NOREEN: Plans for quarry still on hold

BARRY NOREEN Updated: January 8, 2013 at 12:00 am • Published: January 8, 2013

Reader Rodney Doan wanted to know “how much longer the granite mine/rock quarry will be allowed to further erode our view of the front range? It seems that they will be able to take the whole mountain face away and it is disappearing at an alarming rate.”

The deep gouge northwest of the city, the one that looks like a festering wound, the eyesore that lights up with every brilliant sunrise — that’s the Pikeview Quarry.

Pikeview’s pit got deeper as its hard rock bounty fueled Colorado Springs growth for more than 50 years. The rock has been used for roads, airport runways and decorative purposes in xeriscaping.

Nearing the end of its useful life, Pikeview serves as a constant reminder of progress and the cost of progress.

Quarries don’t look good, but the truth is that the Pikeview Quarry hasn’t grown in the past four years, since large landslides resulted in a cease-and-desist order from the Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety. The first landslide was triggered by a heavy December snowfall in 2008.

Any further operations at the quarry are on hold until state and federal agencies sign off on a new mining and reclamation plan that Castle Concrete has submitted for the site.

Part of the plan, for instance, contains provisions for a new way to drain water away, because the more water that enters the formation, the higher the risk of new landslides.

“We’ve got to go in and fix it,” said M.L. “Mac” Shafer, a company vice president. “We’ve got to get it stabilized.”

Shafer said the landslide continues in slow motion, because “the whole slide moves one-to-two-one-hundreths of an inch a day. This is one of the largest slides of this kind ever in the state.”

Castle Concrete opened the Queen’s Canyon Quarry — now seen as a long scar running down hill north of Garden of the Gods — in 1955. The quarry closed in 1989, but Castle had purchased the 190-acre Pikeview in 1969 and it became the biggest local producer of aggregate.

Castle also owns the still-active Black Canyon Quarry just west of Cedar Heights.

Because of landslides in December 2008 and September 2009, it’s unlikely the Pikeview Quarry will ever produce much rock again. Shafer said if Castle’s plans are approved, “between now and 2020, we’re thinking we’ll go back in and get that limestone out.”

That’s not bound to be a money-making proposition.

“There’s been a huge sucking sound, financially for us, with that quarry being down,” Shafer said.

“We’ll sell part of it and use the rest of it in the reclamation,” Shafer said of future limestone quarrying.

Residents near the Pikeview Quarry may have noticed some truckloads of rock coming down the road for a while. That’s because after the landslide the company still had some stockpiles that could be removed without increasing the risk of another slide.

But no new blasting has occurred for years. Thus the quarry is not producing revenue and is tangled in red tape.

“It’s been the bane of my existence for the past four years,” Shafer said half-jokingly.

Those who want to see the quarry disappear may be disappointed that it will remain, but it’s fair to note that the Pikeview Quarry pre-dated any of the homes built anywhere close to it.

For years, Shafer has attended meetings of the Colorado Mountain Reclamation Foundation, a local group created to guide the reclamation at Queen’s Canyon Quarry. He said he’ll meet with Mayor Steve Bach soon.

The Waldo Canyon fire swept up to the edges of the quarry, which served as a fire break between the fire and the Peregrine neighborhood. For some, that might be straining to find a silver lining, but truth is, Castle Concrete’s quarries have been and continue to be part of the community.

“Our president’s home was lost in the Waldo Canyon fire,” Shafer said. He noted that Pikeview Quarry recently has served as a staging area for fire reclamation efforts, as helicopters have picked up mulch and hay there to drop in the areas most prone to flash flooding.

Hear Barry Noreen on 
KRDO NewsRadio 105.5 FM and 1240 AM at 6:35 a.m. Fridays. Contact him at 636-0363 or 
barry.noreen@gazette.com.

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