The BLM public comment period is now open for the Environmental Assessment (EA) for the proposed Hard Rock Paving & Redi-Mix, Inc. mining expansion and comments must be submitted by August 14. Hard Rock operates a quarry just south of Salida city limits. The current mine footprint consists of both private and BLM land.
Operators have requested the BLM for approval to much more than double the size of their existing rock and gravel mining operation by an additional 62 acres on BLM land. If this expansion is approved as proposed, one of Salida’s most popular and heavily used multi-use non-motorized trails (The Solstice Trail) will, unfortunately, be included within the proposed expansion area and will have to be moved and/or compromised.
The BLM is currently seeking public input on the EA. For more information, the full EA, and how and to easily submit comments online, go to https://go.usa.gov/xf5TN then click “Documents” and also “Participate Now” on the left side of the page.
We urge everyone to provide comments no matter what your take is on this, as it affects our Salida community in a number of significant ways, and we do not see it as a binary choice.
We offer a brief summary below with our thoughts, but we urge you to read for yourself, make up your own minds, and make your voice heard. The BLM wants feedback on their three Alternatives as summarized below:
- “Alternative A – Operator Proposed Action” – Approve the Hard Rock request for the total 62 acres. This would mean destroying and rebuilding the top third of the Solstice Trail further east of its present location – at Hard Rock’s expense. Unfortunately, this will be difficult to do as much of this area is a large long wash. The remaining two thirds of the trail will have only a 30-foot buffer to the edge of mining operations. A rerouted trail will not maintain its existing character and will be significantly compromised.
- “Alternative B – No Bike Trail Disturbance” – This would be a 41 acre expansion and would not require redesigning or relocating the Solstice Trail. However, the expansion footprint would run parallel along the eastern edge of the entire existing trail – with only a 30-foot buffer to the edge of mining operations throughout the entire length of the trail. SMT feels this would be a supportable alternative if the buffer was increased to at least 200 feet, so that trail users are protected from the noise and dust associated with the mining operation.
- “Alternative C – Denial of Road Realignment and Expansion Proposal” – No expansion on BLM land and no impact on the Solstice Trail. The EA describes how this would affect Hard Rock, future operations, and economic concerns.
SMT feels that neither alternative A or B in their current forms are supportable options for our organization:
Alternative A – due to moving the trail eastward to a significantly inferior location along with a bare minimum 30-foot buffer for the remaining two-thirds of the trail.
Alternative B – due to the same bare minimum 30-foot buffer applied to the entire trail. If Alternative B had a larger buffer, we think this could be a win-win for the trail system, the community, and Hard Rock as well.
Because we do not know if modifications to the alternatives are possible, we cannot support Alternative B and will submit our organization’s comments in support of Alternative C along with our justification for not supporting Alternative B.
There is also obviously a major concern for the full expansion to the surrounding Salida community as this area has transformed over the years. Over the last twenty years, vacant land has become residential subdivisions and nearby public lands are being managed for recreation.
The EA analyses several environmental issues and effects associated with Alternative A and B that should be read/considered.
Solstice Trail background: The Solstice Trail is a BLM-approved non-motorized multi-use trail. SMT worked with the BLM over a four-year period to complete the required Environment Assessment process. Then it worked for two additional years in coordination with the BLM to plan the detailed trail route and fund/execute construction.
The trail as described in the BLM approval is a ‘flow’ trail that utilizes the very specific terrain which took volunteers hundreds of hours to design. In order to avoid just this sort of future conflict, SMT, BLM staff and Hard Rock representatives met to discuss future mine expansion plans.
During these meetings, there was a verbal agreement that our planned trail route/alignment would not overlap with their plans for expansion. SMT volunteers were grateful for their verbal agreement at that time and willingness to coordinate with us on this. They [Hard Rock] later changed their minds. The trail was completed as planned in June 2019 at a cost of approximately $60,000 (including all the volunteer hours and BLM staff time) and was funded utilizing a difficult-to-obtain State Trails Grant.
Bottom line, we ask each of you to spend the time to read through the EA (beginning page 10 – Proposed Actions and Alternatives), considering our thoughts, and submitting your comments as you see fit. These are your public lands and you do have a say. For more information on this, go to: www.salidamountaintrails.org
or to our Facebook page.
Salida Mountain Trails – Board of Directors