Breckenridge Town Council to consider summer gondola operation
Summit County correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
BRECKENRIDGE, Colo. – The BreckConnect Gondola could operate daily this summer as Breckenridge Ski Resort plans to reduce bus use and open an alpine coaster at the Peak 8 Fun Park.
The gondola was built with the intent of extending hours beyond winter, but the town’s environmental consultant expressed concerns regarding potential effects to birds breeding in the Cucumber Gulch area.
“Birds will most likely be disturbed by the operation noise of the gondola as well as the noise from the passengers. I recommend that the gondola not run during June and July, and if that is not possible then to limit its operation to the afternoon …” according to a letter from Christy Carello to council dated last August.
The resort has proposed running the gondola from 8:30 a.m. to 5:45 p.m. daily, from June 18 to Sept. 6. Breckenridge Town Council is to discuss the proposal at Tuesday’s work session starting at about 4 p.m.
In a response to Carello’s letter – dated February 2010 – the ski area’s biological consultant Rick Thompson said in a letter that the gondola’s impacts to the birds would be less disturbing than the area’s recreational trails.
He also stated that the gondola’s hours of operation would “allow several undisturbed hours of foraging/chick feeding after dawn and before dusk …”
The most sensitive period to all the area’s birds occurs between about May 1 and June 21, when nest building and incubation is under way, according to Thompson.
And because the gondolas enclose people “within self-contained ‘blinds,'” the birds aren’t likely to be disturbed by human voices or be recognized by the animals as predators, according to Thompson.
Town council is expected to make a decision after Tuesday’s work session discussion, for staff has informed council that approval during the regular meeting isn’t necessary.
Summer gondola use as proposed would be free for foot traffic, but a fee would be charged for bicycles to “manage demand and offset cleaning costs,” according to a letter to the town dated March 1 from resort COO Pat Campbell.
“We feel that if bike transport were free that we could see significant usage resulting in some potentially negative impacts including gondola capacity issues, impacts to trails in Cucumber Gulch and a significant volume of downhill bicycle traffic on Ski Hill Road,” according to Campbell’s letter.
The town planning commission unanimously approved an alpine coaster – to run on rails on a raised track – that the resort expects to have operating at the Fun Park by August.
Town council could discuss the coaster, which has been approved for summer and winter operations, on Tuesday.
In winter, the coaster is to be accessible from Chair 7 and to not interfere with skier traffic, according to the March 23 town council packet.
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