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Grand Lake residents don’t want wood burner in their neighborhood

Tonya Bina
Sky-Hi Daily News
Tonya Bina/Sky-Hi Daily News
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Residents worried about smoke, fire and traffic told Grand Lake trustees that a wood-slash incinerator would not be welcomed near their neighborhood.

In an effort to dispose of slash rendered from a massive 6,000-tree cut in the upcoming spring and summer within town limits, Grand Lake arranged with Rocky Mountain National Park to borrow its newly purchased air-curtain burner, an oversized Dumpster-like machine that can burn an average 10 tons of wood per day and leave only a small amount of ash.

Only two other air-curtain burners exist in the Grand County region, one at the Ranch Creek Ranch operation and another with the town of Winter Park.

Bids Grand Lake received for its major tree removal project factored in the use of the air-curtain burner and the short distance anticipated for hauling slash.

Originally, the town thought it would locate the burner on town property near the North Inlet boat launch.

The town acquired bids for $29 per tree east of Tonahutu River, $28.50 in the main section of town, and $46.50 on Woodpecker Hill and Mary Drive.

For a project last summer, without the short distance, the bid was $64 a tree.

With the $250,000 budgeted this year for the project, Grand Lake will be able to cut down every infected tree 4 inches in diameter or more. Without the ability to haul trees a short distance, the town could do only half that, said Town Manager Shane Hale; plus, the burner disposes of wood that if chipped, otherwise remains as fire fuels, he said.

But the park’s window to loan the burner to Grand Lake was narrowed to a few weeks in June just when Grand Lake’s tourist season ramps up. At that time, the inlet is clogged with visitors launching boats and parking trailers.

So Grand Lake searched for an alternative, honing in on old dump property owned by the Grand Lake Metropolitan Recreation District.

A lease agreement between the town and district, which the town approved, was on the town’s boardroom table Monday.

Neighbors to the property who caught wind of the proposal the previous day attended the meeting and told trustees that they were not impressed with Grand Lake’s solution to its slash removal problem.

“This incinerator smoke, where is it going?” concerned citizen Maureen Peper asked trustees. Peper lives on County Road 466 and, like other neighbors, fears that fire could easily start during the area’s burn-ban season.

Forested lands are not too distant from the location of the burner.

Trustees told her the air curtain burner burns cleanly, and a fire attendant would be on site during all times of operation. Grand Lake Fire District Chief Mike Long would not only be on speed dial, but promised to visit the site frequently. The site was chosen with the direction of prevailing winds in mind.

Mike Jolovich of Ranch Creek Ranch outside Granby confirmed that after the machine gets going, which takes about an hour, smoke is barely visible. Smoke does rise again when the box is filled with new slash ” especially green slash ” but compared to a burn pile on the ground, the burner releases far fewer particulates into the air.

Jolovich paid $100,000 for his 12-foot-deep, 10-foot wide, 22-foot long air curtain destructor three years ago. Ranch Creek’s burn box is the only commercially operated one in the county, where loggers dropping off slash pay around $6.50 per cubic yard.

At 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit when its running especially hot, his air curtain destroyer can burn 7,000 pounds of slash, or two semi-loads, in a single hour.

Jolovich’s maintenance employee Pete Patterson described how snow melts with 20 feet of the machine during full operation.

Many precautions would have to be taken before the burner could be used during summer, Jolovich said. The last three years, the pole yard owner has avoided the risk by running the burner only in winter.

Steve Boyle, another County Road 466 neighboring resident, warned the town about putting economics before safety and environmental concerns.

He cited the lengthy certificate of recommendation the county authored, which cites a long list of criteria and conditions Jolovich met before he was granted his permits.

“We at 466 think of the old dump as a wildlife habitat and wildlife viewing area,” said concerned neighbor Herd Clark in the defense of trees showing new growth on property once the home of solid waste.

The machinery that will be used to feed the burner would destroy that new growth, said another neighbor Ray Phillips, as well as create a noise disturbance.

And Joan Boyle brought up the risk of residue from the burner operation running into possible wetlands.

Town Manager Hale assured the group that no wetlands exist on the upper portion of dump-site property where the burn box would be located.

All the neighbors objected to the truck traffic that would come along with the project on a muddy then “washboard” 466 Road already too busy during summer months.

The Grand Lake Town Board instructed Hale to warn those contracted to remove trees and slash to drive at extremely slow speeds.

Rocky Mountain National Park, The U.S. Forest Service, Colorado State Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the fire district, recreation district and the county have all been involved in the decision to use the burner where proposed, Hale told neighbors.

After concerns were aired and points addressed, surprisingly, neighbors then took a different tack.

“Since this will be in our neighborhood, maybe we should be able to haul our slash there too,” they said.

” Tonya Bina can be reached at 887-3334 ext. 19603 or e-mail tbina@grandcountynews.com.


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