Why fight for Erie, CO?

When I first moved to Colorado more than 8 years ago, I was naive about oil/gas development along the Front Range.   While I certainly noticed all of the oil drilling pumps that bob up and down in fields that line the I-25 corridor, I did not mentally connect them to the natural gas storage tanks that are also scattered across the region.  They all seemed somehow benign; I thought the drilling pumps looked like little dinosaurs.  And for all I knew, the tanks and dinosaur pumps had been present for ages.  They didn’t seem to bother anyone.  In fact, they are so ubiquitous in our surroundings, I stopped noticing them.

What ultimately brought me to Erie was the need to find a yard large enough to exercise my dog.  He had not done well with apartment living in Denver, and I could not afford a house on a sizable lot in the city.  My search led me Erie, where I have resided for 5 years.

Erie is really a gem of a small town.  The view while driving west on Baseline (Highway 7) is stunning.  As you drive up over the hill and look down on the valley, you can see the Flatirons of Boulder, Longs Peak, and all the way north toward Fort Collins.   (On a really clear winter day, you can see far enough west to spot the ski slopes at Eldora).   However, if you turn your gaze a bit further to the north, you will see a couple of mounds of dirt that are the site of two landfills: Denver Regional Landfill, and Front Range Landfill.

The subdivisions of Vista Ridge and Vista Pointe border an open field (the site of Encana’s new wells) that lies on the periphery of the entrance to both landfills off of County Road 5.  When someone purchases a home within these subdivisions, the landfills are a known entity that the home buyer accepts.  Prior to purchasing my home, I was nervous about the proximity of the landfills to my subdivision.  A friend of mine (who lived in Vista Ridge at the time) said that his sister, an engineer, had looked at the original plans for the landfills and determined that they were done exceptionally well; we need not worry about contamination of groundwater, etc.

These landfills bring me to the hot button topic of the weekend: Front Range Landfill’s plan to accept liquid waste, including waste from fracking operations (i.e. “fracking sludge”).  For more information, please read this article from the Boulder Daily Camera:http://www.dailycamera.com/erie-news/ci_26707042/erie-landfill-seeking-add-liquid-waste-solidification.  There was reportedly a meeting between Front Range Landfill spokespersons and residents of Vista Ridge hosted by the Vista Ridge HOA at the community center on Thursday evening (written summary of the meeting is available within a comment from a reader on my last blog post).  However, most people I know in Vista Ridge knew nothing about it.  I also wonder why Front Range Landfill has not arranged for a similar meeting with Vista Pointe residents through the Vista Pointe HOA.

“As if it isn’t enough that we have to live next to the landfill, now they are drilling and fracking next to our homes,” was my friend’s comment when we went for a run last week.  I had even jokingly added, “Yeah Denver metro.  We live next to your dump.  You’re welcome.”  Now it appears that changes in landfill policy may add to our fracking woes, adding insult to injury — or worse.

So why continue to live in Erie?  Honestly, when the Board of Trustees approved Encana’s bid in August, my husband and I started searching Zillow for alternative places to live.  But we discovered two things: 1) It is difficult to remain in this general vicinity and avoid oil/gas operations.  (A simple drive north toward the town of Frederick finds more active drill sites juxtaposed with beautiful homes).  2) We really love where we live.  We love our house, we love our yard, we love the view from our deck, and we love our easy access to Denver and Boulder.  Erie is growing and changing.  Some of that change is really good.  New breweries and restaurants are finding their way into downtown Erie, revitalizing the area.  Yet some of the change makes me question the town’s urban planning; certainly the roads are becoming increasingly crowded as new subdivisions emerge.  New stoplights are needed at a few intersections — especially Erie Parkway and County Road 5.

But overall, Erie has heart, and it is a beautiful place to live.  I for one am determined to fight for it.

View of the Front Range from Highway 7 in Erie.

View of the Front Range from Highway 7 in Erie.

Homes in Vista Ridge, with Longs Peak in the background.

Homes in Vista Ridge, with Longs Peak in the background.

Natural gas well site on the edge of a Vista Pointe neighborhood.

Natural gas well site on the edge of a Vista Pointe neighborhood. Subdivisions were built around previous oil/gas drilling operations.

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5 thoughts on “Why fight for Erie, CO?

  1. Thank you for reminding us what we are fighting for. Erie is indeed a gem of a small town. But residential development is out of control and the ever-increasing presence of oil and gas is rapidly turning our town into an industrial zone. If approved, the proposed sludge plant will only be another nail in the coffin. So many have stayed silent or simply moved away. I can’t blame them. But looking the other way won’t solve our problems. Let’s all speak out for Erie and help shape its future.

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    • I’m glad you like my blog! I’d encourage you (and other readers) to spread the word about this blog, not only with the Town Council, but with other Erie residents as well. My goal is to raise awareness about the impact of fracking in our community.

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  2. This is all very disconcerting. I’ve found that we were lied to by realtor, developer, and Town, about all the landfill plans & the fracking sites. We are becoming the ‘Wasteland of Northern CO.” I’ve already written to the BOT about my concerns, but they’ve said this topic of allowing the waste solidification plants/dumping in Erie is a quasi-judicial matter so they can’t really comment now. Whether there is true danger or just the ugliness of these sites, the perception is growing that Erie is just a giant hazardous waste dump. Doesn’t matter what the reality is, the perception is everything. And the current perception is bad – & getting worse. Love my home & the town, but if I were buying a home now – it would not be in Erie……

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