City says go-ahead to gold getters

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There’s gold in them thar Wheat Ridge waters, and now the city will allow folks to go git it.

Wheat Ridge City Council approved a plan July 22 that will grant the city permission to take over an undeveloped area of greenbelt land that historically has been used for gold-panning, but has never been managed.

Now, through a resolution that will allow Wheat Ridge to lease the land from Jefferson County, the city will let folks pan for gold, while also instituting usage rules that officials believe will strike a balance between giving gold-getters what they want, while also protecting the banks of the Clear Creek from being damaged.

“I think it’s a good solution to an issue that’s been going on for years,” said Wheat Ridge Parks and Recreation Director Joyce Manwaring, during a city council study session that preceded the July 22 vote.

The land, known as the Arapahoe Bar, is located west of Interstate 70 at Youngfield Street and 41st Avenue, and is a vacant and undeveloped area that’s adjacent to Clear Creek.

Gold panning has been going on in that area for about 100 years, but because the open space-designated area has neither been under the jurisdiction of Wheat Ridge or Jefferson County, the activity that goes on there has never been managed.

Complicating matters prior to the lease agreement was the issue that Jefferson County allows for gold-panning in open space areas around Clear Creek. However, the City of Wheat Ridge had not allowed the activity inside the Greenbelt.

Because of the lack of management, concerns had been raised that heavy, motorized equipment that is used for gold-panning can cause damage to creek banks, and that no entity is able to enforce the noise that emits from the devices.

The lease will allow the city’s Parks and Recreation department to institute rules regarding gold-panning activities, relating to equipment use and dredging locations.

Officials believe that the financial impact to the city will be minimal and that environmental concerns will be met, under the lease agreement.

“I think we have a great parks and recreation department, and they’ll monitor the situation,” Wheat Ridge Mayor Jerry DiTullio said after the July 22 meeting. “And we have a lot of citizens down in the Greenbelt too. So, if someone’s doing something wrong I’m sure we’ll hear about it.”

DiTullio also touted the possible financial benefits that the city could end up reaping by visitors coming to Wheat Ridge for gold-panning purposes.

“The Greenbelt is a crown jewel of Wheat Ridge,” the mayor said. “And, any time we can bring more people into the city, those folks have the potential of shopping here and bringing in business here.”

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