Researchers find POW camp sat in path of proposed Fraser Valley Parkway
As Grand County commissioners contemplate the next steps for the Fraser Valley Parkway, the archaeological significance of a World War II POW camp could block further pursuit of a project that has been decades in the making.
The county has spent years getting the necessary permitting to build the road running parallel to US Highway 40 from Tabernash to Winter Park, known as the Fraser Valley Parkway or County Road 522. That permit expires Sept. 1 and requires a completed cultural survey before it can be renewed.
Grand initiated the first phase of the cultural survey earlier this year with Metcalf Archaeological Consultants to determine the location of the POW camp. The work camp in Fraser was connected to a main camp in Greeley and was open from 1945-1946, housing 200 prisoners who worked in the lumber industry.
On June 15, Principal Investigator Anne McKibbin informed county commissioners that the camp did once sit in the path of the proposed parkway.
Using 1947 aerial imagery of the Fraser POW camp and additional photos from the Grand County Historical Association, the group was able to determine the location of the camp. The report recommended the camp be eligible for the National Register of Historic Places based on the likelihood of archaeological items that might remain.
Next steps would be to complete a field inventory, which could include test excavations and more archival research to determine if there are archaeological materials at the site. The work would also determine the effects the proposed road would have on the site and could cost anywhere form $14,000 to $31,000.
If nothing remains of the POW camp, no further work would be needed beyond construction monitoring. This would cost an estimated $2,000 to $2,500 on days when previously undisturbed soil would be disturbed.
If there are archaeological materials, mitigation of adverse effects would be required, costing another $50,000 to $150,000 in addition to the daily construction monitoring.
The county could also realign this section of the proposed roadway, which would require a permit amendment. However, County Manager Ed Moyer explained why that might not be possible.
“This alignment between County Road 50 and 73, it really represents the least amount of impact to the highest quality wetlands in that area,” Moyer said. “In other words, it’s going to be difficult to change that alignment in that corridor.”
The fourth option would be to not proceed with construction. Doing so would mean giving up the permit that took the county roughly fifteen years to obtain.
Most of the correspondence received by commissioners and shared during the meeting was in opposition to the Fraser Valley Parkway. However, the road does come with safety benefits as it would provide an alternate route for emergency responders if US Highway 40 shuts down and could help with the growing traffic concerns on the eastern side of the county.
County staff plans to present final options on County Road 522 on July 6. The commissioners are expected to make a decision at that meeting.
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