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Major development for Fourmile Canyon project controversy

There’s no final plan to rebuild Fourmile Canyon Road just yet – Boulder County officials will present significantly revised plans on this flood recovery plan this fall.

The Boulder County Transportation Department has virtually “scrapped” their original design of the Fourmile Canyon Road project in light of public outcry over environmental impacts and other concerns surrounding the bucolic mountain road.

The project would add a four-foot shoulder and three-foot ditch, plus retaining walls to separate the creek from the road in two sections totalling about 1.5 miles.

“It’s a beautiful road – we totally understand that and we’re not trying to create an I-70 or Boulder Canyon up the mountain,” said Andrew Barth, department spokesman. “We just want to make it more resilient and safe for everyone.”

The re-engineered plans, which will be presented sometime in September will have almost zero rock removal, less environmental impact and shifted focus to protect the road from the creek instead of moving it further from the water, said Barth.

Residents still have time to share their opinions on the repairs. He encourages people to call, write or email him.

“We’re going to start talking to individual property owners along the canyon to show them options,” Barth said. “We really want to know what you think and get the best solution for everyone within the work zone.”

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has funds to pay for the reconstruction, but “they won’t let us rebuild the road like it was and [still] pay for it,” Barth said. The county doesn’t have enough money to rebuild, he said.

The original proposal to repair two sections of Fourmile Canyon Drive between Boulder Canyon Drive and Salina Junction raised the ire of residents along this winding roadway.

After floodwaters rendered Fourmile Canyon Road impassable in 2013, crews made emergency repairs that are already showing wear – and they certainly wouldn’t stand up to another flood, Barth said. Repairing the road now – creating barriers and channels to protect the road from flood waters – could prevent costly fixes in the future, he added.

One of our friends, David Cohen, a 16-year canyon resident who owns Spruce Confections, bikes and drives Fourmile Canyon Road. He said if the road were updated as it was proposed, “its character would be greatly missed.”

He attended a recent meeting with transportation officials where residents lamented potential loss of animal habitat, safety and canyon aesthetics.

And it’s exactly these type of concerns that prompted officials to revise their proposal.

Barth said the county is working with Colorado Parks and Wildlife to restore the creek and make sure wildlife can still cross the road safely.

Retaining walls are designed to have a natural slope on the creek side – and there will be openings under guardrails to allow small animals to get across.

“We don’t want to create giant walls – we’ll create a bank that mimics the stream bank,” he said. The county is also on the hunt for funds to compliment grant money that will start rehabilitating the creek.

Part of the flood rebuild plan includes adding a “clear zone,” the new shoulder for hikers and bikers, and a runoff ditch to divert stormwater.

Another friend of ours, Joshua Onysko, welcomes upgrades to Fourmile Canyon Road. Onysko has been living on Logan Mill Road for eight years and supports the county’s plans presented this summer.

He said property values could potentially increase with a wider road and he sees the improvements as boosting safety for everyone.

Boulder County Transportation is planning on beginning work on Fourmile Canyon Drive in spring 2016. Officials have targeted two sections to repair, totaling about 1.5 miles. Companion projects intended to continue flood repair include work on Gold Run Road and its intersection with Fourmile Canyon Drive at Salina Junction, Wall Street, the Logan Mill Road Bridge and Fourmile Creek watershed rehabilitation.

Have you got feedback or questions about the project? Visit the Boulder County Reconstruction page and find the project comment form or contact Andrew Barth directly.

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