by John Lewis, Barbara Moss Murphy & Paul Olson

Read the op-ed on Canyon Courier here

It’s been more than three years since the proposition of a lift access downhill commercial bike park first startled many of us in Conifer and surrounding areas. The sizable project would verifiably cause excessive wildfire risk, life-threatening traffic increases, emergency response overload, water supply depletion and contamination, and critical wildlife habitat loss for our community. On December 8, 2023, the developers submitted their revised second application intended to address all the concerns generated by their first application. But the subsequent responses from the County’s Planning and Zoning team and key county and state agencies once again confirm why the bike park is absolutely not a fit for the proposed Shadow Mountain Drive location.

From Jefferson County Public Health, January 8, 2024Last year, the applicant proposed that there would be a maximum of 320 guests at the park with a discharge of 1120 gallons per day (gpd). This has been changed to 1,200 guests per day and they also propose some type of food service in the day lodge. As such, with the 20 employees this will produce at a minimum 6,300 gallons per day (of wastewater). As such, they will need Site Approval from CDPHE for the OWTS (onsite wastewater treatment system) and they will need to include what type of food service is provided to the public as that may also need to be included in daily wastewater flows. As such, they have not met the public health requirements with these amended changes.

From Colorado Parks and Wildlife, January 12, 2024CPW recognizes that there is important wildlife value in maintaining this parcel of undeveloped land and protecting it from development and regular use by human recreation, which the proposed Shadow Mountain Bike Park development would exaggerate. In an area that is becoming increasingly fragmented by a combination of development, infrastructure, traffic, and growing recreational use of natural landscapes, the Shadow Mountain Parcel in its current undeveloped state provides habitat connectivity and refuge from human interaction that has become difficult for wildlife to find in Jefferson County.

… based on CPW-documented wildlife habitat and wildlife conflicts in this area: 1. Implement a seasonal closure on construction activity and commercial operation from January 1 through July 1 to limit disturbance on wintering and newly born wildlife…” (This expert opinion alone makes the bike park untenable operationally and financially.)

From decision-maker Jefferson County Planning and Zoning, January 30, 2024:
Staff is unclear the volume, size, and location of several items including: food vendors, retail area(s) and signage.

Staff continues to have concerns about how the impacts to wildfire, wildlife, wetlands, visual resources, and noise will be addressed.

This property is within a High Wildfire Hazard Risk area. A Wildfire Risk Assessment was completed by The Ember Alliance with the initial referral and was revised since then. With the revision there is no discussion of evacuation and discussion of the treatment unit appears to be changed to management units and dramatically reduced. What occurred to make these changes to the report?

Site Mitigation: The Wildfire Risk Assessment has removed the 300-foot buffer area without explanation. More information should be provided as to why this recommendation was removed between referrals. The Assessment also calls for mitigation of Shadow Mountain Drive for a portion significantly off-site to the east. It is unclear how this will be met without County approval or adjacent property owner easement(s).

Westbound left turn lane will be required at site access. (The Conifer/285 Corridor Area Plan states, “Transportation improvements should not be made when the terrain would require extensive engineering that would be exceedingly costly and would degrade the physical environment.” The geometrics of Shadow Mountain Drive do not allow for the widening necessary to accommodate a west bound turn lane.)

Landscaping: The property is not expected to meet wildfire mitigation and the County Landscape standards outside of the Parking Lot Area.

On so many crucial points, the county and referral agencies remain unclear or just plain disapproving. The reason for the difficulty in making their case is obvious: it’s absolutely irresolvable to make a lift access downhill commercial bike park on Shadow Mountain Drive conform with the land and water use guidelines set forth in the Conifer/285 Corridor Area Plan and the Jefferson County P&Z Comprehensive Master Plan.

The developers’ dreaming the impossible dream has sucked up a lot of time and money for concerned Conifer residents and beyond, the applicants themselves and Jefferson County.  And now the developers may ask for another 180 days to answer the concerns they couldn’t answer twice already. This project wasn’t a fit three years ago, it’s not a fit now and it won’t be next year or the year after.  Let’s stop this foolishness now. Please visit our website for complete details and how you can help.

John Lewis, Barbara Moss Murphy and Paul Olson are Conifer residents and members of Stop the Bike Park, a non-profit organization formed specifically to preserve a pristine meadow and mountainside on residential Shadow Mountain Drive, threatened by a proposed commercial bike park and its fact-driven negative consequences to traffic, wildfire risk, emergency response, air and water quality, and key wildlife habitat.