Gold Hill Mesa fights back against return of ‘rills’

       It was starting to look like bad old times during the rainy Memorial Day weekend for the former tailings hill above Fountain Creek along Highway 24.

Looking down the slope (the former tailings dam face) at Gold Hill Mesa, one of the new erosion cuts is in the foreground. In the background, at the base of the slope, above Fountain Creek, is part of the interim retention pond that prevented any of the runoff from reaching the creek, according to Barry Brinton, Gold Hill Mesa property manager. Beyond the property can be seen Highway 24 and the adjoining trailer park.
Westside Pioneer photo

       The runoff gashed several erosion cuts, easily visible from the highway between 14th and 21st streets, and caused some speculation about what was happening with the property's Gold Hill Mesa residential/commercial development.
       But the problem looked worse than it was, according to Gold Hill property manager Barry Brinton. He said a broad, interim retention pond, which was built about three years ago at the base of the hill with Colorado Health Department approval, prevented any potential tailings contamination from reaching the creek.
       The problem was a drainage swale at the top of the hill, which turned out to be too shallow. As a result, water came down the hill - which in the early 1900s had been created as a dam for tailings from the Golden Cycle gold mill - and created most of the cuts (also called rills) along the slope, Brinton explained. “It tells us we need to go on top of the dam and cut a deeper swale,” he said. “That should collect water a little better before it cascades down the dam face so bad.”
       He was also irked that the erosive storms washed away some of the grass that had been drill-seeded along the slope last fall and which was “just a month away” from getting fully established.
       Remedial work is under way by the Gold Hill Mesa ownership. A visit to the site this week with Brinton revealed that several rills have already been filled, and heavy equipment was at work on the hilltop swale. Brinton estimated that it will take another two weeks to finish the job. Included will be a reseeding of the grass that was lost. Most of the grass from last fall survived the storm.
       Once the grass is fully established, that will help the slope resist future erosion, he said. The grass was seeded into a roughly five-inch soil “cap” that had previously been spread over the clay face of the dam.

Heavy equipment was at work this week deepening the swale at the top of the dam face to reduce the amount of water flowing down the slope in future cloudbursts. The development group is continuing efforts to establish the grass (which can be seen in both photos) as a farther erosion deterrent until homes are built along the slope at a point, not yet determined, in the future.
Westside Pioneer photo

       In years to come, according to conceptual Gold Hill Mesa plans, houses and streets will be built along the slope and a storm sewer system will collect runoff from the neighborhood and carry it down to the pond. At that point, the pond, which now releases no water into Fountain Creek (because of the tailings concern), will be coverted to a water quality pond that allows sediment to settle and releases “clean water,” as Brinton put it, from an outfall into Fountain Creek.
       A second Gold Hill-installed pond, farther west beside the creek, already works that way, he added. It accepts piped-in storm-sewer water from Gold Hill Mesa's Filing 1 higher up on the property, off Lower Gold Camp Road, where the only homes (about 60 in all) on the property are currently built.

Westside Pioneer article