DEL NORTE— After nearly five years the Summitville land transfer between the Rio Grande National Forest (RGNF) and Rio Grande County is finally nearing completion. In a meeting held with Environmental Protection Specialist Mark Rudolph, RGNF District Forester Tom Malechek and the Rio Grande County Commissioners on June 26, final plans for the land transfer were discussed.
“We are about a month to a month and a half away from finalizing paperwork for this project and are hoping to have an open house event planed for the end of August,” said Rudolph.
The purpose of the land transfer was to minimize the larger footprint of the superfund site and allow Rio Grande County, who took possession of the property after the mine went bankrupt, to use it as they saw fit. When a land survey was done five years ago, it was determined that the RGNF had several small pieces of property contained in the original Summitville site and through the combined efforts of the county and RGNF it was decided to consolidate the land into one large piece in exchange for other county property that bordered RGNF land further east.
“Once we get all the paperwork in order we can sit down and brainstorm about the possible uses for the land. It is still a superfund, Brownfield site, so there will be some rules you will have to follow but as long as you follow the regulations by the EPA you can do pretty much what you want in the area,” explained Rudolph.
Board Chairwoman Suzanne Bothell spoke up and stated that they want it to be used for outdoor recreation and heritage tourism. “I know a lot of people use the area during the winter for snowmobiling, and it is a great place to hike in the summer. It is pretty obvious that there is more of a monetary gain for the county if we focus on outdoor recreational uses more than the heritage tourism,” said Bothell.
Rodolph, the RGNF and commissioners have been working on a draft covenant that shows the boundaries of the superfund site and outlines the protections that must be maintained on the site. The county will be agreeing to allow CDPHE in partnership with the EPA to continue to monitor and work on the actual mining site in Summitville.
The plant is currently functioning year-round, processing toxic material that continues to flow off of the mining site and will continue to do so, regardless of what the county does with the rest of the land. So far the county has added new bathroom facilities and an interpretive sign, picnic area and hope to do more in the near future.
Once the covenant is signed and negotiations have been reached between all entities, the county will be hosting an open house event near the end of August. There will be tours of the treatment plant, the mine and other facilities in Summitville.