To the Editor: 

Many of us who reside in the Highway 115 corridor a few minutes south of Colorado Springs were not surprised by Transit Mix Concrete Co.’s recent petition to the Mined Land Reclamation Board to reconsider the board’s Oct. 27 decision that denied a mining application on Hitch Rack Ranch.

Transit Mix now contends that the MLRB violated several rules, allowed evidence to be presented “illegally” and failed to heed the recommendations of the Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety staff. Coloradans should be aware that the MLRB listened to two days of testimony, during which the board heard detailed briefs, rebuttals and concluding arguments from Transit Mix, the DRMS staff and opponents. In the end, the board found the evidence and testimony of those opposed more compelling than that of both Transit Mix and DRMS staff. It voted to deny the application because it failed to conform to specific requirements regarding legal right of entry, ground water disturbance, and the safety and protection of wildlife. The board’s written explanation as to why it denied the mining permit is clear and concise.

Although not all of the issues fall within the purview of the MLRB, here are a few of the adverse impacts should a quarry be allowed on Hitch Rack Ranch. The owners, families and guests of the 48 properties in the Eagle’s Nest Homeowners Association and former Bauer’s Ranch will be forced to drive through the quarry to get to and from their properties. Their access will be blocked during blasting operations. (Property owners in the Eagle’s Nest Association are the dominant easement owners.) Blasting and excavation will imperil the wells that residents in the area depend upon for their water. Critical habitat for the threatened Mexican Spotted Owl will be destroyed, and a major elk and deer migration corridor will be disrupted and compromised.

The dust and noise produced by quarries is well documented, as are the adverse impacts to nearby neighbors. Finally, the proposal creates a traffic choke point that will jeopardize the safety of those who drive on Highway 115 past Hitch Rack Ranch.

Transit Mix states that the community needs aggregate in order to continue to grow. In reality, existing quarries in the area have more than 1 billion tons of aggregate in reserve. Additionally, there is a short-haul railroad that can transport aggregate directly to Colorado Springs from quarries located in Fremont and Pueblo counties. Shipping by rail would greatly reduce traffic on Highway 115, a benefit to every commuter, soldier, motorcyclist, bicyclist and tourist who uses the highway between Colorado Springs and Penrose.

Residents along the Highway 115 corridor are not anti-quarry; rather, we contend that Hitch Rack Ranch is not the location for another quarry — there are already three well-established quarries operating within a five-mile stretch of Highway 115.

We are confident that the MLRB will take a hard look at Transit Mix’s petition and conclude that the board’s initial decision was legal and just.

Gary McCowen

Colorado Springs