Summitville, Colo., — most Valley residents know of it.
Located at 11,500 feet in the San Juan Mountains in Rio Grande County, its mines helped build the towns of Monte Vista, Del Norte and South Fork. Later, waste from the mines polluted the watersheds and led to one of Colorado's worst ecological disasters and a Superfund designation.
Today its collection of crumbling mine buildings and modern waste treatment facilities, all among the fragile tundra and stellar mountain views deep in the mountains.
There is a proposal by Erwin Young to build, on private property, a 54-site RV park. I feel this is the wrong project for this location for so many reasons.
Just reaching the site entails driving up 30 miles of narrow, winding dirt roads that are not suitable for many RVs. To have so many of these large vehicles navigating these roads would have negative impacts on traffic and the roads themselves, which are susceptible to erosion and deterioration. It is already difficult enough to navigate these roads due to heavy traffic from off-highway vehicles. This project would exacerbate the problem.
But my greatest concern is for the landscape itself. The area consists of fragile tundra and spruce forests that are home to many varieties of wildlife. Aside from the ghost town and the mine cleanup site, there is very little development in this natural area, a handful of cabins used by skiers in winter.
An RV park would be a use that is not consistent with neighboring properties. Human-wildlife conflicts would abound.
And I understand the applicant is proposing to not have restrooms, trash service or water. This is absurd. The idea that campers will drive 2 hours every time their chemical toilets are full, or they have trash to dispose of is ridiculous. Rather, the area will become a dumping ground of refuse and human waste.
Rio Grande County Commissioners and land use regulators are studying the proposal. I urge them to deny the application, or if they feel they must approve it, require modern sanitation, sewage, water and trash service, just as they would at any RV park in South Fork.
Summitville was already the site of one of Colorado's biggest environmental disasters. Can we spare this fragile landscape another?