The politically connected owner of a Glenwood Springs quarry wants a massive expansion. Residents are preparing for a fight.
GLENWOOD SPRINGS — The beeping trucks and growling earth movers echo across the canyon overlooking the Colorado River.
The Mid-Continent Quarry limestone miners blast cliff walls, crush and process debris into aggregate and truck it down into the valley, where a riverside tourist town bustles with shoppers, hot spring soakers and gondola riders.
Glenwood Springs’ mining and tourism businesses have worked well together since the early 1980s. But a politically connected new owner of the quarry this threatening that balance with plans to exponentially expand the operation. It’s a scenario playing out across the Western Slope as recreation and tourism rise as vital economic engines alongside the region’s traditional energy and mining industries.
In many places, the two different economies coexist and even complement each other. But in Glenwood Springs, a resort community of 10,000 that was one of Colorado’s first tourist destinations, the proposal to expand the small quarry above town into one of Colorado’s largest gravel pits is galvanizing vehement opposition.
Few communities celebrate gravel pits, even when the aggregate anchors community assets like a grand bridge over the river. Opposition to the quarry expansion plan in Glenwood Springs goes beyond NIMBY and environmental angst over trucks, trains and mountain-top scars. The owner of the mine has deep political connections and admits to an uncertain financial future, raising concerns over expedited approval for would be one of the largest gravel pits in the state.
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The acquisition extends a strategy of buying ski areas near big cities, with the hopes that local skiers will buy Epic Passes and visit the company’s owned and partner resorts across the country and world.