Residents get better idea of possible gravel pit

Tour provides information, dispels hearsay

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— Bill and Sonja Norris stepped over cowpies and hurdled ditches to stand in the middle of a field of dreams of sorts.

Several people from Oak Creek joined them on Tuesday afternoon as they trekked through a stretch of pasture south of Steamboat Springs on Colorado 131 to see where the valley's newest gravel pit might sit.

Routt County planning staffer John Eastman and Lafarge area manager Bruce Daniel directed the tour of the proposed site.

Eastman said the tour provided the South Routt representatives with a more visual understanding of a gravel pit that still remains in the very early stages of planning.

The public has always been invited to accompany county commissioners and planning commissioners on tours of the site, he said, but this particular tour was different because it served only residents.

"This is the first time we've had a group like this," Eastman said.

"I appreciate their interest in the gravel pit enough to want to see where it might be put."

Their visit to the proposed gravel pit site ensures they can better inform other South Routt residents about Lafarge's and the county's plans, he added.

Oak Creek Town Trustee Sonja Norris said she appreciated the honesty of their tour guides.

Eastman and Daniels addressed the group's concerns and answered all its questions, she said.

"They didn't hide anything," Norris said. "They were up front with everything."

As they walked through the field, Norris said she noticed all the homes above them that dot Rabbit Ears Pass.

Many homeowners might soon find a gravel pit in their backyard, she said, but balking at working with, rather than against, the pending development would cause only more contention.

"Standing there, I could better understand that the best way to get through this controversy will be a lot of learning to live with your neighbor," Norris said.

Her husband, Bill Norris, said he thought the tour provided the group with the information they were seeking.

Bill Norris, a member of the Routt County Planning Commission, said he was satisfied the tour helped the group to separate fact from fiction.

"It served to dissolve any hearsay that they might have heard," he said.

"They saw it for themselves and heard from the people who want to make it happen."

The Oak Creek Town Board wanted to give the county a unified stance on the More Pit proposal, Oak Creek Town Manager Ray Leibensperger said. The tour allowed them to put all the information they had received on the pit in perspective.

"We felt we should all make a consistent statement of how the town stands on this issue," Leibensperger said.

As growth spreads beyond the Steamboat area and affects South Routt, he said, everyone holds a stake in the availability of building materials.

South Routt residents cannot afford to dismiss the controversy over the proposed South Pit as a Steamboat issue, he added.

"It is an all of Routt County issue," he said. "We have roads down here that need asphalt and concrete. We don't want to be cut out of the loop."

The amount of oversight given to the project ensures that nothing will be done without prior consent, he said.

"Regulatory agencies have the ability to hold Lafarge to the fire," he said.

The group left with a positive impression of the project, but it was important to remember that no plans have been locked in yet, Leibensperger said.

Oak Creek Town Mayor Deb VanGundy said she respected Lafarge's willingness to work with the county to reach an acceptable plan of action that respected private concerns and the county's need for gravel.

"There's a lot of good give and take going on," she said.

Oak Creek planning board member Charlie Norris, and his wife, Mary Ruth, and Charlie Bevan also accompanied the group.

A continual South Routt presence in matters concerning the placement of a new pit will go a long way toward spreading awareness that Steamboat Springs is not the only growing community in the county in need of gravel, Bill Norris said.

"It's not just in their backyard," Norris said. "It's in ours, too."

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