City Hall wants mining-era openings found and then plugged
March 22, 2011
Park City leaders on Thursday are scheduled to begin discussing whether a law should be enacted requiring some landowners to canvass their acreage for mining-era openings and then make sure the openings are plugged, an effort, officials say, to ensure the safety of people using the land for recreation.
The law would declare the mining-era openings nuisances, a label that would allow the Park City Building Department to demand the opening be closed. If the landowner fails to take that step, City Hall could conduct the work itself and then bill the landowner, according to a report submitted this week to Mayor Dana Williams and the Park City Council.
Meanwhile, the law would force landowners with more than 10 acres inside Park City to search for openings on their property. If they are found, the landowner would be required to close the openings.
A proposed timeline outlined in the report calls for the search for the openings to be completed by Nov. 1, 2012, with the results of the search and plans for the closures, if any, submitted to City Hall by Dec. 1, 2012. The timeline calls for the openings to be sealed within three years after the submittal of the plans for the closures.
"What we’re trying to address is the potential of people to fall into holes," said Joan Card, who manages environmental regulatory affairs for City Hall and is the coauthor of the report submitted to the elected officials.
The danger of someone unknowingly walking into a mining-era site is also of concern, she said.
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Twenty minutes, starting at approximately 4:50 p.m., have been set aside on Thursday for a discussion by the mayor and City Council. A hearing is not scheduled, but the mayor sometimes allows public input during meetings when a formal hearing is not planned.
If the City Council signals it wants to enact a law, a hearing and, possibly, a vote could be scheduled April 21.
The step comes approximately two years after a series of bizarre mishaps involving mining-era openings in Park City.
In one of the cases a skier at Deer Valley Resort nearly fell into mine tunnel after an opening gave way and the snow caved in around him. In another one a dog tumbled down a historic mine shaft at Park City Mountain Resort and was rescued by a firefighter.
Meanwhile, a large hole appeared off the Rail Trail that was determined to be at the top of a mine shaft. The water from a nearby creek emptied into the shaft when the seal gave way.
Park City was founded in the 19th century as a silver-mining camp, and the industry dominated the city’s economy until roughly the middle of the 20th century. There are miles of mining-era tunnels underneath the mountains ringing Park City as well as numerous subterranean mining sites. Maps from the era are believed to chart nearly all of the sites, but some are not on the maps, including the location where the Deer Valley skier encountered the mine tunnel.