Beetle-kill log operation going under in Summit County |

Beetle-kill log operation going under in Summit County

Bob Berwyn
Summit County, CO Colorado
Bob Berwyn/Summit Daily NewsGene (left) and Matt Dayton stand in front of a pile of spruce and lodgepole logs cut from the gondola pathway at Breckenridge Ski Area. The Daytons have been lathing the logs at the Summit County landfill for use in log-home construction

SUMMIT COUNTY, Colorado ” Economic storms buffeting the home-building industry have hit a local lathing operation that was turning dead trees into construction-ready logs.

Gene Dayton, operator of the Frisco and Breckenridge Nordic centers, was using a high-tech lathe designed in Finland to convert beetle-killed lodgepole pines into finished logs.

“We had a buyer for every log we could turn. But when the bottom fell out last October, there was no more market,” Dayton said.

Dayton has been leasing land at the Summit County landfill for his facility. But county officials recently told him they need the space for other purposes and that he must vacate his spot at the landfill by June 1.

“It is what it is,” Dayton said.

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Given the lack of space at the landfill, Dayton isn’t sure if he’ll be able to continue his lathing operation locally. He is looking to sell the machinery, and more importantly, about 2,000 stockpiled logs.

Dayton said he had a prospective buyer who was planning on building log homes in Leadville. But now he is looking to sell his supply at half price to anyone interested.

“We’re offering buildings to non-profits, provided we have what they want,” Dayton said, expressing regret that he’s losing his space at the peak of the beetle epidemic.

Local officials have been struggling to find economically viable uses for the dead trees as an alternative to chipping them and piling them into the landfill. A small percentage is being turned into compost locally, while a pellet fuel plant near Kremmling is turning some of the wood into fuel for woodstoves.

“The problem was, there was just no wood going out the door,” said assistant county manager Thad Noll. “The idea was to prevent the wood from being chipped, but it just wasn’t happening. They’re using a lot of acreage for no real benefit, and we need the space for a new cell,” Noll said.

At least some of the logs may end up in Dumont, along I-70, where Jeremiah Johnson Log Homes is doing its best to convert some of the beetle-killed trees into useful products.

Owner Dennis Anderson was checking out the Dayton’s stockpile Wednesday afternoon, and said his company is currently using beetle-killed lodgepoles from Summit County to build homes at Quandary Village and around Green Mountain Reservoir.

Bob Berwyn can be reached at (970) 331-5996, or at

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