Mining-era holes must be plugged, City Hall orders in new law
Park City leaders, in a stark reminder that there are hazards remaining from the silver-mining era, recently enacted a law requiring some landowners to comb their property for openings in the ground dating from the mining days and then plug any that are found.
City Hall sees the law as offering protection for people who hike, ski and bike in the mountains. Park City was founded in the 19th century as a silver-mining camp and mining dominated the economy until the middle of the 20th century. There are mining-era remnants scattered throughout the mountainous acreage that surrounds the city.
The law governs landowners with 10 acres or more inside Park City and defines mine hazards as an opening that extends five feet or more into the ground. The opening may either be vertical or horizontal.
Under the law, the landowners who are impacted must evaluate their parcels by Nov. 1, 2012. The results of the evaluations and plans to plug any openings that are found in the evaluations are required to be submitted to City Hall by Dec. 1, 2012, with there being the opportunity for the landowners to request a one-year extension to the deadline.
Any closures must be completed by Dec. 1, 2015, regardless of whether the landowner was granted an extension from the Dec. 1, 2012 deadline. The landowners must pay for the work themselves.
Joan Card, who manages environmental regulatory affairs for City Hall, said the hazards are a "legacy issue" held over from the mining era. She anticipates there will be at least several dozen openings that must be addressed as a result of the law being enacted.
"Staff believes the City will be judged for decades on how well we managed this issue in 2011," a report submitted to Mayor Dana Williams and the Park City Council before the law was adopted said.
Another section of the law declared the openings public nuisances, a step that enables officials to order them closed. If the landowner does not do so, City Hall itself may do the work and then charge the property owner.
Landowners who do not comply with the law face a $1,000 fine for each violation.
City Hall created the law several years after a few high-profile mishaps involving mining-era openings, including one in which the top of a mine tunnel gave way as someone skied over it and one that involved a dog tumbling down a historic mine shaft. The skier did not fall into the tunnel but had to make his way out of a depression in the snow caused by the tunnel opening giving way. A firefighter rescued the dog.
There was little interest from regular Parkites, but firms with significant land holdings like Talisker Corp.-controlled United Park City Mines followed the discussions.
In a March letter to the City Council, Thomas Ellison, an attorney representing United Park City Mines, deemed a law "unnecessary because of the extensive efforts undertaken by United Park to address potential physical mine hazards on its lands."
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