Bear Dance Fire burn area trail closed for remediation

Environmental Programs Director, Mark Hutson talks about the scope of work and the importance of the remediation projects taking place in the critical riparian areas adjacent to SunUte Park. Funding for the cleanup is made possible through the Tribe’s Clean Air Act penalty funds; monies received from companies fined for environmental noncompliance.
Photo Credit: Jeremy Wade Shockley | The Southern Ute Drum

On June 3, 2022, the Bear Dance Fire ignited on tribal trust land and burned eighty-nine acres north of the Bear Dance grounds and along the Los Pinos River. In the aftermath, the Environmental Programs Division (EPD) observed hazardous materials mixed in with the burn area debris on the ground surface in areas parallel to Ute Road. The fire exposed these areas and the presence of hazardous materials, which created a concern for public health. Out of an abundance of caution, Tribal Council closed the Bear Dance Fire burn area. 

EPD and various environmental professionals have assessed air, soil, water, and vegetation samplings and determined that there is currently minimal risk to human health and the environment. With a commitment to environmental stewardship, Tribal Council has directed EPD to remove these surface materials and remediate the area. Remediation commenced on Monday, April 1, and the project will consist of debris pile removal and the capping of any remaining material in place. 

While the risk to human health and the environment from the material remains low, certain remediation activities have the potential to generate dust that could contain hazardous material. To protect the public from potential dust inhalation, Tribal Council has authorized the temporary closure of the Piinu Nuuchi skatepark and a portion of Ute Road during dust-generating activities. To mitigate this issue, soil within the site will be suppressed with water. The road and skatepark closure will occur during daytime hours and is anticipated to last one to two days.  Closure dates were scheduled to occur between Tuesday, April 2 and Friday, April 5. 

In addition to the closure, Tribal Council has authorized temporarily closing the hiking trail and access to the Los Pinos River in the project area during all remediation activities. The remediation project is expected to last for up to three weeks. The trail and Los Pinos River access will be reopened following completion of remediation activities. 

If you have any questions, please contact Kyle Siesser, Cottonwood Consulting, at 970-764-7356. 

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