USFS Paris Mill Paris Mill begins phase V Restoration

This photo shows part of the work that will be completed in Phase V of the Paris Mill restoration. The commissioners approved funding to complete the exterior reconstruction July 23. According to Commissioner Dick Elsner, work on the interior also needs to be completed before the mill can open to the public. (Photo courtesy of Park County/South Park National Heritage Area)

Park County commissioners approved $137,300 funding from Land and Water Trust Fund to help the United States Forest Service construct camping, parking and restroom facilities in two areas of Badger Flats.

The project is the beginning phase of implementing a management plan that was completed in 2018 for the Badger Flats area. 

An environmental assessment determined the management plan complied with the National Environmental Protection Act.

Badger Flats includes a large area from west of Wilkerson Pass to just west of Lake George. It extends roughly from the Lost Creek Wilderness on the north and South Platte River on the east to County Road 90 and U.S. Highway 24 on the south. 

The western boundary extends along the mountain peaks west of Wilkerson Pass, running northeast, intersecting CR 77 a little south of where Allen Creek meets Tarryall Creek.

One of the areas to be improved is at the Pulver Pavilion. It is located on Forest Service Road 860B, just south of U.S. 24 and east of CR 90.

A new group camping site at the pavilion consists of an American with Disabilities Act accessible vaulted toilets, six regular size ADA fire rings, one ADA group fire ring and 12 ADA picnic tables.

The second area is at the Round Mountain trailhead. Work consists of building a new parking lot with ADA vaulted toilets. The trailhead is north of U.S. 24 and east of CR 31 on Forest Service Road 223.

The USFS is providing $27,666 as a cash match, and another $8,000 as in-kind services. 

The LWTF board makes recommendations on applications that request funding from the county sales tax revenues. 

So far in 2020, eight applications were submitted totaling about $1,052,000. The LWTF board recommended four be approved for a total of $256,548 and four be denied for a total of $795,452.

The four that LWTF recommended the commissioners deny included a conservation easement on a ranch, land purchase to extend the county fairgrounds and two USFS projects.

The LWTF board recommended denial of the USFS Badger Flats application for $137,300. 

The other USFS project is in Wildcat Canyon. It, too, is the beginning of a project to restore an area after severe damage from off-road vehicle impacts. 

The commissioners approved funding all eight applications that were received in 2020.

After a work session with the commissioners, the LWTF board also wrote a letter outlining four reasons they recommended denial of the Badger Flats project.

The commissioners discussed the four points before approving the project.

The first two points were that the USFS needed a dedicated law enforcement officer in the area before any USFS projects receive LWTF funding, and that the Park County Sheriff’s Office have adequate staff to cover the expected visitor use in Badger Flats.

The commissioners said more law enforcement was not on the table. Neither agency has funds to hire more law enforcement for the area at this time. It is a goal for the future.

The third reason LWTF stated was $100,000 for two vaulted double toilets wasn’t an appropriate use of LWTF funds.  

The commissioners disagreed, saying keeping human waste from further contaminating the soils and surface water was an appropriate use of LWTF. 

Elsner said the price isn’t much more than toilets installed several years ago at Guffey Gorge.

The fourth reason stated LWTF didn’t want to set a precedent of funding USFS projects that should be paid for by the USFS. 

Commissioner Dick Elsner said precedent had already been set to help USFS by funding several stream restoration projects in past years, helping purchase the vaulted double toilet for Guffey Gorge on Bureau of Land Management property, and maintaining toilets on Kenosha Pass because maintenance had been cut from USFS’s 2019 funding.

Elsner said the Badger Flats Management Plan was adopted in 2018 to address overuse of the area and it addresses the concerns of residents and the LWTF board, including law enforcement and overuse and illegal trails created by motorized vehicles.

He said now about 600-650 people camp in the area at any given time during the summer. The USFS goal is to reduce that to about 250, either in paid campgrounds or designated dispersed camping areas.

Once completed, the USFS plans to hire a concessionaire and charge for camping. Part of the job would be to locate and ask illegal campers to leave.

Brazell and Douglas didn’t think a concessionaire could solve problems in the area. It would take more law enforcement personnel to do that.

Elsner said once the management plan is operational, residents will see a difference, but it would take a few years. This project is the first step, a starting point.

By showing that the county values natural resources, wants problems fixed and is willing to work with the federal government, Elsner said he hoped the local rangers could convince their superiors that Park County was “a willing and interested partner.” That might convince USFS to appropriate money to complete the Badger Flats plan and other projects in Park County.

He said Senators Bennet and Gardner led a bipartisan effort to approve $20 billion for the USFS and National Park Service to use to maintain and improve campgrounds throughout the country. It passed Congress and was awaiting President Trump’s signature on Aug. 27. 

He hoped some of that would be used to implement the Badger Flats management plan, which he said would cost around $2 million.

Brazell said he thought most of the LWTF board’s opposition was because they had not seen the management plan, which does address their issues. 

He said he had received many calls and emails, plus he had talked to residents in the area. 

“The people in Lake George say they need law enforcement, not toilets. But law enforcement isn’t on the table right now,” Brazell said. 

He said the county has a good relationship with all federal agencies that have a presence here. If the county didn’t help with solutions, the federal government would go somewhere else with their money.

Brazell suggested when the USFS starts closing illegal roads and trails, they should consider which ones will most reduce impacts to the residents and start with those.

He also requested USFS focus on how to obtain funding for more USFS law enforcement officers.

Commissioner Ray Douglas said he had concerns about the project providing any benefits to county residents. He said most stay away from areas where visitors are running amuck. 

He didn’t think people would stop dispersed camping or riding ATVs on and off county roads and other illegal activities without more law enforcement in the area. He said now enforcement is reactive and it needs to be proactive. 

Elsner said the situation was becoming a crisis with too many parking on the roads, trespassing, cutting fences and even camping on private property. Some residents have been threatened. 

During the vote, Douglas said he voted yes out of a desire to preserve the county’s natural resources. 

Brazell said Badger Flats management plan is shovel-ready. The timing is good for this project to receive some of the money just passed by Congress.

Paris Mill contracts

The county is beginning Phase V of rehabilitating the Paris Mill west of Alma on CR 8. Two contracts were signed so work could begin.

One contract is with Wattle and Daub Contractors for $291,982. The historic preservation company in Laramie, Wyo. has completed previous work at the Paris Mill.

The contract includes work to stabilize the tower and repair the tower’s roof, finish the east wing stabilization, reconstruct the tank building, install flooring in the north wing, structural timber repair and grading the south side of the mill.

The other contract is with Denver-based Form Works Design Group, LLC for $38,743. They, too, have been used in the past for work on the mill. 

Form Design will provide architectural, engineering and archaeology services necessary to complete the construction. 

The work will be completed using funds from a state historical grant of $200,000 which requires a 50 percent match. South Park National Heritage Area is contributing $118,730 of its federal funding. Park County’s contribution is $12,000. 

The county purchased the 16-acre parcel in 2009 with the desire to preserve the site for heritage tourism. 

The buildings contain most of the equipment and tools used when it was milling ore mined from the Paris Mine.

Once restoration is complete, the site will be used to promote the mining and milling history of the area.

Land Use Cases

Four land use cases were heard. Three were common plat amendments and one was a conditional use.

The commissioners approved a plat amendment that divided one lot in half and combined each half with the adjacent lots on Mockingbird Trail in Burland Ranchettes. 

The owners are Gene and Carrie Marsh and Gary Turnbull. Marsh’s lot is now approximately 1.75 acres and Turnbull’s is 1.5 acres in size. 

Carrie Marsh said the vacant lot was in a drainage. Not only did the two parties each desire a larger lot, but they were concerned that any building on it could cause drainage issues on Turnbull’s lot.

Two plat amendments that were denied, one in Elk Creek Highlands and one in Lions Head subdivisions.

The request in Lions Head by Mitchell and Stephanie Flippin was to change the placement and size of the building envelope. They wanted to move it into the meadow in order to utilize passive solar for heating the house. 

One person testified against it because the building envelopes were placed in such a way to allow elk habitat and migration through the large open space meadow. 

It was a point of controversy when the subdivision was approved in 2005. The area was only one of two large elk habitats left undeveloped in the Pine Junction area.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s commented the subdivision was winter range for deer and elk as well as critical winter range for elk. This area has seen a reduction in elk herd size and usage since the subdivision started being developed. 

The commissioners denied it saying a lot of thought had been put into the subdivision approval to maintain the elk winter habitat. The denial still allowed the lot to be developed, but it might not get as much passive solar. 

The other lot denied a plat amendment is on the north end of Elk Creek Highlands on Sunset Drive. 

When the subdivision was platted in 1970, the minimum lot size was one acre. This lot is ½ acre in size and noted on the plat as a picnic area. 

It is completely surrounded by Sunset Drive at the end of the road. Instead of creating a very large cul de sac, it was created as an outlot.

When the developer declared bankruptcy in 1992, the lot was placed on the tax lien sale list.

Earl Kerr said he bought it at the tax lien sale about one and one half years ago. He said it was a requirement to purchase it when he bought another lot in Elk Creek, but not adjacent.

A petition was turned in by neighbors opposing the amendment. 

Brazell said the county needed to develop some kind of process to keep this from happening in the future.

Brad and Allison Guyton received a conditional use permit for a conference and retreat center for their ranch west of U.S. Highway 285 in South Park. The approximately 200-acre ranch is located just east of CR 34 near Como.

Guyton completed considerable upgrades to the agriculture property they have owned since 2012. 

The ranch will be used as a wedding venue and other group gatherings. All events will be catered. 

The written statement by Guyton said they did not plan to make it a commercial venture, but wanted to generate some income to pay the property taxes and continue upgrading several buildings on the property. 

They plan to retire there and currently use it as a second home.

A liquor license was granted for Lil Bit, LLC doing business as the 11 Mile Store on CR 92 near 11 Mile Reservoir.

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