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No cleanup needed at Independence

Jeremy Heiman

No environmental cleanup will be necessary at the Independence ghost town, according to the director of the Aspen Valley Land Trust.

Reid Haughey, told The Aspen Times yesterday that the second phase of an environmental study, in which soil samples were taken and analyzed, has been completed. The study showed that the quantity of metals and other materials on the site are not great enough to warrant a cleanup, and the metals are in a stable form.

Low levels of mercury, copper and silver were found in tailings piles at the site. The tailings piles are overgrown and best left alone, according to the consultant who did the testing. Water from the site was found to be clean.

“The water came back with no metals in it at all,” Haughey said.

The consultant recommended that AVLT ask the state to declare the property a clean site.

AVLT made an offer on the 160-acre parcel, a patented mining claim, after it was put up for sale last winter. The trust intends to pass it on to the U.S. Forest Service and prevent it from being developed. The environmental study was needed, Haughey said, because the Forest Service is concerned about the environmental quality of the property.

AVLT is partnering with The Wilderness Land Trust, a national organization based in Bend, Ore., that specializes in purchasing inholdings in federally designated wilderness areas. That group is involved because part of the Independence property is within the boundaries of the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness.

The Land Trust has received a $300,000 grant from Pitkin County’s Open Space and Trails program to help with the purchase. Because the property is partly within the historic Independence ghost town, the land trust is also in discussions with the state’s historic preservation office for funding, Haughey said.

AVLT has applied for a grant from Great Outdoors Colorado, the state’s lottery fund for parks and open space. AVLT’s contract on the property will probably be extended beyond the current July 27 closing deadline, Haughey said.


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