by Town of Crestone Deputy  Clerk Leanna Bradbury
The big spectacle downtown this summer is the realization of the Town’s long time dream of a municipal water system with a dependable supply, pure water, and life-saving fire hydrants. For many decades some town residents have had shallow wells which ran dry in drought years and were easily contaminated by old septic systems. Others have lived in Crestone more than 30 years with no well at all, hauling water to fill cisterns. And what did we do if there was a fire? 3,000 gallon water trucks shuttled from refills at one municipal well and the golf course.

July A1-Big backhoe

That is a big backhoe! The Robins Backhoe & Dozer Service team from Antonito lay water pipe along Silver Avenue in downtown Crestone. It has been exciting to watch the array of heavy equipment in town.

Now it’s really happening. The June-July laying of three miles of water mains has the town in an exhilarating mess. Shiny new red fire hydrants pose on corners with their instruction tags still attached. The dozen men and several pieces of heavy equipment installing the system are Robins Construction, a family business from Antonito, and include four brothers and a brother-in-law. They work very long days with minimal breaks, and have impressed observers with their diligent work and rapid progress. Their track hoe that digs the 6’ deep trenches dwarfs many of the town buildings and completely blocks whatever street it’s working on.
Meanwhile materials keep arriving from Colorado Springs, especially fittings to bend the pipes around boulders, trees, and buried utilities. Coming down Galena in front of Crestone Mercantile, a
decision was made not to risk cutting the roots of the old lone Ponderosa used a hundred years ago as the “Hanging Tree,” so the trench was diverted out into the paved part of the street. Sand and gravel are still being heaped on the roadsides for bedding material, and a well specialist and electrician make cameo appearances. Town Public Works Coordinator and Town Trustee Jim Hollmer theoretically retired a few years ago, but he’s out on the street 12 hours a day inspecting and facilitating the work.
Every day there’s some excitement. An old wooden drain or sewer line is found or an unmarked phone line is cut. One day a sewer pipe several feet away from its mapped location was punctured and residents and businesses on Silver Avenue had to be asked not to flush for a while.
Here’s a brief guide to the construction:
July A1-Dirty work

Dirty work–laying pipe after a rain.

•    Coming down Galena Avenue and branching out to three municipal wells there are two pipes in the trench for supply running uphill to the storage tank and distribution coming back down. Distribution loops come off the Galena mainline to the downtown area, the Community Building area, and the northeast  section of town. A fourth loop has just been added to serve East Iron and North Spruce and place an eleventh fire hydrant at Iron and Spruce. The downtown loop reaches as far as Golden and Cedar east of the Fire Station to make it easier to provide water to the southeast quarter of town.
•    A ½ acre parcel of land near the bend in Galena at the uphill end of town will be the focus of July-August construction. The water tank foundation will be constructed, and the 114,000 gallon tank will arrive after July 15. The three-man team from Austin, TX, says they can assemble it in three days. Sound like a big tank? You got it. Although daily use is projected to be 8,000 to 9,000 gallons per day, the Road Kill Café fire several years ago took 60,000 gallons to contain the fire—not to save the building. That’s the current site of the Sangre de Cristo Inn.
•    The control building will be constructed, the storage tank filled and tested, and the system disinfected. Even if all that blue pipe arrived squeaky clean, who knows what’s been crawling through it or what’s been washing into it as it lies along the road.  A chlorine tablet is tossed into every length of pipe as it is installed, and the water is forecast to test clean and usable sometime in September.
Area residents are stopping to watch the progress, and seeing different parts of town as they detour around the work. Thank you for observing the detour signs and taking the path usually less traveled. Those who don’t will be turned back just around the corner by the giant track hoe, three or four other pieces of equipment, and probably one of the 50 trenches that cross a road.
Another consequence of the water line installation will be a very different look in a few spots. The 1880 town plat provided a complete grid of 60’ and 80’ wide streets, but many have never been used and look like wild or private land. About eight blocks of these undeveloped rights-of-way are going to look like streets by the time the track hoe has trenched its way through. Please resist any urge to drive on them. Many will be reseeded with native grasses.
Thank you also for your patience with the construction and inconvenience. It isn’t done until it’s done, and the mud, excavated materials, sand, gravel, and vegetation on the roads and roadsides will take a few months to clean up and restore.