A local concrete company on Wednesday made a renewed push to garner support for a controversial project, unveiling plans for a "world class bike park" in one part of the foothills while asking for a new mine in another.
Transit Mix Concrete said in a news release the park might eventually be built on the Pikeview Quarry property, a massive scar on a rugged patch of northwest Colorado Springs -- but only if the company can get permits from the state and the county to mine part of the Hitch Rack Ranch south of the city.
Dozens of area residents and organizations have opposed the company's plans to build the second quarry off of Colorado 115 near Little Turkey Creek Road, citing concerns that the project could threaten the area's water supply and wildlife.
The company, which owns Pikeview, has said that if it's able to build the new mine, it will close the existing one and finish reclamation nearly 20 years ahead of schedule.
Transit Mix upped the ante on Wednesday, saying it would make the Pikeview property "available for transfer to the city at a discounted rate" if it gets those permits. The company, a subsidiary of Chicago-based Continental Materials Corp., also released renderings of the vast network of trails that could one day cover the Pikeview site.
Proposed amenities at the park include mountain, downhill and slopestyle tracks, a BMX and pump track, a youth learning area, flow trails, a cyclocross course and a bike polo field. The trail networks also could be used for organized events, and Transit Mix's existing maintenance shop would offer space for a small events center or coffee shop, company spokesman Daniel Cole said in a news release.
The space is ideal for a bike park, Cole said in the press release. The property's nearly 900 feet of elevation change "would allow for longer, steeper and more challenging trails." Rocks from the site could also become technical features for cyclists to maneuver, and trails on the parcel could be connected to others in the Pike National Forest and Rampart Range area, as well as the Foothills Trail near the entrance to Pikeview.
However, crucial details - including who would pay for the park - have yet to be worked out.
Still, the pitch for the bike park sparked early excitement among members of the cycling community, including representatives from USA Cycling.
"The mountain bike park envisioned for Pikeview would be a tremendous amenity in any community but especially valuable here in Colorado Springs, where America's Olympic athletes could train on it," Marc Gullickson, USA Cycling's mountain bike program director, said in a statement.
Quarry opponents have dismissed the proposal as a Transit Mix "PR stunt" serving up a pie-in-the-sky promise to divert attention from arguments against the new mine.
"They're dangling this shiny object - a new bike park - just to distract from the issues surrounding the controversial Hitch Rack Quarry location," said Kristan Rigdon, an organizer with a group of residents that opposes the quarry. "It's almost like a bribe. 'We're only going to do this if you give us that.'"
The announcement came just a few weeks before public support for the Hitch Rack Ranch project will be put to the test. The state's Mined Land Reclamation Board is scheduled to decide on the company's second application for a mining permit after a hearing April 25-26. That board denied the company's first application at the end of 2016 for many of the same reasons that others have objected to the project - including concerns that the quarry could disturb the delicate network of underground cracks and fissures that holds the area's water supply. There also are fears it could imperil a valuable wildlife corridor, including habitat for the threatened Mexican spotted owl.
The company has said it has addressed residents' concerns about its initial proposal to mine the Hitch Rack Ranch property by reducing the size of the quarry from 400 acres to about 240 acres, only about 130 of which would be mined. Unlike the original site, which would have included areas north and south of Little Turkey Creek Road, the revised site would be entirely south of the road. The company would also build its own road to the quarry from Colorado 115 instead of using Little Turkey Creek Road, which would still have to be shut down temporarily during blasts.
In an April 3 letter, Colorado's Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety recommended that the state mining board approve the company's second application. The division also recommended approval of the company's first application.
If Transit Mix doesn't get approval for the Hitch Rack Ranch project, operations at the Pikeview Quarry would likely continue for 10 more years before a final seven-year reclamation period began, company President Jerry Schnabel said.
Schnabel said Transit Mix has been working for years to find a "more suitable location" for Transit Mix's quarry operations - and a bike park is part of a community-minded solution.
The company had originally planned to offer up part of the Pikeview property to a developer to build a subdivision, and the city came forward with the bike park idea several years ago, he said.
Whether the city is committed to realizing the vision of the park remains unclear. The Pikeview land was one of several potential sites identified for such a park in a city master plan, said Colorado Springs spokeswoman Jamie Fabos. The city's Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Department "has expressed an interested in repurposing that land if and when it becomes available," Fabos said in an email
She declined to say definitively if the city would purchase the property from Transit Mix, specify whether the city would pay for the park's construction or provide any further details.
If Transit Mix acquires the permits for the Hitch Rack Ranch quarry, the company would spend about two years moving dirt on the Pikeview property as part of the reclamation process and another five years planting vegetation and waiting for the plants' roots to take hold before all of the land was available to the city, Schnabel said. But if the company gets the necessary approvals, the city would likely have the opportunity to immediately acquire some unmined parts of the roughly 250-acre parcel, which includes about 100 acres of buffer zone property.
While reclaiming the mined property, the company has agreed to help with the construction of the park by carving the land in a way that prepares it for detailed trail work.
The city used about $4,000 to $5,000 donated by Transit Mix to hire bike park design firm FlowRide Concepts to produce the renderings, Schnabel said.
The renderings were designed to provide a conceptual vision of the "look and feel" of the park, not detail a technical design, said Shea Ferrell, founder of the Denver-based firm.
It's unclear if any efforts have been made to study the feasibility of building the park on the hillside.
The Pikeview Quarry, built in the early 1900s, fell under scrutiny in 2008 and 2009 when a pair of rockslides sent an estimated 3 million tons of rock crashing down on the quarry walls. The facility closed for several years while geologists and engineers analyzed the mine and Transit Mix submitted a plan for safely resuming its work.
Since the quarry reopened, Transit Mix crews have moved about 3 million tons of materials from the path of the landslide and completed reclamation work, Schnabel said. The company has also worked with an engineering firm to make sure the land could be safely reclaimed, he said.
The cost of maintaining the park could be another hurdle, said Cory Sutela, board president of Medicine Wheel Trail Advocates who's worked with the city on the proposal.
"Right now, we don't have a mechanism to maintain the park," said Sutela, whose organization represents mountain bikers in the Pikes Peak region. "So that's a non-trivial detail that we'll still be working out."
The park could serve as a community center for cyclists of all ability levels, he said. It might also become a venue for riders with electric motor-powered bikes, or e-bikes, that are prohibited on other singletrack trails in the area, he added.
"We are over the moon," Sutela said.
Contact Rachel Riley: 636-0108