The fight for the GSL&P
May 30, 2009 by Cat McClintock
The city of Greeley, 30 miles southeast of here, just sent letters to Mary Humstone and Rose Brinks. In the letters, the city invokes eminant domain to explore and eventually develop the women’s Laporte properties, just north of Fort Collins.
But Greeley should be sending them Thank You letters.
That’s because these two women have turned away developers for decades. Plus, they left pristine and feral a river corridor with a 100-year-old railbed. They may have thought they were looking after natural and historic resources. But without knowing it, they were preserving a perfect route for Greeley’s latest water pipeline.
- The Greeley Salt Lake & Pacific tracks run along the Poudre River, northwest of Fort Collins, CO.
- The GSL&P carried stone from Stout and was part of a vision for a cross country line that would run up the Poudre canyon.
- Rose owns this property. She gets offers from developers frequently. She doesn’t want her picture taken, so I did it behind her back.
- The city of Greeley, 30 miles downstream, thinks this is the best place for its water pipeline. It owns a treatment facility upstream. This will be its third pipeline from the facility. It can’t update the old ones because developments have covered the top of them. Greeley will use eminent domain to force the right of way.
- If Greeley uses this route for its pipe, it will have to destroy a wide swath all the way through. That’s everything in these pictures. Including the rock walls of this passage. Note that the water eventually makes it to Greeley via the river without a pipeline today.
- “Take a picture of that apple tree,” says Rose. “It feeds hundreds of deer and black bear.” The area hosts rich riparian animal and plantlife. The pipeline would destroy it.
- Rose points out the difference between the stone work done on this ditch along the rail bed. Stone work farther back was done a couple years ago. Stone work in the foreground from 1880.
- This bridge on the rail line was built in Chicago and used as a turntable in Wheatland, Wyoming. You can still see it’s turning mechanisms as you cross over.
- Along rail bed. Another affected property owner, Mary Humstone, says they didn’t sell out to developers because it was never worth it. “How do you put a price on natural and historic resources?” Mary is a perservationist who works with the University of Wyoming and once worked for the National Trust. Rose preserved Bingham Hill Cemetery, which also lies on her property..
- In all the reports about the controversy, so far, nobody is talking about how the pipeline will impact water flows though Fort Collins. Old timers remember when water levels were so high, you could ice skate from LaPorte to Fort Collins.
- Old rail bridge. Other entities are competing for the water too. Maybe we’re the last generation to tube or kayak the river in the summer.
- See the scar going over that hill? (You may need to click to see it.) That’s from a buried line put in by the phone company. Circa 1950.
- If Greeley wins, the lesson for Mary and Rose, and all of us, is that preservation doesn’t pay. Take the cash, develop now, or someone will do it for you.
Posted in In the news, Preservation and renewal | Tagged GSL&P, Historic Train Tracks | 12 Comments
Cat, you noted the one thing I’ve never seen mentioned elsewhere about this pipeline: the water goes to Greeley with or without a pipe. I would like to understand why they need a pipeline, another pipeline, yet. Have Rose and Mary created any kind of organization to which we could contribute support? I’ve never seen this property, so I appreciate your photos.
Rose said Greeley figured out long ago that the water would be purer if treated in the foothills and piped downstream–rather than let nature carry it. My guess is that sort of thinking predated our caring about how water levels impacted natural areas. I can’t imagine a water treatment plant in Greeley is really more expensive than running a new pipeline 40 miles every 50 years. And I wonder why it’s not meeting the same outrage as the Glade Project.
But to be fair, I only heard one side of the story. Kevin Duggan is working on an article for the Coloradoan. And I know he spoke to Greeley about their view.
(Update: Duggan’s article appears now in the June 1 edition.
The pictures did just what I hoped they would do. I was frustrated reading about it and not seeing it. I went to some pretty funny lengths to try to get a view of it from public areas. Never could. I’m glad Rose and Mary were willing to talk to me and show me around.
So is there anything that can be done about this?
Maybe Rose has a better answer. So far, all I’ve heard is that you can write letters to the papers in Greeley and Fort Collins.
Greeley needs to pipe the water to it’s treatment plant in Bellvue. Yes, the Poudre flows to Greeley, but Greeley does not have a drinking water treatment plant in Greeley.
Thank you for this essay and the photos. I hope you had a chance to visit the pioneer cemetery that is there, too. Rose is my mom, and I, along with 8 brothers and sisters, grew up on this farm. Starting in the late 1970s, we watched our mom take on one foe after another… people who wanted to turn the farm into everything from a bike path, to a housing development, to a water holding pit. She had hoped to preserve it as a working farm, with a few small cabins along the river. Now it looks like all that work was for nothing. I am so glad there are people like you who appreciate what is being lost.
[...] 5, 2009 by catfc A few weeks ago, Lost Fort Collins blog published a story about the conflict around the Greeley pipeline that’s slated to trench through Fort Collins and some of our historic/natural areas soon. I know it’s been in all the press, but there [...]
So Greeley can have imminent domain over property that’s not in Greeley? That bit confuses me.
Short answer: Yes.
I’m not a lawyer, and I don’t know the specifics of eminent domain. So maybe you’ve spotted a technical flaw in somebody’s wording. But the results are the same.
We long ago determined that water rights trump property rights. Here’s from Rose Laflin’s, Irrigation, Settlement, and Change on the Cache La Poudre River paper (search for a download the PDF):
“In 1872, a case before the territorial Supreme Court of Colorado entitled
Yunker v. Nichols, confirmed that a person … had the right
to divert water for irrigation over another’s land. In other words, an irrigator could divert water
to land away from a stream and getting water to his or her land was considered such a necessity
in the western climate that the right to do so preempted the right of private property.”
Also city limits, county lines, and even state lines mean little…otherwise Colorado would have stopped the Arkansas, South Platte, and the Colorado from ever reaching neighboring states (believe me, we tried!)
From what your pictures show and from what you’ve described, that seems like the same property that my son’s cub scout troop camped on once. The owner is a friend of one of the scout leaders who has been camping there since he was little if I remember correctly.
It was an incredibly beautiful property. Right across the river (and down a bit) was a new housing development that, thankfully, we couldn’t see from where we camped. I’ve posted some pics of our camping event here. http://barefootmeg.multiply.com/photos/album/156/Cub_Scout_Camping_Trip_–_May_2006 What do you think? Same place?
Are you going to the meeting on Tuesday?
Definitely the same place! Rose is very generous with her property. And it’s beautiful. She also just sent me a report from a birder who found 50 kinds of birds in that area. Some that haven’t been seen nesting in Fort Collins since 1928. I may combine your comment and the bird report into a new post…
I think I will go to the council meeting. But probably won’t speak. You?
[…] The Bingham Hill Cemetery is located just north of Bingham Hill Road near the top of the hill. There is a pathway that leads from the road up to the cemetery. From the top, it is possible to look down over the extent of the historic Brinks property that might soon be torn up by heavy machinery as Greeley comes through to build a third pipeline to carry water from the Poudre river down to the city of Greeley. Rose Brinks has not only spurned developers who wanted to come in and subdivide her property into multiple, riverside residences, but she has also been the person who has maintained the Bingham Hill Cemetery. She also did quite a bit of research and has written a book about the people that are buried in this cemetery. (If you would like to know more about what’s going on with Rose’s property, as well as the property of neighbors to either side, I’d encourage you to check out Cat’s post in the Lost Fort Collins blog on the topic.) […]