Heeney residents, county gov’t raise concerns over Green Mountain Reservoir projects
summit daily news
HEENEY – White River National Forest supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams thought he had come up with what is often referred to in politics as a “win-win.”
The federal government has allocated almost $1.5 million in Recovery Act funds to recreation improvements at Green Mountain Reservoir, at the north end of Summit County. The money would create job opportunities locally in a still-struggling economy, the Forest Service would be better able to protect and manage the natural resources in the area, and campers would benefit from spiffed-up amenities.
Not so fast, say Summit County government officials and residents of Heeney, the tiny town tucked into the slopes flanking the west side of the reservoir.
To Fitzwilliams’s surprise, the proposed facilities and campground improvements were cause for controversy – not celebration – for many who have worked to maintain a rural character and livelihood in the Lower Blue River Valley for generations. Of particular concern is the proposed construction of a marina at the Cow Creek South Campground. The proposal includes a three-lane boat launch, a small marina shop, a parking area, a dock, a launching/staging area and a long-term boat storage area, all on the opposite side of the reservoir from Heeney Marina.
Summit County government has spent millions of dollars on open-space acquisitions designed to preserve the area’s habitat and outstanding scenic values. Many Heeney residents fear the relocation of the marina to the eastern side of the reservoir could cripple the town’s small businesses that depend on boater activity.
Many have expressed alarm over proposed above-ground power lines – a sentiment Fitzwilliams said he has heard “loud and clear.” Fitzwilliams also emphasized that he will take all public comment into account and that “the decision is not made.”
According to the Forest Service, recent increases in conflicts among user groups and uses have necessitated improvements in the area, which is home to six rustic campgrounds and two boat launches, one at McDonald Flats and another at Heeney Marina. The McDonald Flats launch is only usable at high water levels; the Heeney Marina cannot accommodate large boats or vehicles, and it has only enough rental slips to meet half the existing demand.
The Forest Service contends that a new launch facility and marina with a longer operating season is needed to allow for inspections for invasive species like zebra mussels more efficiently and accommodate boater demand in an organized manner.
The Forest Service says it runs the facilities at Green Mountain Reservoir at an annual deficit of about $30,000. Also, unregulated camping, off-road vehicle use and human waste have caused “unacceptable resource damage.” Officials say improved campground amenities – such as potable water supplies, electrical hook-ups and RV dump stations – would increase campers’ length of stays, thereby generating more income. Currently, there is no potable water supply or dump station within 20 miles of the reservoir. Improved sites for campground hosts would curb bad behavior and allow for improved enforcement of campground regulations.
The Forest Service’s description and analysis of the Green Mountain Reservoir project can be found at http://www.fs.fed.us/r2/whiteriver/projects/#nepaprojects.
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Julie Sutor can be reached at (970) 668-4630 or email@example.com.
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