Lost Creek Rock Products has begun blasting at Parvin Butte, and neighbors say the noise is frightening people and their pets. The once-wooded land has been logged and the butte, which gives a scenic backdrop to boaters on the nearby Dexter Lake reservoir, is slated to be razed.
Neighbor Pete Helzer tells of a neighbor’s dog that was so scared by the blasting noise that it ran through two fences before it could be stopped. He says destroying the butte harms not only the rural community but its history, as well as the water and environment.
Lane County did hear from neighbors about the blasting noise, says Shelley Kurtz, interim public information officer. But she says the county doesn’t “have authority to cite for non-compliance given the distances involved.”
Another neighbor, Arlen Markus, says when the April 10 blasting happened, his wife was feeding horses in the barn and felt the blast through the dirt floor. He says, “She was lucky that the horses did not spook and trample her to death.” He says he is frusterated his County Commissioner, Faye Stewart, has been silent on the issue.
Another butte neighbor, Courtney Campbell, emailed the county that the blast “shook the entire foundation of my home, even knocking several items on tables over” and it made her animals frantic.
“This is outrageous and unacceptable,” she wrote, “Isn’t there anything the county can do?”
According to Matt Laird of the Land Management Division, right now there is not. “The code requires notice if blasting occurs within 500 feet of an occupied structure,” he says and there is “no evidence that there are any occupied structures within 500 feet of the blast.” He adds, “While I believe it would be courteous of the operator to provide notice to the surrounding neighborhood, it is not required by code.”
Lost Creek Rock Products, a business of Greg Demers and the McDougal brothers, has argued to Lane County that it does not need a site review permit for the mine. A site review would allow neighbors input over problems the nearby mine could create for them such as dust, blasting noise and trucks.
Kurtz says the county is currently in a holding pattern over the issue and has until May 4 to decide whether to file an appeal challenging a decision made by the hearings official. The decision said a site review is needed if mining activity occurs in the 200-foot buffer around the mine, but not at the mine itself, where the blasting has occurred.
The legal system has relegated the Parvin Butte neighbors to the sidelines in the site review dispute, Helzer says, but “we do have a sense of what the landscape is and a historical sense of the landscape.”
Helzer, who is a sculptor known for his downtown Ken Kesey and Rosa Parks statues, as well as the bronze relief sighting pedestal atop Mount Pisgah, wants to give the people of Dexter and Lost Valley a voice and give others “a sense of what’s at stake.”
Towards that goal, Helzer is working with other neighbors on an art exhibit, “Silent Witness” at Maude Kerns Art Center May 14-18, which will include photography by Dexter photographer John Bauguess as well as poetry.