A mountain memory: New site on South Table Mountain dedicated to Applewood lawyer and conservationist

Carl Eiberger helped save mountain from mining

Paul Albani-Burgio
palbaniburgio@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 6/16/21

When Carl Eiberger received a knock on the door of his Applewood home in late 1974, he never could have imagined how much the trajectory of his life was about to change. After all, the person …

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A mountain memory: New site on South Table Mountain dedicated to Applewood lawyer and conservationist

Carl Eiberger helped save mountain from mining

Posted

When Carl Eiberger received a knock on the door of his Applewood home in late 1974, he never could have imagined how much the trajectory of his life was about to change.

After all, the person standing there was just one of his neighbors, Betty McFerren. McFerren knew of his reputation as a lawyer and was hoping he could bring his expertise to the effort to oppose a plan to build a massive aggregate rock mine that would forever change the mesa.

Carl’s daughter, Mary Eiberger, said he responded with four simple words, “How can I help?” So began a 24-year-odyssey that saw her father ultimately donate what he said was over a million dollars in legal work that was instrumental in multiple successful efforts to block construction of the mine.

Carl proved particularly effective in rallying his neighbors and together they formed the “Citizens Coalition to Preserve South Table Mountain.’

“We wouldn’t have a South Table Mountain Park if it weren’t for Carl Eiberger,” Don Parker, president of Save the Mesas, a citizens group that exists to ensure that the public land on Golden’s table mountains remains open space, told the Golden Transcript upon Carl’s death in 2019.

Now, the many hikers who come to South Table Mountain to enjoy its unique views of Golden and Denver will have a place to stop and learn about the man to whom they partially owe their continued enjoyment one of the Golden area’s great natural features.

On June 6, 30 of Eiberger’s family and friends gathered at a spot on the Basalt Cap Loop trail at the mountain’s northeastern edge to remember Carl and those who worked alongside him and dedicate Carl’s Point, a spot overlooking Denver to the east that is now named in his honor.

That dedication came about a year after Jefferson County Open Space installed a wood sign at the site that bears the name “Carl’s Point.” Also, on the sign is a QR code, which can be scanned with a cellphone to bring up a short video about Carl’s efforts to save the mountain.

Mary had first come up with the idea of seeing if Jefferson County Open Space would rename one of the trails on the mesa after her dad a few years before his death. But when she came to him with the idea, it was “a short conversation.”

“He was a very humble man and so he just didn’t want to talk about it,” said Mary. “He just totally deflected the topic.”

But Mary believed her dad, humble as he was, deserved some kind of permanent recognition. So shortly after he died, she reached out to Jefferson County Open Space about the possibility of renaming a trail after her father.

However, JCOS responded that the cost of changing a trail’s name on all the system’s maps and guide information would be prohibitively expensive and instead suggested that a spot on the mountain be named after him instead.

The spot that was chosen had previously been marked as an unnamed scenic view on the South Table Mountain.

“We knew that many visitors stop there and take in the expansive view and we hope that by scanning the QR code and listening to Carl’s story they may be inspired to make a difference, big or small, for their public lands,” said Mary Ann Bonnell, the visitor services manager with JCOS that worked with Mary on the project. “That’s the point of Carl’s Point, it is meant to be inspirational.”

However, Mary said the point also made sense for another reason.

“It was serendipitous that JCOS chose that point because from it you could see dad’s home in Applewood as well as the Republic Plaza (Denver’s tallest skyscraper) where he worked,” Mary said.

Also visible from Carl’s Point is Applewood Park, which Carl founded, and the Applewood Athletic Club, which he was a co-founder of. He also helped with the creation of 10 other parks around Golden and donated about $900,000 in pro bono work to the Denver Symphony.

Now, when visitors happen upon Carl’s Point, they will be able to hear both about the man and from him (the video includes a recording of Carl talking about the mountain) while admiring the view he so wanted to protect.

That two-minute video only begins to scratch the surface of Carl’s fight, which involved a total of 98 public hearings with the Jeffco commissioners. He amassed at least 17 large boxes of legal documents in his conservation work, which Mary still has in her possession.

In a recording he made before his death, Carl explained that he and the opponents of the project were not environmentalists but concerned citizens who felt that allowing a mine on South Table Mountain was “the wrong thing at the wrong time,” given the community around the mountain.

According to the recording, Carl and others repeatedly raised concerns about issues ranging from air and water pollution and noise that could result from the mining to impacts on wildlife to traffic to the possibility that the Solar Energy Research Institute, which evolved into today’s NREL, would have to relocate if the mine was built.

Of course, one of the biggest concerns is that a mine would ruin the physical beauty of the mountain and any possibility for the type of recreation that is enjoyed there today.

“The mining of this mountain would have made much of the mountain unusable for recreation at least through 2050, and even possibly longer, permanently changing the landscape,” said Mary in her speech. “The quarry was going to be a mile long by a mile wide and 200 feet deep.”

The mountain also had significant paleontological resources that a mine would have put at risk. In 1943, South Table Mountain was the first place where the K-Pg boundary, a thin layer of rock that provides fossil evidence for the extinction event that is credited with killing the dinosaurs, was identified in North America (just 49 feet from Carl’s Point).

In 1874, a professor and his student from Colorado School of Mines also discovered what was later determined to be the first T-Rex tooth found in North America on the west side of South Table Mountain.

But while it is Carl’s name that visitors will now see atop the mesa, Mary said visitors should know that he was far from alone in his effort.

Among the many people who helped support the effort’s success was S. Alex Scott, an expert mining engineer who lived four houses down from the Eibergers. Scott provided testimony that it would be unfeasible for the quarry to be built and evidence that it would create unacceptable levels of dust and noise pollution for the community.

“Alex Scott concluded that there would be a collapse of the proposed South Table Mountain quarry mine due to unstable conditions,” said Mary. “The rock would end up in the lawns of our neighbors.”

Alex’s son, Nelson Scott, attended the ceremony.

“It was really rewarding to be up there and look around and imagine what it would have been like if the (proposed) 25 Mile High Stadiums of material had been pulled out of there and to see how beautiful the place is today and know that my dad was so involved in that,” said Nelson of the commemoration.

Nelson also said the creation of Carl’s Point is an important step in ensuring that Carl and Alex’s role in the mountain’s history is not forgotten.

“History has a way of repeating itself,” said Nelson. “Who knows if someone will try to do the same thing up there.”

But even if passersby do not fully grasp the significance of the work done by her father, she hopes they will learn enough to appreciate perhaps the most important thing about him.

“He made a difference,” Mary said. “And you too can make a difference.”

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