[Author Prev][Author Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Author Index][Thread Index]
Pike's Peak paving plans (update)
Here's an article I clipped from this morning's paper:
(photo not included, scanner "scars" are :-)
The unpaved road to Pikes Peak is the center of a dispute between
environmentalists and road racers. A tourist recently stopped on
the gravel road.
The New York Times
Environmentalists back road paving to preserve a historic site.
Rain water draining off the Pikes Peak road has carved deep
Car Racers Fight for Gravel on Pikes Peak Road
By JAMES BROOKE
CASCADE, Col. - Hiking below
the spectacular Pikes Peak High-
way, Gail Snyder points out the be-
hind-the-scenes damage to the moun-
tain. For decades, rain water has
drained unchecked off the gravel
road leading to the 14,llOAoot sum-
mit, carving gullies deep enough to
swallow ponderosa pines whole.
"The forest floor is buried under
two to four feet of gravel," said Ms:
Snyder, a Sierra Club spokeswoman.
"Alpine ponds are filled with gravel,
wetlands are filled with gravel."
Calculating that the city of Cobra-
do Springs, the highway caretaker,
has dumped 1.5 million tons of gravel
on it over the last two decades to
maintain it, the Sierra Club is suing
the city, charging it with violating
the Clean Water Act. Because the
mountain is in a national forest, the
United States Forest Service has
also been named in the suit.
Ms. Snyder and many environmen-
talists want the road paved to help
control erosion. But asphalt would be
a sacrilege to auto racing fans and
drivers who gather here every
Fourth of July for a noisy, dusty day
of events billed as the Race to the
Clouds. ClImbing 12½ miles, twisting
around 156 turns and switchbacks,
the race course has challenged driv-
ers and mechanics since the first
checkered flag dropped in 1916.
"Gr~el always has helped level
the playing field," said Rod Millen, a
New Zealand driver who holds the
speed record for burning up the
mountain in 10 minutes and 4 sec-
onds. "In most races now, there is a
greater emphasis on the machine.
When you have to race on a loose
surface road) the emphasis shifts
from the machine to the driver's
skill. It would be great to keep that"
City officials say they intend to
pave the road and make needed re-
pairs related to it But the work could
drag on for more than a deCade, they
said, betause the city has classified
the highway as a Government enter-
prise that cannot receive local ta)r
money. It can receive Federal
grants, and Colorado members of
Congress are pushing for them.
It is not only race cars that travel
to the summit. The mountain is the
nation's most heavily visited high
peak. Last year, Pikes Peak drew
more than half a million visitors:
60,000 on foot, 200,000 on a cog rail-
road and 300,000 on the highway.
The highway starts at an altitude
of 7,400 feet, about 1,100 feet higher
than the summit of Mount Washing-
tan in New Hampshire, the highest
mountain in New England. In climat-
ic terms, the hourlong, 19-mile drive
from the start of the road to the
peak's summit is the equivalent of
driving 4,000 miles due north. Cars
climb from golden aspen groves and
mule deer meadows to rocky tundra.
Some tourists find the ascent, on
gravetwithout guardrails, so unnerv-
ing that Forest Service employees
have to drive their cars down the
mountain. But over all, tourist enthu-
siasm remains strong. Last May 1,
Colorado Springs increased the high-
way toll by two~thirds, to $10 for each
adult Despite the increase, the num-
ber of summer visitors grew by 4,000
over the summer of 1997.
"Pikes Peak, the mountain, is real-
ly the tourist anchor for the entire
region," said Kitty Clemens, director
of the regional tourism board, Pikes
Peak Country Attractions Associa-
tion. About 80 percent of the visitors
to the mountain highway are from
out of state.
But to keep the tourism dollars
and cars rolling, environmentalists
say, the highway's managers have
left Pikes Peak awash in gravel.
"There are live ponderosas falling
into gullies," Ms. Snyder said.
"There are beaver ponds filling with
gravel, there are trees with six to
seven Ceet of gravel around their
Noting; that the city had cut its
annual spread qf road gravel from
50,000 tons in the early 1990's to
about 20,900 this year, Ms. Snyder
said, "It's like going from 500 ciga-
rettes a d4y to 200 cigarettes a day."
while - highway may have been
state of the art when it opened in
1915, she said, it needs to undergo a
$15 million repair to sharply dimin-
ish erosion from runoff. Instead of
using old4ashioned "shotgun cul-
verts" to pipe water off mountain-
sides, Ms. Snyder said, the city
should install modern culverts, de-
signed to brake and dissipate water
draining off the road. Ponds should
be built to trap sedimeat, she said.
The Sierra Club said in its suit filed
in Federal District Court that if the
city did not adopt a binding timetable
to implement an acceptable remedi-
ation plan, the court should order the
Forest Service to suspend the city's
operating license for the highway.
"There have been reports coming
out since the 1950's saying, `You have
got a gravel problem; "said Michael
S. Freeman, the lawyer for Earthjus-
tice Legal Defense Fund Inc., which
filed the suit for the Sierra Club.
"The city ignored the problem for
decades. They ignored the Sierra
Club for decades, until we sued them..
They could make this lawsuit go
away tomorrow if they would make a
Race officials favor erosion con-
trols, but warn that paving would lull
tourists into driving dangetously
fast. Noting that the race is the Sec-
ond oldest car race in the nation%
after the Indianapolis 500, Bustet~
Cogswell, chairman of the Pit es
Peak International Hill Climb, said:
"There is a rich tradition and histo-
ry. It has been on gravel since 1916Y
Ms. Snyder retorts, "Pikes Peak is
not a theme park, nor a race trac~"
With the toll increase, the annual
gross revenue from tolls and conces-
sion sales should hit $2.5 million, said
Hans D. Schalk, the city's manager
of the highway. "This is a national
monument that has been neglected,"
Mr. Schalk said. "Congress could
come to the table with $5 million."
He said he planned to ask the City
Council for authorization to double
within two years the paved section of
the highway, to 14 miles. Then, offer-
ing music to environmentalists' ears)
Mr. Schaik asserted, "The future of
this highway is a paved highway."