The Solstice Trail in Salida, Co may be at Risk After a Proposed Mine Expansion

The Solstice trail in Salida is at risk of being decommissioned for a gravel mine expansion. Learn why, and find out how to submit comments to the BLM.
Photo courtesy of Greg Heil

A gravel mine expansion in Salida, Colorado may impact the newly built Solstice trail, a popular ride on Methodist Mountain in the small, high desert town.

Currently, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Royal Gorge Field Office is in their scoping process for the proposal, initiated by a request from the Hard Rock Paving & Redi-Mix Main Pit aggregate mine, also based in Salida. The paving company applied to expand their mine in order to increase aggregate gravel reserves, which can be used to produce asphalt and concrete, so they can mitigate any potential future supply interruptions.

The proposed expansion would add 50 acres to the company’s area, expanding the life of the mine by 40 years according to the BLM’s project page. If fully mined, the proposed area would eliminate almost all of the Solstice trail, built in 2019. The SMT says that the approval process for Solstice started in 2013 and was finally approved in 2017. Following that, SMT says they raised about $50,000 to build the trail and it has since become one of the most popular trails in Salida. Building mountain bike trails is far from cheap and often financed through grassroots efforts.

“It is inconceivable to approve a mining expansion that would destroy this trail that was fully approved by the BLM after years of formal BLM process, including an extensive environmental assessment and two rounds of public comments,” said the SMT in a press release.

Brian Sack, the manager of Hard Rock says that it isn’t their intention at all to destroy the trail however. We reached out to Hard Rock over the phone.

“We worked side by side with Salida Mountain Trails to decide our boundaries.” Sack says they worked with SMT to come up with the boundaries last year and was not aware that the proposed expansion would affect the trail.

SMT hasn’t yet responded to our inquiries. (Update: SMT chose not to comment on this story.) In their own press release, SMT didn’t mention that they had worked together with Hard Rock, just that they “urge the BLM to require that the expansion area NOT affect the Solstice Trail whatsoever.”

Stephanie Carter, a representative with the BLM clarified. She says that Hard Rock applied for an expansion in 2018, after the Solstice trail had been approved, but before it had been built, explaining that they had coordinated with the SMT for their boundaries.

“With regards to our process, we take in the application from Hard Rock. On that initial application, whatever changes they have based on discussions about the bike trail, any other alternatives that might come up through the scoping process, and then all of those alternatives or options get finalized in the environmental assessment.” The assessment will take place after the public scoping process.

After another round of public input on the draft environmental assessment and another analysis, the BLM will then make a decision. Although it seems like an easy choice to leave the Solstice trail in place, especially considering that the company who is applying for expansion says that they don’t want to touch it either, the BLM says that they aren’t sure yet what will happen.

“It’s too early to tell,” says Carter. Factors in the analysis like recreation, economic yield from both decisions, archeology and more will all come into play. Carter says she has received a lot of input so far though and acknowledges the working relationship between Hard Rock and SMT.

“I think everyone is trying to be a good neighbor in those coordination discussions. It’s not about that, it’s just typical of the BLM to take a look at public use and all the different interests and [see] how that looks and what the best way is to move forward.”

In the BLM’s press release they noted that “non-energy minerals on the BLM lands in Colorado generated approximately $194 million in economic output and supported 650 jobs.”

The best thing to do at the moment for anyone concerned about the trail, is to put comments forward to the BLM during their scoping process, via their website, or the project manager’s email, also listed on the project page. The comment period closes on September 30.