When defense contractor Neal Blue paid $6 million for Telluride’s Valley Floor in 1983, the longtime Idarado Mining Co. dumping ground was in rough shape, replete with heavy metals, arsenic and other toxic mining byproducts. In 1993, Blue’s staff leaked plans to turn the high-alpine wetlands into a housing complex featuring artificial lakes, luxury homes and golf courses — an outrageous proposal to many in liberal Telluride. “We needed to preserve the entire ecosystem,” says San Miguel County Commissioner Hilary Cooper, who fought to save the Valley Floor, which in 2005 was appraised at $25 million. What ensued was a years-long battle that entailed fierce litigation, divisive town elections and a heroic 11th-hour fundraising drive. The Valley chronicles one community’s fight to keep a little piece of their valley forever wild.
- Bryan Reinhart