Gilpin is the mountain transportation corridor after the recent flooding and closing of canyon roads

Gilpin County

By Roger Baker

The snow that appeared on the high mountain peaks this past week reminds us here in the High Country that with just a few degrees difference in temperature the heavy rains of the previous weekend could have posed a different and much more dangerous set of problems for Gilpin County.

The rains, though, flowed mostly downhill, and while providing a few scary moments and causing some serious issues for several homeowners (mostly along South Beaver Creek Road), were mostly handled through our own County resources; we were never overwhelmed the way CDOT and the public works crews, law enforcement agencies and emergency responders in the slowly growing list of affected downstream counties were.

And while public works, human services and Sheriff’s Office personnel were kept busy that first week making sure residents had access to their homes, in the week that followed our role became mostly one of support for our harder-hit neighbors.

From the very beginning our deputies were helping out Boulder County; later that week two of our Human Services staff went down to Boulder to assist their DHS personnel, and our emergency manager spent two days assisting in the Boulder operations center.

We discussed with Coal Creek Canyon residents the possibility of placing a dumpster down there to collect flood debris, but officials declined; we are letting those folks dispose of their trash at our own compactor as Gilpin residents’ rates. Some of those folks are still without water, so we’re letting them shower at the Community Center as well.

Nederland’s Community Center is still out of commission, so we’re letting their residents use the Community Center to work out, also, and the Gilpin Library was pretty busy that first week with Nederlanders using the free computers and wi-fi internet service to get in touch with family and friends.

Still, the biggest impact we are feeling in Gilpin County as a whole is from our relatively undamaged and strategically located position as a through corridor for transportation. For a while (and probably for a while to come) the only easy way in and out of Estes Park was along the Peak to Peak Highway all the way through Black Hawk and out to either US 6 (Clear Creek Canyon) or I-70.

Adding to the additional traffic, the RTD Route N that connects Nederland to Boulder is using the same route, though (sadly) not making any stops in Gilpin County.

While the additional volume along the highway creates some additional headaches for our deputies, the use of County roads – particularly Gap Road – as a shortcut to connect with Coal Creek Canyon is resulting in more serious complications.

That road (like South Beaver) was already in poor shape because of the heavy rains, but getting it back up to standards has been complicated by the huge increase in through traffic. Public Works crews have been unable to perform major repairs and necessary maintenance because it would require further delaying traffic as the roads would be closed or reduced to a single lane for lengthy periods – not what people who are already detouring well out of their way want to encounter.

Minor problems notwithstanding, we’re glad to provide such assistance. We recognize that if this wet start to autumn is any indication, we may be in for a very snowy winter. Gilpin County may be asking our neighboring cities and counties for help in such a situation; we’ll just wait and see.

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