The aftermath of almost 100 years of mining operations…
…left a toll on the environmental, economic, and social resilience of Creede. Unstable tailings piles, waste rock laden with heavy metals, decrepit mining structures, impaired wildlife habitat, and flood and fire risk are just some of the resulting consequences. In spite of these challenges, the miner spirit prevailed, and Creede reinvented itself as a destination for art and theatre, gold medal fishing and pristine wilderness with a thriving summer tourist economy.
In 1991, Willow Creek was placed on the 303(d) list for Impaired Waters by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. In an effort to restore and reclaim impacted mining sites without federal intervention, the Willow Creek Reclamation Committee (WCRC) was formed in 1997. WCRC began. as a group of local community members with the goal of improving water quality in Willow Creek. WCRC initiated the scientific characterization of contamination, implemented reclamation at numerous sites and initiated community awareness efforts. To learn more about WCRC’s work, please visit willowcreede.org.
In spite of the effectiveness of the community-driven WCRC work, the EPA ultimately designated the Nelson Tunnel/Commodore Waste Rock Pile a Superfund Site in 2008; the status of which remains unchanged. The Nelson Tunnel site is listed because it is a point source contributor of high levels of acid mine drainage directly into Willow Creek.