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Ax falls on Rooney Road slash site

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County says operation was not an appropriate use of Open Space land

By Vicky Gits

If the Rooney Road slash collection site wasn't so popular, it might not be in this predicament.

The 8-acre recycling operation is closing permanently on Oct. 31 because Jefferson County is not renewing its lease after four years. County officials say the operation has become an eyesore and is not an appropriate use of Open Space land.

The closure leaves no other locally cheap and accessible place for excess brush, and there is no firm relocation plan. The companion service, a household chemical collection station at 151 S. Rooney Road, will continue to operate.

Homeowners pay a drop-off fee of $6.50 per cubic yard, which is considered to be a screaming deal compared to other sites. A-1 Organics comes along periodically with heavy machinery and grinds the raw material into mulch, which is available for a small fee to the public. Some of the mulch is taken away.

The slash recycling site and the household chemical collection station are on adjacent lots near the regional soccer complex. They are funded and operated by a consortium of local governments led by the Rooney Road Recycling Center Authority, consisting of Arvada, Edgewater, Golden, Jefferson County, Lakeside, Lakewood, Morrison, Mountain View and Wheat Ridge.

For the last few years, the low-key recycling center has provided a low-cost, convenient and consumer-friendly outlet for tree-trimmers, landscapers and homeowners to unload the results of their labors.

On a recent Thursday at 4 p.m., there was a constant stream of trucks and SUVs dropping off material. Three out of four were landscapers or tree-trimmers; one was a homeowner. They were all disappointed to hear the site was shutting down because it is so much cheaper and more convenient than the county landfill, and all were frequent visitors.

"This reduces the motivation to clear the underbrush," said one landscaper.

In 2011, the slash recycling facility processed 87,487 cubic yards, or 71 million pounds, of materials. The average customer count per day through July 2012 was about 95, or about 3,000 customers per year, said Chris Naber, environmental coordinator with the city of Golden.

Located at I-70 and C-470 south of the Rooney Road Sports Complex, the mound of deadwood can be seen from the highway, which some say constitutes a prominent eyesore.

After the early-season wildfires, the site accepted in one week what it usually sees in a month. It became kind of an emergency management outlet.

"After a nasty hailstorm or a late snowfall, we see a pretty significant increase," Naber said.

‘Not an allowed use’

The slash facility may be popular, but processing so much trash vegetation is not a welcome activity on land that belongs to the Jefferson County Open Space Division.

"Back in 2008 they were really needing a site, and they came to Open Space and asked if they could use it on a temporary basis. We agreed and extended it for a couple of years, knowing full well it's not an allowed permanent use," said Tom Hoby, director of Jeffco Parks and Open Space. "It's certainly environmental and helps with fuel reduction, but it is not an allowed use.

"It's definitely a little counterintuitive. When we were created by the voters, the enabling resolution requires our funds be used for park, recreation or open-space purposes. The definition is, center around those types of uses, whereas the slash site is light industrial. It's not really park and open space," Hoby said.

The other problem is aesthetic.

"It's a good location from an access standpoint,” Hoby said. “But we've heard from a lot of people it's not such a great location being right there at C-470 and I-70. Open Space spent $80 million on the Front Range mountain backdrop. This is in the base of it. So it's counter to preserving the views along the Hogback.”

The Open Space Division generates a lot of material from its forest management operations but sells most of it in various forms to individuals for firewood.

Slash turned into mulch

The Rooney Road Recycling Center has been collecting slash for at least 10 years. But before 2009, the site was on the north side of the chemical collection station building. After a fire, it was moved to the south side of the building to a larger site, where it was safer for people and operators.

It's been difficult to find another suitable home, said environmental coordinator Chris Naber.

One advantage of the recycling center is that the debris is re-used as mulch. Jefferson County is thinking of buying an industrial incinerator for a slash collection site at Shaffers Crossing, but it means reducing the product to ash rather than making something useful like mulch, Naber said.

And the Shaffers Crossing facility would never be a substitute for a collection center conveniently located close to the population center, Hoby said.

"We had discussed potentially doing a land swap and removing the Open Space designation for another piece of land. One of the member jurisdictions was willing to give 20 acres for the 8 acres we wanted. I can't say why that fell through," Naber said.

"The unfortunate part of it is, $1 per cubic yard of the fee went to the Rooney Road Recycling Center. It was a source of revenue to help keep the cost of running our household chemical program down," Naber said.

Contact Vicky Gits at vicky@evergreenco.com or 303-933-2233, ext. 22.

Details

Rooney Road Recycling Center, 150 S. Rooney Road, near the Rooney Regional Soccer Complex

Website: rooneyroadrecycling.org

Phone: 303-316-6262

Accepts tree branches, limbs and tree debris, loose pine needles, leaves, grass clippings, hay and straw, clean wood waste. No trash or manufactured wood like plywood or particle board.

Commercial: One small truck bed, $14; full size, $21 (approximate)

Residential: $5.50 to $6.50 per cubic yard, or a small truck bed for $11 to $13

Open seven days a week

7 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. through Oct. 31.

No appointment necessary

Sheriff's Office remote collection sites

In the summer months, the Sheriff's Office offers various opportunities to drop off slash at collection sites in the mountain communities. For information, visit http://jeffco.us/sheriff/sheriff_T62_R247.htm.