Town, resort seek to finalize conditions for approval of summer operations of BreckConnect Gondola; resort wants measurable results and a cap on costs
By Bob Berwyn
SUMMIT COUNTY — The town council and Breckenridge Ski Resort this week will try to nail down final conditions for operating the BreckConnect Gondola this summer. The discussion is scheduled for sometime between 3:45 and 4:30 p.m. at the council’s June 8 work session.
At issue is the monitoring of potential impacts to breeding and nesting birds, as well as other wildlife, in the sensitive wetlands nature preserve. The resort plans to operate the gondola from July 1 through Labor Day to transport passengers between the town and the Peak 8 base area.
A biologist who has been monitoring wildlife in the wetlands for several years has expressed concern that the gondola operations might affect the way animals use the area — especially during early morning and evening hours, when animals are most active.
Together with other activities in and around Cucumber Gulch, those impacts might have significant impacts on the area, said Christy Carello, advocating for more monitoring and limited hours of operation. The studies of the past few years have resulted in a good amount of baseline data on bird activity, as well as the habits of calving moose and other animals in the area.
Both the town council and the open space advisory group have previously discussed the summer operations plan, calling for a careful study of the impacts. In an April 27 letter to the resort, the town spelled out 11 conditions for summer operations, including a requirement that the resort pays half the cost of a new trail between the town and the Peak 7 and Peak 8 base areas to replace the existing Four O’Clock trail.
Most importantly, the town wants to pin down what, if any, impacts the gondola has on the wildlife sanctuary. Based on the letter, the town is asking the resort to provide adequate information about the gondola operation to the environmental consultant. If any of that that is considered proprietary by the resort, the town will treat it as “confidential commercial information” under the Colorado Open Record Act.
The resort is to pay for the studies, with an opportunity to review and comment on the monitoring plan.
Breckenridge Ski Resort chief operating officer Pat Campbell replied to the conditions in a May 27 letter, asking for some additional clarification on several of the conditions, including a cap on the cost of the study.
Specifically, Campbell said the resort wants some say in deciding who will evaluate the results of the monitoring. And the resort also wants to see the study plan spell out success criteria, baseline analysis, and other criteria for isolating the impacts of summer Gondola operation.
“With these clarifications, BSR could justify paying the expenses of additional monitoring for this season. We would feel more comfortable that the results of any additional monitoring would be focused on actual impacts of Gondola operation and not influenced by the myriad other activities that impact Cucumber Gulch,” Campbell wrote, explaining that it’s important for the ski area to determine the impacts of the gondola alone, separate from hiking and biking in the area, as well as impacts from the original construction of the Gondola or new construction on private lands around Cucmber Gulch.
“Given the Council’s approval of summer gondola operations and the broad community support, it is important to both BSR and to the community that the impacts of summer Gondola operation be properly analyzed so that we are neither unduly increasing the burdens on the Gulch or needlessly eliminating a valuable summer amenity for the community,” Campbell concluded.
Read both letters starting on page 43 of the town council packet, available here at the town’s website.
Filed under: biodiversity, Environment, Ski Resorts, Summit County Colorado, wetlands, wildlife Tagged: | Breckenridge, Breckenridge news, Breckenridge ski resort, conservation, Cucumber Gulch, Environment, Summit County, Summit County Colorado, Summit County News, wetlands, wildlife