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Commissioners OK Rivers of Recovery Permit for Vets

Over the objections of Swissvale neighbors who complained that their privacy is being threatened, the Fremont County Commissioners on Tuesday approved a Special Review Use permit for the Rivers of Recovery (RoR) outdoor experience for veterans.   Dan Cook of Rivers of Recovery explained at the public hearing that the outdoor camping and fishing experience on his 13 acres of private property on the north side of the Arkansas River at Swissvale is one of seven such programs for veterans across the nation.  He explained that the program has proven beneficial for veterans suffering the after effects of fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan including PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).  Cook said more than 95 percent of the participants who will use the Swissvale facility are from the Warrior Transition Unit at Fort Carson.   He said the veterans attending RoR camp in four tents along the river over a four day period.    He plans to host the weekly camping and fishing retreats weekly from March through October.

Cook started his Rivers of Recovery program at Swissvale without a permit in the summer of 2013 and the activities quickly prompted complaints from several neighbors across the river.   At Tuesday’s public hearing Swissvale resident Yvonne Nelson said she has dealt with nothing but "lies" from both Cook and the Fremont County Planning and Zoning Department.     She promised that if the permit was approved she would be diligent in following up with cameras and watching them.    District 3 Commissioner Ed Norden said nobody, including him, has ever intentionally lied to her.

"I am sorry if you misunderstand the difference between a special review use permit and a building permit," Norden said. "Therein lies your confusion; the kind of conditions and contingencies that we are talking about have nothing to do with his building permit on a single-family dwelling. End of story."

Approval of the RoR Special Review Use permit came with certain conditions.    The Commissioners noted that one of those conditions recognizes that Cook will have to satisfy the Colorado Division of Water Resources to allow use of his existing well for commercial purposes in the campground.    Cook will also have to keep his gate closed or install a cattle guard when cattle are present on the railroad right of way.    Because some of his neighbors objected to possible use of the campground for Boy Scouts, church groups, or other non-profits, Cook agreed and the Commissioners imposed a condition that use of his campground facility would be limited to veterans.

The Commissioners on Tuesday also approved a pair of Community Wildfire Protection Plans signaling a heightened interest by residents who live in the urban wildfire interface areas of Fremont County to take a more proactive approach to prepare for the advent of possible wildfires.   County Emergency Management Director Steve Morrisey said multiple agencies were involved with the county in preparing the wildfire protection plans including homeowners associations, the Bureau of Land Management, the US Forest Service, and the Cañon City Area Fire Protection District.

One of the plans covers the southwest Cañon City area around the Dawson Ranch subdivision where nearly 800 residential structures are involved along with a few commercial businesses.   The other area is the Garden Park area north of Cañon City where some 60 structures have been built in the urban wildfire interface.

Commission Chairman Tim Payne said he is pleased to see so many people cooperate to formulate the wildfire protection plans.   He said with the plans now in place it will still be a difficult task to find the money necessary to accomplish many of the wildfire mitigation proposals.   Payne added that a lot of the effort will still rely on individual property owners taking steps to mitigate their private property against wildfire threats.

In other business the Board of Commissioners Tuesday:

  • Awarded a series of bids for Fremont County Department of Transportation road materials this spring and summer.   GMCO was the successful low bidder to provide dust suppressant chemical to the county at 59¢ a gallon.   Rocky Mountain Materials was the low bidder to provide asphalt at $49 a ton.   SunCor Energy was the low bidder to provide tack oil at $2.17 a gallon.   Tezak Heavy Equipment was the low bidder to provide aggregate for graveling roads at $8.15 a ton;
  • Approved an intergovernmental agreement to proceed with Phase 1 of road reconstruction and repairs on roads south of Florence in the Coal Creek area.   The cooperating entities have secured a $550,000 state energy grant to use on repairing roads damaged by heavy truck traffic associated with oil exploration;
  • Approved a $79,140 expenditure for asbestos mitigation efforts in the Fremont County Administration Building.