Beautiful but flawed, Colorado Springs has been Scarface since Pikeview Quarry opened near West Woodmen Road in 1905.
Enter Transit Mix Concrete Co. It inherited the scar on the mountain when it acquired the quarry from its previous owner. Today, Transit Mix offers the city a face-lift by moving quarry operations far out of town.
The Transit Mix proposal transforms the scar into a world-class mountain bike park and removes two ugly rock-crushing facilities from dense Colorado Springs neighborhoods that grew up around them. It presents once-in-a-lifetime benefits to more than half-a-million residents and countless visitors.
The proposal also closes a second quarry and repurposes it for public use. Heavy trucks spewing smoke and noise as they travel between those quarries and aggregate facilities go away. Because the state owns the mineral rights, public schools receive $750,000 in royalties per year without a tax increase. Aggregate costs remain low, making it affordable for the city to continue fixing roads.
It sounds too good to be true, but it's not. Colorado Springs stands to gain these benefits if government regulators allow Transit Mix to open a quarry on Hitch Rack Ranch 10 miles southwest of Colorado Springs.
The Gazette Editorial Board began researching this proposal almost two years ago. We met with representatives of both sides. We reviewed flat maps and three-dimensional models. We visited Hitch Rack Ranch, two quarries and the aggregate facilities.
After this due diligence and more, we strongly endorse the Transit Mix proposal as a win-win for our community. It will substantially enhance our quality of life.
Civilization requires roads and buildings. Roads and buildings require quarries and rock-crushing facilities, but they don't have to be across the street from children's playgrounds. When searching for its new quarry, Transit Mix examined 103 locations and found the perfect site in Hitch Rack Ranch.
It is perfect for a number of reasons. Trucks would access the site directly from the highway without touching a neighborhood road; the site is large enough to allow a buffer between the quarry and neighboring properties; and most importantly, ridges will hide the quarry from traffic, homes and public view.
Contrast that with Pikeview. More than 1,500 homes sit within a mile of the scar on the mountain, compared with only 13 within a mile of the proposed quarry at Hitch Rack. The scar is seen by hundreds of thousands of people every day, while the new quarry will be visible from only one of the 13 homes. Tens of thousands of interstate motorists pass by the Pikeview scar; Hitch Rack Ranch is on a private, gated, barely drivable road used by approximately four cars. As Colorado Springs City Council member Merv Bennett accurately said, "Hitch Rack Ranch is the single best location for a new quarry in El Paso County."
Council President Pro Tem Jill Gaebler, a majority of her colleagues, and half a dozen of El Paso County's state legislators also laud the proposal.
Its economic benefits are multiple. In addition to the quarry keeping concrete and aggregate costs competitive, cycling enthusiasts from across the country will pour money into our region's economy when they visit our world-class mountain bike park.
USA Cycling mountain bike program director Marc Gullickson calls the proposal a "game-changer" for America's Olympic athletes.
Aside from the extraordinary benefits to the nearly 700,000 residents of metropolitan Colorado Springs is the issue of private property. Hitch Rack Ranch belongs to a schoolteacher who is especially excited about the royalties this quarry will generate for the state's public education system. Ultrawealthy opponents of the quarry had the opportunity to buy the teacher's ranch and chose not to. Now they would like to control it for free. That's just wrong.
We see no downside and a mountain of upside to the Transit Mix proposal. We applaud those elected officials publicly supporting it despite opposition from a handful of self-interested neighbors. We hope government regulators see the enormous merits as well.