13 May 2015: Mine’s closing provides opportunities

Mine’s closure provides opportunities

The situation was presented in the CCHS auditorium by Henderson Mine/Climax Molybdenum—officials, the Clear Creek Economic Development Corporation, and the county commissioners: Henderson will more than likely cease production after 2026.

“The Henderson deposit is well defined,” said Henderson Mine General Manager Stuart Teuscher. “It would be a gamble to think it could go past 2026.”

As a result, over 70 percent of the county’s tax base—its mother lode—will play out.  With that, large-scale mining will disappear from Clear Creek.  Sayonara mining.   As the delusional Jay Gatsby in “The Great Gatsby” doesn’t understand, you can’t repeat the past.

For many, change causes consternation; for others, it provides the opportunity for growth and refreshment.  When Henderson closes, an era will end and Clear Creek will need to go in a very different direction.  The good news is we have 10 years to get our act together, to be pro-active in envisioning the “New Clear Creek.”

Regarding that, what the presentation didn’t do was to present a solution.  That was pleasing in that it will allow—force—us, the good citizens of this beautiful community, to be energetic and creative in constructing the path towards our post-mining future based upon present trends and likely future realities.

The question is twofold: The larger about our countywide future including governmental funding to what we’re about; the specific focusing on the future of the Henderson property, above and below ground, both of which present opportunity.

Clear Creek County should consider entering formal negotiations for securing the Henderson complex.  It would be nice if Freeport-McMoRan, Henderson’s parent company, donated or sold it to the county for a buck.  Failing that, perhaps a deal could be struck by way of tax credits over the next 10 years.  Since it’s only a matter of time before the county has to wean itself off the nipple that has fed us quite well, especially over the past dozen years, it makes sense to start that process sooner…like now.

As for the surface, one audience member suggested developing a ski area there.  I thought, why not?  If the terrain would be conducive to alpine skiing and riding such as Loveland, then a destination type resort might be an option.  If it isn’t, perhaps an area dedicated to Nordic skiing such as Devil’s Thumb in Grand County.

The county could own it much like how Denver owns Winter Park but contracts with a private firm, in that case Intrawest, to manage and develop it.  It would be another great example of the private-public partnership—3P—so much in vogue.

A suggestion for its name:  “James Peak Recreation Area.”

In the summer, mountain hiking and biking would certainly be desirable options beginning with a bike path along the West Fork of the Clear Creek

As for the mine itself, I wonder if there might be a future for a DUSEL: Deep Underground Science and Engineering Laboratory.  The idea for utilizing Henderson as one collapsed some years ago when the Bush administration awarded it to South Dakota’s inferior Homestake Mine to bolster the chances of then senatorial candidate John Thune.  Nevertheless, scientific and technological needs continue to evolve.

There’s also the potential of a mining museum reached by an elevator that descends thousands of feet.  If all else fails, it could serve as a long-term rentals for troglodytes and survivalists.

Because Coloradans value fitness, outdoor recreation activities will continue to grow.  It’s a primary reason people and businesses relocate here.  For Front Range residents, the I-70 Corridor will remain the first option to access the high country.  No matter how miserable the commute, people, in state and out, will keep coming.

Coupling that with our understanding there will never be an on-ground solution to the traffic nightmare, Henderson’s closing, and thus availability, provides Clear Creek the opportunity to rebrand itself, from a corridor passageway to end-point destination.

Why deal with the nightmare of I-70 beyond Empire Junction when a family can scoot off onto U.S. 40?  Why brave Berthoud Pass when one can pull off U.S. 40 in Berthoud Falls and find a quality outdoor experience a mile or two up the road?

Imagine the opportunity for Empire to grow as a residential and business center.

Our challenge is to envision and then create a post-Henderson, highly educated, high tech, environmental friendly, entrepreneurial middle-class and working-class friendly community.

We once called it the American Dream.

To be continued.

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