Victor Iconic Mining Attraction to Remain Open- Rick Langenberg

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The power of local opinions in Victor and southern Teller prevails again.

In an about-face move, the new Colorado-based owners of the Cripple Creek & Victor Gold Mining Company (CC&V) have decided to back off from earlier reports and have opted to keep the popular American Eagles overlook open to the public—at least for now.

The popular iconic tourist attraction, which offers probably the best overall view of the CC&V mining operations, was slated for closure at the end of this month.

But a week ago, CC&V officials announced plans to postpone any permanent decision and to hold a series of public meetings. At issue are public safety concerns dealing with the increased mining activity in the area and associated problems with a public road that crosses a mining haul road and the addition of extra security requirements.

Now, company officials from Newmont Mining have taken this postponement one step further and want to keep the site, which also includes a historic mining headframe, open for the remainder of the year. Officials then want to explore how to improve safety features and enhance access to the attraction.

This announcement followed an outpour of pro-American Eagles overlook sentiment from residents, local business operators and civic leaders.

“We heard from a lot of people about the significance of it, which caused us to step back and look at other options that would provide for public access,” said Mary Korpi, spokeswoman for Newmont Mining Corp, which purchased CC&V in 2015.

However, the long-term fate of the popular attraction is still in question. Previously, Newmont mulled possible plans to relocate the headframe and historic exhibits to other locations in Vindicator Valley and Battle Mountain.

In addition, the Teller County government, which had a long-term arrangement with the former owners of CC&V, AngloGold Ashanti, for maintaining the access road to American Eagles, had requested an extension of this contract. They are still awaiting a final decision by Newmont regarding this request.

One fact remains certain: Public opinion in the local area has strongly favored keeping the current site open. The historic mine was once owned by Winfield Scott Stratton, who became Cripple Creek’s first mining era millionaire, and the site includes a headframe, blacksmith shop, a hoist and relics from the 1890s underground mining days. Its main appeal deals with its unprecedented, scenic overlook.

In the last few weeks, residents and community leaders have voiced strong support for keeping the American Eagles site intact, and have cited its draw for tourists and for the overall economy. This occurred after CC&V officials announced the probable closure of the attraction at a public meeting in Victor.

“This site has been a major tourist attraction for Victor and southern Teller County since the mid-1990s and draws a documented 6,000 people per year. These people drive through Victor on their way to the site,” noted Ruth Zalewski, the co-founder of the Southern Teller County Focus group, in describing the popularity of the attraction and its importance to Victor.

“What if locals said they were closing the top of Pikes Peak or the Manitou Incline? For locals, it has that same kind of meaning,” said Gertrud Wuellner, owner of Gold Camp Bakery in Victor, according to an article in the Colorado Springs Gazette.

In fact, Wuellner launched a petition drive, with comments from Victor business owners, in an effort to keep the site open.

Newmont officials admit that these comments made a definite impact. However, the company still wants to find a better way for visitors to access the American Eagles attraction, which has an overlook that nearly hits the 11,000-foot-elevation mark. Several years ago a guard station was installed about a mile from the overlook summit, as part of Homeland Security requirements and guards must monitor the activities of tourist vehicles, if they get too close to the mining activity. Also, a chain link fence with holes was installed for viewing the CC&V operations.

Although no problem incidents have occurred, public safety with the current access has become a growing concern. “It is dangerous situation and CC&V realizes that it must take action for public safety,” said Brad Poulson, a communications specialist for CC&V.

But with the latest announcement, the immediate threat of an American Eagles shutdown has been placed on hold. That has locals and civic leaders expressing much relief.