Silt Throws Rocks at Gravel Pits

Silt is a town in Western Colorado that is full of rocks. It’s upstream on the Colorado River from Rifle in Garfield County. The river has deposited tons of coveted gravel around Silt as it has meandered on its course for a millennium. Not surprisingly, Silt is unique; it is the only town with that name in America.

You’d expect the Mayor of Silt to be, well, a little unusual too. That describes Dave Moore perfectly. A builder by profession, he talks like a horse trader and politics like the good ole boys of the past. Dave’s a guy you want on your side because he can be as tenacious as a junk yard dog if you cross him.There’s a proposal before the Garfield County commissioners to mine a huge gravel pit within the outskirts of Silt, making the Silt mayor very unhappy.

Moore has good company. All the town officials along the Colorado River between Parachute and Glenwood Springs are none too pleased with the proliferation of gravel pits lining the banks of the river which parallels Interstate 70.

Some of the proposed gravel pits are at the entry ways of the towns themselves like Rifle, with a lone bald eagle’s nest preventing a moon-scaped pit from being mined by its I-70 exit for the next 20 years.

Gravel pits are expanding because of the high demand for private road construction by the gas drilling industry. Gravel pit developers and land owners are more than happy to oblige this boom with Greg Rippy, former Colorado legislator and 3rd congressional candidate, amongst them. We’re talking high political–and profitable–stakes with these gravel pits approvals.

So, Mayor Moore is getting little feisty with county commissioners as they sanction more and more gravel pits around his town and he’s decided to take matters in his own hands: he wants to construct toll booths. For every gravel and drilling truck using the town’s roads, Moore is proposing they will have to pay a toll.

The Silt Mayor described his plan to the local media:

Moore said a toll booth with electricity, a bathroom, an employee to man it and possibly portable weighing scales could cost $66,000 to set up. If that booth collected a $2 per truck toll, it could generate $412,800 a year from gravel and gas trucks, Moore said. Still, a mile of new roadway has an estimated construction cost of $1 million.

“So it would take 53 years for one mile of road with one toll booth,” Moore said. “But I think it’s important Silt think outside the box. When I was at the last mayor’s meeting (with other county and regional mayors), they all thought this was a good idea. At least we got ’em talking. I say let’s do it.”

Silt Police Chief Paul Taylor said he favored a tax or licensing fee on large trucks.

“You put up a toll booth and they’ll just bypass us,” he said. “Which would be great, too.” (No doubt the tickets would be higher than $2.00)

Mayor Moore’s toll booth proposal is sure to rock the gravel mining industry here in Garfield County, but his idea may stop the scenic Colorado River corridor from becoming the pits.

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Leslie Robinson

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