Black Forest residents upset over disruption of road construction

August 30, 2013 Updated: August 30, 2013 at 7:25 pm
photo - Traffic navigates the road construction at Black Forest  and Burgess roads Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2013. The expansion of the intersection is scheduled to be finished by the end of October. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)
Traffic navigates the road construction at Black Forest and Burgess roads Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2013. The expansion of the intersection is scheduled to be finished by the end of October. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock) 

First the fire. Then the floods.

Now construction.

Businesses at the intersection of Black Forest and Burgess roads can't catch a break.

Since construction started on a long-planned Black Forest Road project about a month ago, business has been down an average of 30 percent, said Ryan Wanner, owner and roastmaster at R&R Coffee Cafe.

Some days, he's lost as much as half of his business.

"It's definitely dipped because of the construction," Wanner said.

Complaints to the county have had some results.

Wanner said County Commissioner Darryl Glenn will hold informal community meetings in his restaurant weekly. Black Forest is part of Glenn's commissioner district.

And businesses impacted by the construction can attend Tuesday contractor meetings in a nearby construction trailer to get work schedule updates. The project should be completed in October.

But the overriding question for Wanner and others is why the county chose to proceed with the project so soon after a wildfire in June destroyed 486 homes and killed two residents.

In the aftermath, flooding has rolled through the area because of the fire's burn scar.

"Personally, I don't know why the county went ahead with the project, knowing everything that happened out here," Wanner said.

The fire hurt his business, too.

R&R serves breakfast, lunch and specialty coffees, and Wanner had planned to add dinner.

"The fire forced me not to bring out dinner in July," he said. "So I am planning dinners in mid-September."

On Wednesday, R&R was jammed.

Wanner said he was happily surprised by the turnout - his best day in weeks.

Customers were coming in despite the row of orange cones on Black Forest Road in front of the restaurant.

But they were not happy.

"It's ridiculous," said Sarah Dumler, a Black Forest resident who was having coffee. "We are so mad about this."

What residents found particularly peeving was that the construction continued during the Black Forest Festival on Aug. 17.

The festival - an annual event - was held this year in honor of the first responders who battled the Black Forest blaze.

One shuttle bus was delayed a half hour, Wanner said.

Long-time Black Forest resident Chuck Lidderdale has been in the forefront of efforts to get the construction problems resolved.

Construction at the intersection during the festival extended "all four ways," he said. "They stopped traffic from five minutes to 20 minutes. There were hundreds of people trying to get through the intersection to get to the festival and here's the flagman out there telling them to stop."

Traffic at the intersection is at times so backed up that "people get out of their cars and stand around and watch," Lidderdale said.

The project, said Glenn, which includes the addition of turning lanes, has been in the works for a few years.

"It was going on before the fire," he said. "It was approved awhile back and was on the list to be improved even before I took office."

Still, he added, "it was unfortunate timing that we had the construction occur during the festival, but I think the contractor is trying to do his best to get the process over so life can return to more of a sense of normalcy out there."

The community meetings start at 2 p.m. Sept. 6.

Glenn said he's learned that businesses in the Black Forest area are hubs for community information.

"The main thing is that we are well aware that it's not a popular project out in the forest," he said. "What I'm trying to do is ease the tension and recovery process. We're going to sit down, have a cup of coffee, have a really relaxed conversation."

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