Mines to Open Space

From 1859 to the early 1900's, the mining of gold, silver, and other precious metals brought great prosperity and development to Summit County in boom and bust cycles, yet the economic prosperity from mining left a tarnished legacy of environmentally degraded, abandoned mine lands and ghost towns. Serious environmental issues from mining include acid mine drainage, open adits, waste rock and tailings, collapsed buildings, and highly impacted, channelized rivers. Open Space and Trails carries out projects to mitigate these issues, rehabilitating abandoned mine lands for water quality, river and riparian habitat, outdoor recreation, and historic preservation. 

Mine Acquisition & Cleanup

Open Space and Trails works with federal and state government, nonprofit, and collaborative partners like the Environmental Protection Agency, the Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining, and Safety, The Trust for Land Restoration, and the Snake River Task Force to locate, assess, acquire, and cleanup mines and mill sites. 

  • Successful and ongoing acquisition of several hundred mining claims free of known environmental issues (e.g., leaking mine adits, etc.). 
  • Completed the Peru Creek Brownfield Assessment, a study that reviewed mining claims for environmental liability and cleanup potential, leading to the acquisition and cleanup of the Pennsylvania Mine Site and Cinnamon Gulch and Shoe Basin Mine, two of the Snake River's worst polluters.
  • Completed cleanup projects include: Wellington Oro Mine/French Gulch, Jessie Mine and Mill Site, IXL/Royal Tiger Site, Saints John Mill, Brittle Silver Mill, Silver Spoon Mine, Delaware Mine, and Jumbo Mine.
  • Ongoing cleanup projects include: the Illinois Gulch Site and four other sites under review.

Shoe Basin Mine before cleanup with toxic mine tailings

Shoe Basin Mine before reclamation

Shoe Basin Mine after cleanup with the new trailhead

Shoe Basin Mine after reclamation

River Restoration

Over the last 15+ years, many damaged stretches of stream throughout Summit County have been restored to a more natural condition in order to meet recreational demand for activities like angling and boating. Each river restoration projects strives to: 

  • Create a stable and healthy aquatic, riparian, and floodplain habitat capable of supporting a diversity of aquatic and terrestrial organisms;
  • Design a recreationally functional open space, with new trails that link existing recreational trails to the restored stream corridor and surrounding White River National Forest to support hiking, bicycling, fishing and other non-motorized recreational uses;
  • Assure the preservation and interpretation of select historical sites and features of the Swan River Valley’s mining past, while supporting present and future needs and uses;
  • Employ innovative and successful stream restoration techniques that can be replicated elsewhere throughout the region and beyond; and
  • Maintain a collaborative network of private landowners, public agencies and non-governmental organizations that remain committed to the long-term stewardship of the Swan River corridor.

Blue River

The Four Mile Bridge stretch of the Upper Blue River in Breckenridge was buried under tons of dredge gravels just over a decade ago. Today, after being restored to a more natural condition, this same stretch of river is one of the most productive trout fisheries on the entire Blue River and a very popular location for anglers.

Blue River Before Restoration


Blue River After Restoration and "Naturalization"