Backcountry dwellers face eviction
SUMMIT COUNTY – An open space plan to buy 1,840 acres in the Golden Horseshoe area from B&B Mines is forcing a number of backcountry cabin dwellers from their homes and lifestyles.The Breckenridge and Summit County open space programs are expected to close on the $9 million-plus purchase by June 2004.Open Space is not supposed to have people living on; eviction notices, therefore, have gone out.East of Tiger Road, past multi-million-dollar homes lining the golf course, surrounded by national forest and expansive mountain views, are the once abandoned cabins where miners dwelled. For the past two or three decades these cabins have been the homes of a special breed of families.Approaching the dirt and gravel-strewn thoroughfare, with mountains of dredged up river rock obliterating the view of the peaks beyond, there is a fork in the road, where a right turn takes you into the rutted entry of Good Times Inc.The enterprise is a well-known tourist attraction where visitors can sign up for dog-sled trips, snowmobile adventures and horse-drawn sleigh rides through pristine meadows and breathtaking countryside.It is here that manager John Paiement and his son Orion keep track of the almost 90 sled dogs and maintain the sleighs. It is a thriving business, generating tax dollars for the community as well as repeat visits by the much coveted tourists that want to experience the mountain life as it once was.The Paiements have lived in this area for almost 30 years. Son Orion graduated from Summit High School and is closing in on his degree in finance at Colorado State University.Freedom ringsOther families also live in the area, all with jobs, several with children. The distinguishing fact is that they live in some of the very same cabins that were here long before skiing became an industry and a vacation home market sprang up around.The spirited Paiements live in their pioneer-like settings because they choose to. It is a way of life that is harsh and reflects a long ago and faraway time. None have indoor plumbing, some are without electricity, most heat with wood and use a generator for power.Some are without phones. It is clear they wouldn’t want it any other way.”I’m still here because I love it here. I’d be sad to see it go. I grew up using a snowmobile to get in and out,” Orion Paiement, said.”It’s more work as a lifestyle, but the freedom you get in return is pretty neat – well worth it,” he said. “We are all hard working people. What I’m upset about is not so much that we’re getting kicked out; we hadn’t gotten any word as to what was going on. I had to research it to find out.”John Paiement has been here since 1978.”The place was a mess when I got up here. We cleaned it up, hauled out abandoned cars, scrap, and mining equipment lying around,” he said. “I’ve been here 25 years. We’re willing to pay more rent to B&B and help maintain the area.””You have to respect property rights,” Orion added, “but the profound irony is that you’re being evicted from your home by your own tax dollars that (the town and county) turn around and make a profit on.”He and his father said B&B had been good to them and they don’t want to offend the soon-to-be old property owner. At the least, they said, they want to be informed about what’s going on.”I provide eight to 10 jobs and upwards of 15,000 to 20,000 tourists come through here every year,” John Paiement said.Bulldozers loomGood Times is a private business and will not be affected by the sale. The Paiements, however, live in a cabin down the road and will be evicted by June; their home bulldozed.Others to be affected include Jeremy, a carpenter and Megan, his wife, a seamstress. The couple has an infant.John is a tile setter. Patrick is a ski instructor, a musician with a master’s degree and a part-time teacher.”I guess what we’re trying to say,” John Paiement said, “is we’ve spent a lot of work, and pain, and tears here, and don’t want to leave if there’s anyway (not to).”At a recent meeting of the Open Space Advisory Council, several of the residents came out to plead their case. Council chairman Scott Hummer agreed to a meeting in early December to hear a plan devised by the tenants.Although it would seem that the sale of the parcel by B&B Mining would negate any chance for the families to remain, the tenants expressed a willingness to maintain trails and the surrounding area in exchange for the ability to stay put.However, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulations regarding open space and land that is occupied might render their proposition moot.County could get $500,000 for B&B landBy Jane StebbinsSUMMIT COUNTY – Officials from Great Outdoors Colorado, also known as GOCO, have recommended funding a $500,000 grant to help the county and town of Breckenridge acquire part of the 1,840-acre B&B Mines property.GOCO grants money for open space, parks and other related amenities. It is funded by state lottery revenue.The money will go toward the purchase of the land in the so-called Golden Horseshoe, which extends in a horseshoe shape from the Swan River Basin to French Gulch. The county and town hope to close on the deal June 1, 2004.The two entities have been working for more than two years to obtain the land to protect its open space values.They also are evaluating parcels on the land that might be able to be sold to offset the purchase price.Some of the work has involved identifying potential environmental liabilities that remain from the days when the area was extensively mined. The property is under contract for $9 million, a figure that will be raised by the amount of the cleanup costs.County and town officials have been working on other elements of the project, as well, including how to continue allowing existing operations on the parcel and how to deal with people who live in cabins on the land.Open Space Advisory Council members have said they are willing to meet with the residents, the Board of County Commissioners and town officials to determine if those people might be able to stay.However, local guidelines allow residential uses on open space lands. And Environmental Protection Agency clean-up standards could be much different if the land were to be used for residential purposes rather than open space.Tenants have received unofficial notice to vacate by May 31, 2004, and will receive official notification Jan. 1.Residents said they are willing to work with the county, perhaps by volunteering to help with cleanup. Primarily, they were hoping for a slower transition in the sale.