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Opinion: Turning an ugly vacant lot into a park
From Silverton Standard, the place where you can write!
Posted on April 11 2013, 2:28pm by Mark Esper in Local News category
The Iron Horse building at 12th and Greene streets collapses on
March 2, 2008 in this photo by Bruce Conrad.
The ugly vacant lot in the heart of Silverton will soon be a
pocket park if the Silverton Standard succeeds in its fundraising
drive and volunteer effort.
By Mark Esper
It was on Sunday morning, March 2, 2008, when a crowd gathered at the corner of 12th and Greene streets to watch the Iron Horse building’s dramatic collapse.
The 102-year-old structure had succumbed to a heavy load of ice and snow on its roof during that severe winter.
Left in its place was an ugly crater in the heart of downtown Silverton that has remained untouched for more than five years now.
This week the Silverton Standard & the Miner is launching a fund-raising and volunteer effort to develop a pocket park on the 50-foot by 100-foot parcel.
The plan is rather modest: Fill in the crater, add a layer of crushed, washed gravel as an easily maintainable surface, and some paving stones for pathways and a small plaza.
Add a few park benches and a couple of picnic tables and we are in business.
I have already secured permission from the lot’s owner for this work. I hope we can get it done in time for the Iron Horse Classic bicycle race on May 25.
I have also spoken with the owners of the building next door that houses Thee Pitts BBQ restaurant. They are considering my request that a mural be painted on the brick wall facing the soon-to-be Iron Horse Park.
What I think would look great is a large rendition of the Emil Fischer painting of Baker’s Park in 1874 that appeared on the front page of the Standard on March 21 (along with a note informing visitors that the original painting can be seen in the museum).
It would also be nice to have a one or two of the Hardrockers Holidays’ huge drilling rocks placed in the park for visitors to gawk over.
To top it off, how about a silhouette rusted steel sculpture of a horse and maybe some other public art? And of course a kiosk to post community events.
But that is all down the road a bit. First thing is to get the park “canvas” set.
That’s where you come in. If all goes according to plan we will be scheduling a couple of volunteer work days on Saturdays, probably in May. 
But we need to come up with several hundred dollars to get this project rolling.
Donations may be sent to: Silverton Standard, P.O. Box 8, Silverton, CO 81433.
The ugly crater at the most important intersection in downtown Silverton has been a disgrace for the last five years.
We need to either cover it up or fill it with water and plant some fish in it.
A Town Council member pointed out to me that there is more to the issue of sidewalk maintenance than I eluded to in my March 28 commentary.
Yes, the Town Code does place the burden on property owners.
But a lot of damage to downtown sidewalks is the result of town snow removal operations. This is not to fault the town crew at all. It is simply inevitable that the sidewalks are going to take a beating. It would be reasonable for the town to share in the cost of sidewalk repair. The town should set aside some money for this.
The situation regarding snowmobiling at Molas Lake is beyond ridiculous. But it certainly is not funny.
The BLM is refusing to renew snowmobile trail-grooming permits in 966 acres adjacent to the town-owned Molas Lake Park. The area is part of the West Needles Contiguous Wilderness Study Area.
Snowmobiling has been allowed there for decades but new BLM management rules issued last year make it clear (at least according to BLM officials) that it should not be allowed.
This popular snowmobiling playground plays an important role in Silverton’s struggling wintertime economy.
It appears the only recourse is to get Congress to release at least that portion of the WSA which is used by snowmobilers.
A more remote possibility is that if locals can document snowmobile use in the area prior to 1976 (when the area was designated a WSA), such a pre-existing use could be applied to the BLM equation on currently acceptable uses. But everyone seems to agree that approach is a long shot at best.
The BLM itself sees the WSA as unsuitable and unmanageable as a wilderness area, but is left with few management options given its current status in WSA limbo.
I’m a strong supporter of responsible stewardship of public lands. The inflexibility of federal land managers in this case certainly stretches the definition of “responsible.”
ABOUT THAT AD for the Ouray County Plaindealer ...
In today’s paper you will notice an advertisement for Ouray County Plaindealer subscriptions. It’s a trade I worked out with Allen Todd, the Plaindealer publisher. I will run ads for Plaindealer subscriptions over the next month and he will run ads for the Standard. We figure some Ouray subscribers may be interested in news on the south side of Red Mountain Pass and some Standard readers may actually have some interest in what’s going on in that dreary, inferior community to the north.
In a letter to the editor this week, Don Stott ups the ante on his proposal for a Victorian-style arch at the U.S. 550 gateway to Silverton. 
He’s offering to chip in $5,000 for the project. 
I actually like this idea. But it may take some time to get the arch in place, so I have implemented an interim measure to draw in more highway traffic. All that was required was a slight modification of arrows on the highway signs outside town (see photos below).
Mark Esper is editor and publisher of the Silverton Standard & the Miner.
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