Tension high in Fairplay over mine operations

Gold mining put Fairplay on the map back in 1859. Now, there's a new gold rush residents are talking about, and not everyone is willing to embrace it.

KUSA - In a town with a rich history of gold mining, not everyone is willing to embrace the new gold rush.

The Discovery Channel’s popular reality TV show, “Gold Rush,” has been filming in mines northwest of Fairplay where a group of neighbors has raised concerns about increased mining activity.

“I’ve lived here 20 years and it hasn’t been an issue for me until recently – for our family,” Wendy Kerner said.

Kerner’s home sits above one of the mines featured in the TV show. She said the mining operation disrupted what used to be a peaceful, quiet atmosphere near her home.

“Just a lot of clanking and banging and grating and trucks,” Kerner described.

Kerner and other residents are concerned the miners involved with “Gold Rush” are encroaching on residential areas. Last week, one of the mines featured on the TV show was ordered to cease and desist all mining and commercial activities because work was being done in a residential zone. Park County Development Services sent the notice to High Speed Mining, LLC on June 8. County manager Thomas Eisenman said the county discovered the zoning issue when High Speed Mining resubmitted its permit to state regulators.

“We looked at our current zoning mapping, and we determined that [the miners] were within the residential zone district,” Eisenman explained.

Eisenman said the county notified the Colorado Division of Reclamation Mining and Safety which put a stop to the permit process. The “Gold Rush” miners are still operating a different mine off Hwy 9 northwest of Fairplay.

“Most of the complaints, if not all the complaints, recently has been surrounding around the Gold Rush project,” Eisenman said.

Tension between the “Gold Rush” miners and some residents reached its peak on May 18th. Aaron Borth, 35, was arrested after “Gold Rush” crew members reported he fired four gunshots in their direction, according to Park County court documents obtained by 9NEWS.

“There was an incident with shooting,” Thomas Eisenman said.

Members of the “Gold Rush” crew told the Park County Sheriff’s Office Borth flagged down their truck on County Road 14. They said Borth shouted obscenities and threats before pulling a handgun and firing four shots in the direction of their vehicles. Borth was arrested after a traffic stop, and “expressed his frustration with the mining that is going on around Fairplay,” court documents said. Borth faces three counts of Felony Menacing and three counts of Reckless Endangerment.

Despite the complaints from some neighbors, leaders in Fairplay offered their support for the “Gold Rush” crew and the mining being done near town.

“These folks in my opinion have come in here with some organization,” said Mayor Pro Tem, Frank Just. “They are following the mining permit to the letter.”

Just said the miners also made a recent effort to ease tension in the community by hosting a party in Fairplay. Town officials said the miners spent more than $10,000 on last Friday’s event that drew more than 1,200 people. Money raised Friday was expected to be donated to four local non-profits.

“[The miners] were overwhelmed with the public acceptance,” Just said. “They expressed that to me personally at the event.”

Resident Wendy Kerner appreciated the event, but still feels her town is being exploited for the purposes of a TV show.

“I wish them well with their endeavors,” Kerner said. “It’s just frustrating that it happens to be affecting our community.”

Kerner accepts the fact the view from her home is changing and the mining operation in the area could expand.

“We want to find a way to coexist with mining and not have it so intrusive,” she said.

Park County will revisit zoning issues involving the closed “Gold Rush” mine at the next Planning Commission meeting on July 11.

© 2017 KUSA-TV


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