Explosives removed, trails reopen
October 21, 2008
Explosives crews have neutralized, removed and burned mining-era dynamite discovered by construction crews in the upper reaches of Empire Pass.
Construction on the Montage, a hotel being built on the slopes of Deer Valley Resort, meanwhile restarted on Monday, two weeks after the cache of historic dynamite was discovered.
The Park City Building Department said the construction crews on Tuesday were scheduled to pour concrete as they returned to the site. The Montage, long seen as the anchor of Empire Pass, is touted as a luxury ski-in, ski-out property.
The construction was halted after heavy machinery unearthed the dynamite. City Hall said 21 cases of the dynamite were found. According to city officials, the experts removing the dynamite neutralized the explosives with chemicals. They then removed the neutralized dynamite, took it away and burned the explosives.
A firm known as Becho Blasting conducted the work. In a prepared statement, City Hall said removing and neutralizing the dynamite was a "painstakingly time consuming process," but it was "the safest approach given the age and condition of the dynamite."
Nobody was injured.
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The Oct. 6 find caused a stir, with television stations in Salt Lake City sending helicopters to shoot video just after the dynamite was found. Local emergency officials called in a bomb squad and restricted airspace above the site. Roads were temporarily closed to the site, and trails close to the find remained closed until recently.
Officials threatened to prosecute people who crossed into the closed area.
Park City was a thriving silver-mining town through much of its history, essentially ending as the ski industry took hold. Mining-era remnants dot the mountains surrounding Park City, and Empire Pass was an important spot during the mining era. The Montage is under construction close to where the Daly West silver mine once operated.
Surprise mining-era finds occasionally occur, but the dynamite was especially notable, with officials worrying about the safety of the construction crews and people on nearby trails, among others.
A spokesman for the construction firm building the Montage said after the dynamite was discovered said it was rare to find explosives.
Trails in the vicinity have reopened, the Mountain Trails Foundation said. Empire Pass is a popular area for hikers and mountain bikers, and officials shut down trails leading to and from the area around the Montage.
‘Trail Closed’ signs were put up, including one at the southern end of Daly Avenue, a popular place for people to enter Empire Canyon. At least one of the signs warned "Danger explosives in area."
Carol Potter, who helms Mountain Trails Foundation, said the reopening of the trails is welcomed. She said the closures included a section of the Mid Mountain Trail, a popular trail that runs at an 8,000-foot elevation from Deer Valley to The Canyons. It runs close to the Montage site.
"Mid Mountain is our signature trail. People love it," Potter said, adding she had received reports of people ignoring the trail closures.
Potter said the closures included trails in parts of Park City Mountain Resort, parts of Deer Valley Resort and Empire Canyon. Potter’s organization suggested people use alternative trails.
She said she is unsure how many people hike or bicycle in Empire Canyon on a typical day in the fall. Potter said she did not receive complaints about the closures, however.
"It meant the people weren’t going to be able to access those trails over there. There’s a bunch of them," Potter said.