Tire pile in Oak Creek Canyon elicits environmental complaints


— A pile of tires along Colorado Highway 131 between Oak Creek and Steamboat Springs has elicited from a South Routt resident complaints that now are working their way back up to the state level.

For decades, Routt County had been involved in a dispute with Tom Cole about a junkyard that sat on 1.5 acres along Routt County Road 7 on the way to the Flat Tops Wilderness Area.

Among other things, the junkyard held thousands of old tires.

In August, Noreen Moore bought from Cole the property and the cottage that was built in 1935, and she has been working to clean the area.

Saw Wisecup was hired by Moore to cut the tires and haul them to the landfill in Milner.

Whole tires can’t be dumped at the landfill because they will rise to the top if buried, according to Mike Zopf, director of Environmental Health for Routt County.

Wisecup has been bringing some of the tires from the junkyard Moore purchased to a piece of land near the creek in Oak Creek Canyon that has been leased by Wisecup’s family member.

Maynard Short, a Phippsburg resident, has alerted the county and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to potential environmental risks from storing the tires so close to the creek.

On Thursday, Wisecup said he had not been contacted about the complaints.

Bringing the tires to the spot in Oak Creek Canyon provides more space to cut them, he said, and is easier to access than the cluttered junkyard south of Yampa as well as being closer to his home.

Wisecup estimates he’s processed 5,000 tires. Cutting thousands of tires took a toll on his shoulder, he said, but he was back at it early Thursday after taking some time to heal.

Moore said she had emailed the county to keep them informed of Wisecup's progress.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the potential hazards of storing tires near the creek include tire fires and providing a breeding ground for mosquitoes and rats, Zopf said.

Tire fires are hard to extinguish, Zopf said, and the emissions can be toxic. The water that can collect in tires during the spring provides a breeding ground for mosquitoes, which can carry diseases, he said.

Zopf also said a 2011 regulation requires people transporting 10 or more waste tires at a time to register with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

Routt County Commissioner Doug Monger said multiple county departments including legal staff are aware of the situation and working to remedy it. The county also alerted the state health department. However, the county doesn’t want to throw a wrench into the process of disposing of the tires that have been part of an ongoing issue since the 1970s, Monger said.

“We’re very aware and trying to see what we could do,” he said.

“These tires have been around for 40 years,” Wisecup said. Instead of whining about the process to dispose of them, he said, the county and residents should find a way to make it easier to recycle tires.

Monger said the goal is to not have the problem tires simply moved from one location to another. Moore and Wisecup said there are no plans to store any tires at the location near the creek in the long term.

Wisecup said he should have all the tires processed in about a month, but if he is told to move the tires before then, he’ll probably build a fence with the tires somewhere else.

At the junkyard, Moore said, she will continue to clean the property, and Cole should be back during the summer to help.

Moore said she plans to remodel the cabin on the land that now sits as an island amid large ranch tracts.

“I’ve always wanted to live here,” she said about the spot on the edge of the Flat Tops' stunning scenery. “It’s like sacred ground for me.”

To reach Michael Schrantz, call 970-871-4206, email mschrantz@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @MLSchrantz

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Scott Wedel 3 years, 6 months ago

Saw Wisecup should be viewed as a hero for already processing 5,000 tires. That is an extremely impressive number of tires to have processed. This is an important cleanup.

The Town of Oak Creek has for many years kept a larger pile of tires as an apparently unused shooting range slightly further up in Oak Creek canyon. That tire pile has not been viewed as an unacceptable problem. But now Maynard Short considers a smaller tire pile to be a problem???

Why does Maynard Short want to add hurdles to processing tires? Does he want to preserve the tires on Cole's land? Or does he just see a chance to harass and annoy Saw?


Scott Wedel 3 years, 6 months ago

In Steamboat such a project would have been a huge project with lots of publicity with lots of supportive press. I dare this reporter to see how many tires he could process in a day before giving up.

But when it is done by an extremely hardworking person whom happens to be a member of the Wsiecup family then it generates complaints and becomes an environmental issue?

How about YVR and other local environmental groups and individuals environmentalists standing up and praising Noreen Moore for cleaning up this property and Saw's extremely hard work in processing tires?


maynard short 3 years, 5 months ago

Scott, you astonish me with your response to the article. Normally you would have developed a faux legalese argument that you have gleaned from late night Google searchees to attack any and all who write in the local paper. This time you have taken a compassionate viewpoint encompassing the great work ethic and sore shoulder of Saw Wisecup. In your Google search you would have found an entire literature as to the problems with storage of junk tires. Most of it would be associated with the mosquito freeding but also the leachates of complex organic molecules if the tires are in a floodplain like being next to Oak Creek. The spring runoff, which is likely acidic due to acid rain or acid snow in this area, would send this carboniferous goo down Oak Creek killing the acquatics along the way and eventually raising total havoc with the spawning beds for the trout that come up Oak Creek to build their Redds. Perhaps this toxic ooze could form some mutations and a decade or so develop a super predaor that would attack the Northern Pike that have pervasively taken over the waterways of Routt and Moffat ounties. A stupid mistake by a Government Agency. Maybe they could name this super marine predator after you, say the Wedel-Wisecup Fresh Water Barracuda. But I digress with wishful thinking. Back to the tires. Why not stand shoulder to sore shoulder with Saw Wisecup and offer your abandoned car wash as a storage location. You could ignore the din of the NIMBY crowd and put several hundred there. Finally you could stack hundreds around your Pot Gulch Rooming House. I can envision a three tier layer of tires completely around the house that would act as a thermal barrier to reduce your carbon footprint against burning fossil fuels. So follow the bumper sticker instruction ~ Question Authority.


Scott Wedel 3 years, 5 months ago


Are you claiming that Saw hasn't been processing tires by removing the sidewalls and then hauling them away for proper disposal? I have seen him do both so I know that is what he is doing.

You seriously think that rain and snow decomposes tires into goo? Yeah sure, your hatred for Saw runs so deep that you'll make something like that up?

Your post demonstrates the sort of hateful character that would make complaints about Noreen's and Saw's efforts to do the right thing.


Scott Wedel 3 years, 5 months ago

And the downside of placing hurdles in front of people doing the right thing is that then it scares off other people from trying.

The Town has for years had a big tire pile near their sewer plant as poorly designed shooting range on top of a knoll also in the canyon. Well, instead of Noreen and Saw being an example that tires can be cleaned up by locals in an affordable way, your complaints go to show that sort of project has to be done by high paid experts in every environmental law and permit. And so the Town of OC tire pile will remain.

Good job, Maynard, of being the sort of person that complicates and stops good people's efforts because, all of a sudden, you have become a huge fan of government regulations and making people follow them to the letter. It doesn't matter to you that they are following the intent of the law to clean up a blighted property.


john bailey 3 years, 5 months ago

boys , I think what we need here is some boxing gloves, i'll sell the tickets AND beer but somebody needs to supply the ring girls.....maybe from the big xitty.....~;0) and a HULA booth of course....


Dan Kuechenmeister 3 years, 5 months ago

Should we get the SEC involved? Does Jerry have inside information?


Scott Wedel 3 years, 5 months ago

Well, the State has contacted Saw and told him he is not allowed to move any more tires.

The state regulates the movement of waste tires so that unscrupulous people don't haul away tires and illegally dump them elsewhere. So a licensed tire hauler has to fill out forms saying how many tires were picked up and then how many were delivered to make sure none were illegally dumped. Which would be no problems for Saw, but they also require a $10,000 surety bond.

So now Noreen and Saw are shut down. The tire pile in the canyon is now under state order to remain.

So Maynard, what you say you are trying to prevent is what you have guaranteed will happen.

If I was Saw then I'd use my First Amendment rights and use some of the tires to make a sign/display stating "Maynard's Tire Pile".


john bailey 3 years, 5 months ago

well , are we gonna set a date for the big show down , come on we need some excitement around here.........HULA , get your HULA here.....


max huppert 3 years, 5 months ago

LJ is going to put a Octagon in the circle R ,, I will jack scott up on mountain dew and he will crush all who enter. Scott you should boil the tires down to make fuel.


john bailey 3 years, 5 months ago

now we're talking ,Max, but Dew ?, really , we're all adults here , how about something stronger ? and where can my HULA booth go? HAHA


Dan Kuechenmeister 3 years, 5 months ago

John, Maybe you can set up a temporary HULA booth in the dispensary next to Circle R.


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