Parvin Butte has been in the public eye ever since developer Greg Demers decided to mine the Dexter landmark for rock products after purchasing it in 2009. This spurred the creation of an online episodic series, and now the story continues as gravel from the quarry has been linked to at least 11 popped tires in a four-day period in April along Creswell’s Ricketts Road.
According to an April 13 email correspondence between Lane County road maintenance manager Arno Nelson and Lane County Commissioner Faye Stewart, who received complaints about the road, the gravel was identified as coming from Parvin Butte, and looked “more angular” and “sharper than usual.”
Kris Jeremiah, general manager of Aggregate Resource Industries, Inc., the company operating the Parvin Butte quarry, does not think the flats were caused by Parvin Butte gravel.
“I don’t know all the circumstances, but there were two to three loads from Parvin Butte, and three times as many loads came from another quarry,” Jeremiah says. “We’re not sure which rocks people [are having] issues with.”
At this point the issue is “political,” Jeremiah says, and that there is no regulation regarding gravel sharpness. The county had previously cited Demers’ Lost Creek Rock Products for illegally mining without a site review, but didn’t appeal a 2012 decision to let mining continue by the county hearings official after a 3-2 vote by the conservative-majority County Commission.
The county also was not finished with the road when people drove over it, which lead to the flat tires, Jeremiah says.
The gravel could have come from one of two quarries, Bradford or Parvin Butte, but saying people drove over the road before the county was finished is “not quite accurate,” says Lane County road maintenance planner Orin Schumacher.
After work on the flood-prone road was finished, the complaints came in, and Lane County graded the road again. There have not been any problems since, Schumacher says.
He tells EW that Lane County has used rock from Parvin Butte many times without reports of tire damage, and he adds that he does not know what caused the flat tires definitely, as the people who reported the flat tires did not provide him with information that would help determine the cause.
While gravel used by ODOT must meet specifications guided by the Oregon Standard Specifications for Construction manual, there are no county regulations, Schumacher says.
“It’s an anomaly,” Schumacher says, and adds that Lane County isn’t going to do anything differently moving forward. “It’s an isolated incident,” he says, “and it shows that Lane County’s practices have been good at catching things before they become a problem.”
No claims regarding the popped tires in question have been filed against Lane County at this time. — Mike Bivins