Dear Editor and Publisher,
- John Olson
Our search for our forever home began 9 months ago. Previously having lived on the West Side of town, and then having lived in other parts of the city, we knew when we began our search we wanted to once again be on the West Side. We love the proximity to the mountains; to the hiking trails that we frequent often; and to the dog parks our pup likes to frolic in. We love being able to go to downtown Colorado Springs and grab a quick bite to eat at our favorite restaurants, or a beer or two at our favorite breweries. And it is undeniable that the West Side of town has a different vibe than other parts of our city, a vibe that we can relate to.
We looked at Gold Hill Mesa on a whim one evening. As we drove the streets, I marveled at how many residents were out walking their dogs; standing on sidewalks talking to each other; sitting on their front porch reading a book. I noticed the green spaces tucked in between houses. The beautiful tree lined streets with the city as a backdrop in one direction, and the mountains as the backdrop in the other direction. Gold Hill Mesa was absolutely beautiful. However, “Gold Hill Mesa is Arsenic Hill!” I could hear my parents, who are longtime residents of Old Colorado City exclaim in my mind.
Here are the facts as I see them:
- Yes, Gold Hill Mesa is a neighborhood built on what was once a gold processing plant in the early 1900’s. This processing plant left behind what is called ‘tailings’. The tailings are the consistency of sand. The tailings include metals and minerals, namely arsenic and lead. This is extremely alarming when you first read about it. However, once I understood that a) heavy metals are found up and down our beautiful front range not just in Gold Hill Mesa b) these metals are only harmful if either digested in large quantities and or breathed into one’s lungs and c) Gold Hill Mesa has remediated the area so that the people and the environment are not exposed to the metals, my fears were squelched.
- Buying anywhere else on the Front Range, I would not know what is in my soil. Buying at Gold Hill Mesa, I know exactly what is in my soil. In my yard the developer and builder dug down until they hit the existing tailings. Once they identified the tailings, they placed a visual identification layer (think a bright orange netting) on top of the tailings. They then added 2 feet of a 60/40 mix of soil (60% new soil, 40% tailings) above the existing tailings left by the processing plant, and then an additional 2 feet of clean soil was placed on top.
- Any concerns I have regarding my drinking water, I will have else where in the city as well since we all receive our drinking water from the City of Colorado Springs Utilities.
- I can plant a garden if I want. I could even plant trees that bear fruit. Gold Hill Mesa hired experts from Colorado State University to do research on produce grown in our soil. The experts found that the produce was safe.
- The once eye sore and environmental hazard to the communities that surround “Arsenic Hill” is now a beautiful neighborhood. The Gold Hill Mesa community shares the hill with a smaller community, the Villa de Mesa, which was built in the 1970’s. Development on the hill has capped the mining trails, preventing erosion into Fountain Creek and preventing the mining trails from blowing in the wind into the surrounding neighborhoods.
- Experts have repeatedly tested in Gold Hill Mesa and have reported that it is a safe and solid area to live. The tailings are actually an almost ideal material on which to build on as they do not have the pesky clay that can expand and cause foundations to crack. Villa de Mesa, the neighbors on the hill just west of Gold Hill Mesa have been living their just fine since the 1970’s. I’ve been told they have a beautiful pool (that has no issues with cracking or heaving), and even have apple trees that they allowed Colorado State University to test to see if metal levels were too high for safe consumption.
- In recent weeks news articles have given us reason to pause, and reevaluate our decision to build in Gold Hill Mesa. It was reported that 24 homes were having foundation issues due to soil quality. After a moment of panic, we spoke to our builder, read letters and emails written by the developer and sent out in response to the news articles, and attended community functions where we spoke with experts again and also residents that are currently living in the community. What we found was that the statement of 24 homes having foundation issues was a false statement. The City Counsel minutes that this was taken from was misconstrued to look as if all 24 homes came from GHM, which was not the case. Yes, there have been a handful of issues with foundations in GHM, but they were not due to the soil quality but rather due to builder errors … all which can happen in any new build communities.
- There have been rumors that there may be articles published in the future regarding health concerns in the area. We once again, talked personally to the developer, the experts that have tested the area, our builder, and current residents. All squelched any worries I may have had regarding whether or not the area was healthy to live in. Families have bought and sold and bought again in Gold Hill Mesa. We listened to stories of home owners who encouraged parents, siblings and other family members to move into the neighborhood. Families in Villa de Mesa haven’t had any issues, and they’ve lived here since the 1970’s. We heard stories of horses stabled in Norris Penrose, which is downwind and downstream of Gold Hill Mesa, having been tested for potential ailments caused by the unique environment. And all testing came back aok.
After doing much more research than I have ever done for a home, talking to many people, with very impressive credentials, about our little lot of land, and getting to know our neighbors who have been very transparent regarding their experiences in the development, I can firmly say I am extremely excited to move into my new home at Gold Hill Mesa.
Soon to be a homeowner in Gold Hill Mesa,