his application, Young, owner of Colorado Gators in Alamosa County, is asking to build a primitive RV park with summer parking only for self-contained RVs for short stays of 1 to 13 days. Young said the Summitville RV Park will be a “leave no trace” guaranteed by a cleanup deposit and visitors bringing in their own water and taking out their own trash.
“There will be no water supply and no waste and sewage disposal,” according to the application on file with Rio Grande County. The county has called for public comment through May 13. View the application and site map.
The location is private property near the Summitville Mine in the Summitville Valley. It’s area that has been known as a recreational haven in the shadow of a gold and silver mine, which during its lifetime produced over 26,000 kilograms of gold and silver.
“The only road that goes through our property is FS Road 330 or Rio Grande County Road 14,” Young lists in the application.
Young first noticed the property was for sale about a year ago when he was looking to put a speciality crop at high elevation. “We checked the zoning, asked what’s legal and related to tourism,” he said in a phone interview with Alamosa Citizen. He then bought the property. The proposed RV park would be a total of 36 acres.
The historical and environmental preservation of the area was at the forefront of Young’s inspiration for purchasing the area. He said that he’s worked closely with county officials to observe soil and vegetation and make the site as primitive as possible. He said that due to his involvement with S.E.E.D. Park International, or Sustainable Environmental Economic Development, he was interested in “preserving the environment,” and “keeping the community sustainable,” and not interested in contaminating the area.
He noted that the historical and public interest had a lot of potential and the economic development of the area was obvious due to the high activity during the summer. However, he said that since he’s purchased the property, he hasn’t been able to take a record of just how much traffic comes and goes from the Summitville Valley. The RV park “could reduce traffic, could increase traffic, we don’t know.”
“Seventy percent of the land we bought is wetlands,” he said, noting that “we want to keep vegetation natural and normal.”
If the application and permit are approved, Young plans on implementing zones and building up spaces by early summer.
Candidly, Young said, “we don’t know if anyone will come up there,” but hopes that people who want to hike, bike, and get away will have localized spaces where they can comfortably keep their vehicles and belongings.
The application, however, has raised an environmental concern among Valley residents and environmental groups due the application listing native plant species and soil conditions. The area is also home to the recently reintroduced Canadian Lynx and will no doubt be a pathway for Grey Wolves when they are reintroduced next year.
The Rio Grande County Land Use office has called for public review and comment to the application no later than May 13. Comments can be sent to Dixie Diltz, Rio Grande County Land Use Administration. The office phone number is 719-657-4003 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Summitville Mine Area
In 1990, high levels of heavy metals and acid were suspected to have killed off fish species in Terrace Reservoir. Summitville Mine was subject to a cease-and-desist order in 1991 by the state. A damaged heap leach pad was said to have caused 85,000 gallons of wastewater to have run off from the site. By 1992, Galactic Resources declared bankruptcy and cleanup efforts were done by the Environmental Protection Agency under a Superfund Emergency Response. A total of $155 million was spent on detoxification and repairs.
The EPA noted that the main concern was inadequate pond storage of water that was causing upwards of 3,000 gallons to leak every minute. A USGS study from 1993 concluded that the runoff posed no serious threats.
The same study also concluded that there were no short-term effects to agriculture that fed off the Alamosa River. The soil and minerals in the drainages are naturally high in acid and heavy metals, so a discernible distinction had to be made when remediation efforts began to take place in the early 90s.
Today, the area seems to be recovering quite well, but concern for the high level of beetle-killed spruce and pine remains high, amid the extreme drought and fire conditions the entire state is under. The USDA recently listed all 64 counties in Colorado as primary natural disaster areas.
NOTE: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Erwin Young has been affiliated with the Colorado Parks Foundation.
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