Resource Recovery Park leaps over first hurdle

Project would be situated northeast of Three Springs

Plans for a Resource Recovery Park will move ahead after La Plata County commissioners gave the project their initial blessing on Tuesday.

The commissioners unanimously approved a conceptual development plan for the project, which expects to locate on 60 acres of land owned by the Colorado State Land Board just northeast of Three Springs.

The project envisions six stages that include a sorting facility, a composting facility, scrap-metal recycling, a green-business incubator, reuse businesses and energy-recovery activities.

“The Resource Recovery Park has some lofty goals,” said Mark Thompson, owner and founder of Phoenix Recycling and one of the brains behind the recovery park.

In a show-and-tell for commissioners, Thompson brought a bag of compost that was created using discarded lumber and spent grain from Ska Brewing Co.

It was an example of turning waste into something valuable, which is the goal of the Resource Recovery Park, Thompson said.

The commissioner’s approval allows Resource Recovery Park LLC, the entity behind the recovery park, to move forward in evaluating the feasibility of the project.

“Now we have the ability to expend resources and money to see if any or all of the phases will pencil out,” said Tim Wheeler, a partner in the venture.

The Resource Recovery Park is “trying to create a platform to support businesses” in starting their own ventures there. It will provide a location where businesses like Phoenix Recycling or Durango Compost Co. can operate, Thompson said.

Public feedback about the project was divided. Most people supported the recovery park as way to promote sustainability, economic development and waste reduction in a growing community, but many residents near the proposed site were concerned about light pollution, noise, trash and traffic on county roads 234 and 235.

The only structures currently on the 560-acre parcel of State Land Board land are natural-gas facilities.

“We all live on some pristine property out there … and we don’t want it ruined,” said Peggy Morris, an nearby resident. “Once we build this it’s going to attract like businesses.”

Many resident concerns will be addressed when businesses enter the permitting process, Commissioner Wally White said. At that stage, developers are required to provide many more details about building location, traffic expectations and other effects and that is when the county will require mitigation measures.

The conceptual development planning process addresses only whether a particular idea will or will not work in a particular location, said Jason Meininger, the county’s long-range planner.

While commissioners recognized the validity and importance of residents’ concerns, they agreed the recovery park is an important and appropriate project for the area.

The recovery park is a “necessary and needed project” for the county, Commissioner Kellie Hotter said.

ecowan@durangoherald.com