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Paul Schwartz: Better uses for the Idaho Maryland Mine property

We often get the question "If no mining, then what?" Grass Valley resident Paul Schwarz suggests a plan that enhances our strengths in tourism, recreation, and green industry while also meeting critical community needs for employment, low-income housing, senior services, and emergency preparedness.

Read it below, or read it in The Union.


There are many development options for the Idaho-Maryland Mine property on Brunswick Road that are better than reopening the mine.

Many options are consistent with the Nevada County General Plan and would not require zoning changes, special use permits, or variances that reopening the mine requires.

There are many development options that bring synergy to current community development and economic strengths. Reopening the mine does not.

There are many options that address community needs, such as low-income housing, employment, carbon reduction and energy efficiency. Reopening the mine does not contribute solutions to any of these community needs.

I would like to offer one development plan vision for the 119-acre Idaho-Maryland Mine property. A good plan would contribute to our growing community economic strengths in tourism, recreation, and the green industry. It would also help solve ongoing and chronic challenges in housing, employment, energy efficiency, and carbon reduction. A good plan would offer opportunities to contribute to the needs of our seniors and the challenges facing the government sector.

I propose a development that includes five uses for the 119 acres. Two of the uses are currently visible at the mine property. Space would be provided for the senior wood project and the emergency lay-down area for fire equipment staging and PG&E emergency equipment and materials staging. These are two important uses needed to serve our community.

Granted, neither of these two generate ongoing revenue to support their presence and the business plan for the redevelopment of the Idaho-Maryland Mine property would need to address this.

The third use I propose would be a commercial RV park including electric, water, and waste service at each site. When looking at the RV park industry, you will find a portion of typical parks offer space for long-term residents while reserving the majority of the park for visitors staying less than two weeks.

This concept would also increase the inventory of destinations during mandatory fire evacuations. The RV park would add another option for tourists visiting our area.

Which leads me to use No. 4: Partner with Empire Mine State Park and the city of Grass Valley to develop a walking and bike trail from Idaho-Maryland Mine to Empire State Park and Memorial Park. The trail could follow Little Wolf Creek.

If I remember correctly, Grass Valley has a utility easement along the creek that former Senior Planner Bill Roberts assured the city Planning Commission could be used for a future trail. The combination of the RV park and the trail would strengthen recreation assets in the area and would add another attractive dimension to the Colfax Avenue business district.

The final use I would propose is a solar farm that’s sized to support the RV park and other uses at the project.

Using the land-use metrics of the current proposal to reopen the Idaho-Maryland Mine of preserving up to 59 acres of the 119-acre site as open space, leaving 60 acres for the new development. Picture 30 acres designated for the solar farm, trails, and lay down areas.

That would leave 30 acres for the RV park. Picture a conceptual 12 RV pads per acre and the opportunity to develop 360 pads utilizing less than 50% of the 30 acres.

This would leave the remaining 50% for circulation, open space, picnic areas, office, store, restroom and shower facilities.

The property could be purchased by Nevada County or in partnership with the city of Grass Valley and Empire Mine State Park using low interest bond funds. The RV park and solar farm could be operated as partnerships with private sector vendors specializing in those types of enterprise or operated within the public management infrastructure.

Obviously, there is a lot of research and number crunching to complete, but the research I have done suggests this concept would pencil out.

Paul Schwartz lives in Grass Valley.


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