Walter L. Newton

I think Park County should make arrangements with the Town of Fairplay to designate a part of the Front Street sidewalk as a walk of fame.

Then the county could have all the “Gold Rush” TV stars put their hand and foot prints in wet cement. That should bring the tourists into Fairplay.

At the Aug. 17 meeting of the Board of County Commissioners, High Speed Aggregate, Inc., managed to rezone 28 acres of residential land that they owned to mining.

As part of the equation, this rezoning would also open opportunities for the Discovery Channel to produce more episodes of its “Gold Rush” reality series, which currently films at the High Speed mining site.

The rezoning battle pitted High Speed and the “Gold Rush” show against many Park County residents who were opposed to the rezoning. Then again, there were those in favor of the rezoning. The reason heard many times over – tourism.

According to an article in The Flume Aug. 4, our senior correspondent Lynda James reported that one of the stars of the Discovery Channel’s “Gold Rush” show, Freddy Dodge, claimed “mining is bringing people to Fairplay because of the show. They want to meet the crew and spend money in town.”

I’m not sure if anyone asked Dodge if he had statistical figures to back up that claim, or if his statement was more anecdotal than factual.

In an email, The Flume asked Park County Commissioner Richard Elsner “does the BOCC have some figures to back up that assertion” that Dodge made.

His reply is enlightening.

“An increase in tourism is always difficult to measure if you are trying to tie it to just one thing that has a duration as long as the summer. Individual events are easy to measure; longer events are much tougher,” Elsner replied.

“Most of the evidence is just from conversations or seeing how long it takes to be served. The Mayor pro tem of Fairplay said he did an informal survey of the businesses and they all said that business was up significantly. I know I was having lunch and one of the Gold Rush people came into the restaurant and was immediately recognized by some tourists who wanted his autograph.

“Not a lot of hard information to go on, but in checking with a business in another part of the county, it looks like Fairplay business is up, but other places are flat or a little slower than last year.”

That also sounds anecdotal to me.

BOCC executive sessions

Looking over 33 2017 BOCC agenda packets, on the Park County web page (, as of this writing, I find on each agenda the following language in regards to executive sessions, “Executive session in regard to legal and personnel matters (closed session)”

According to the Colorado Open Meetings (Sunshine) Law (24-6-401+), “an executive session is permitted only during a regular meeting and must follow this formula – Topic for executive session, with as much specificity as can be provided without compromising the reason for the executive session, must be announced to the public. Also cite the legal basis for the executive session … local public body must give specific citation of the statute or rules which apply.”

I’m not a lawyer, and maybe the phrase “Executive session in regard to legal and personnel matters (closed session)” is legal language enough for the BOCC to cover them in a cloak of secrecy during an executive session.

But my reading of the Colorado Open Meeting law suggests to me that the BOCC should give the Park County residents a better idea of why they are going into an executive session, besides a boilerplate phrase repeated 33 times in the agenda this year.

I’m not sure if that boilerplate constitutes giving Park County residents a legal reason for the executive session or following the letter of the law.

At the actual BOCC meeting, sometimes the board will give a little more detail about the executive session, just before they go into the session.

But isn’t a posted agenda suppose to give the public a “heads up” on issues that are going to be discussed?

The agenda boilerplate doesn’t tell the public anything.

Was anything discussed about rezoning privately that should have been discussed during public portions of the BOCC meetings?

Maybe our county lawyer, Lee Phillips, could enlighten us with a response to my concerns about the BOCC executive sessions. This is not a challenge; Phillips is usually very willing to answer questions put to him by The Flume. But on this issue, I feel that Phillips should respond to the newspaper publicly. I’ll be looking for a letter to the editor from him, sometime in the near future.

High Speed Aggregate, Inc.

During the Aug. 17 meeting of the BOCC, after a contentious, half-year battle, High Speed Aggregate, Inc., won its request to rezone 28 acres of residential land it owned to mining.

The BOCC imposed on High Speed, 11 conditions that came along with the rezoning.

Condition four states, “No mining activity between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. or on Sundays and federal holidays.” Condition 11 states, “Failure to comply with representations made at the hearing or any conditions will be a violation of the Land Use Regulations.”

For the last month, I have seen aggregate haulers going up and down U.S. Highway 285, from Fairplay, going north and south through the county.

During the week of Sept. 3-9, I have seen DG Coleman, CEI and FGW trucks coming out of Park County before 7 a.m. Twice during that week, I wrote down the times that I saw two of the haulers. I saw both of them in Conifer traveling north on Highway 285. One passed me at 6:41 a.m. and the other went by at 6:52 a.m.

Those trucks were in Conifer before 7 a.m. What time in Fairplay did they start loading up and heading out? Calls to all three companies and High Speed were not returned. One of those companies must be hauling for High Speed.

In an email to county attorney Phillips, I wanted to know if hauling would be considered part of condition four’s wording “mining activity”?

His answer to The Flume was succinct; “In my view this would include trucking aggregate from the mine.”

So we are not even a month out from High Speed getting the zoning they wanted and legally promising to the terms imposed on that rezoning, and already appears that of one of those conditions being abused.

Will the “Gold Rush” people try to monitor High Speed and make sure that the company is offering the show a legally operated location to film?

I guess we will just have to wait. Maybe a walk of shame on Front Street would work out better?

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