It’s the forging of partnerships that makes vision a reality. And there have been many local partnerships of late, both public and private, to illustrate this point. The fact that there remains no traffic signal at Society Turn is but one example. When the Colorado Department of Transportation unveiled its plan in 2010 to install a signal there — the first and only in San Miguel County — chaos and threats of riot ensued. In the end, a financial partnership was formed between the State, the two towns and the county toward an alternative design. Instead of annoying red lights, we now have an efficient and nicely landscaped roundabout.
On the other side of Telluride sits the Gold Run affordable housing neighborhood — an attractive and award-winning assemblage of 18 unique houses and duplexes created through the shared resources of the town and the county. That neighborhood is just up the road from Town Park — home to the Town Park Pavilion that was recently enclosed through a financial partnership involving a generous donation from the Telluride Film Festival. On one weekend of every year the Pavilion is converted to Werner Herzog Theatre. It lies within close proximity to the new Town Park swimming pool — yet another product of a partnership involving the town, the county, and community fund-raising.
Located further up the valley, the Pandora Water Treatment Plant was transformed from a 20-year planning endeavor to a state-of-the-art reality that now ensures the region’s water supply. It also generates clean alternative energy through its turbine. It would not have happened without the sharing of resources between the town and its neighbor, Idarado Mining Company.
The new treatment plant is situated directly above the historic Pandora Mill building — the subject of yet another potential partnership that is the real topic here. Originally named the Gray Mill, that massive building was erected in 1921 by the Smuggler-Union Mining Company on the west side of Marshall Creek in replacement of another structure that had burned down the previous year — a structure that in turn replaced buildings that were destroyed by avalanches on the east side of Marshall Creek. The current Pandora Mill represents one of only five mills in the valley whose existence spanned many decades of use. It is historically significant, it is iconic, it embodies our mining legacy, and its future is tenuous, as it has been slated for demolition.
Last month, Newmont/Idarado scheduled a meeting in Glenwood Springs and invited many interested parties and experts to share thoughts about possible preservation of the structure. At the table with Idarado were engineers, planners, attorneys, state regulatory agencies, local governments and historians. It was an impressive and encouraging discussion.
The discussions are not necessarily new. Asbestos in the structure was removed in 2013 through abatement measures as a precursor to demolition. Demolition had previously been approved by permit and is required under Idarado’s current permit with the State’s Division of Reclamation Mining and Safety. Idarado has forestalled demolition each year since 2013 to provide the community some time to formulate a feasible alternative plan. In 2014, the integrity of the superstructure was evaluated through a team of engineers, funded in part through the National Trust and San Miguel County. The results of that preliminary analysis are encouraging: The building’s internal structure is largely sound but the roof needs to be replaced.
Central talking points include needed stabilization measures, ownership and stewardship of the structure, environmental factors, approval by the regulatory agencies and so on. Should there be a successful plan to move forward, these items need to be publicly vetted. A resolution will require a genuine partnership at many levels.
The timing of the building’s removal has only been temporarily delayed and the structure itself is in need of immediate attention. Some roof panels have recently been dislodged, likely due to recent high winds.
The Board of County Commissioners will be joining the Telluride Town Council and representatives of Newmont/Idarado at a public forum tentatively scheduled for the morning of March 29 to further this discussion. This meeting will occur during a regularly scheduled work session for the Telluride Town Council, and broadcasted on KOTO and Telluride TV.
While the Town of Telluride is hosting the next discussion, many have helped advance this pursuit. Notable is the decision by Newmont/Idarado to forestall the easier and already approved path (demolition) and engage in the more difficult and complex discussion (preservation). Also notable are the efforts of San Miguel County, the regulating agencies at the State level, and certainly those within the community who have contributed to this dialogue. Stay tuned on this important and timely topic. Thank you.