The once controversial Mustang Mountain Coaster project north of Estes Park has broken ground and construction of the coaster itself has begun. Developers are planning a 2021 Memorial Day grand opening.
After years of deliberation and litigation, the project made its first strides on Tuesday, July 28, when a helicopter was used to help a crew on the ground pour concrete blocks one yard at a time.
“There is a lot of risk involved in construction as it is, but getting a helicopter involved on a mountain slope is definitely a different challenge,” said Coal Creek’s Shane Weisell. “We knocked it out of the park.”
Former Estes Park mayor pro-tem and school board president, Cody Walker, launched the project and after years of turmoil said he is happy to see the project start.
“We are looking forward to being a big part of the reason people come to Estes Park,” Walker said.
Working with Walker as director of operations for the project, Gregg Hecker said the Coal Creek Excavation team is currently doing prep work for an access road and utility needs. The newly constructed entrance to the coaster will be at Dry Gulch Road and Ptarmigan Trail.
Hecker described the project as a single-ride attraction and said no additional infrastructure will be installed besides a storage shed for coaster carts and a building that will operate as a ticket booth, office space and bathrooms.
A 19-spot parking lot will be at the base of the coaster and there will be a shuttle service from the Mustang Mountain Coaster office on U.S. 34 to the coaster lot.
“Our infrastructure is bare bones,” Hecker said “… we definitely did not want to do anything overly ornate to contrast the native land.”
When talks of the coaster first began, a few neighbors brought a lawsuit against the Larimer Board of County Commissioners in hopes of having the zoning classification changed. In Langer v. BOCC, local courts ruled in favor of the commissioners.
Neighbors then claimed local authorities tasked with making and reviewing zoning determinations abused their discretion in interpreting and applying the Estes Valley Development Code.
In a unanimous ruling, the Colorado Supreme Court also ruled in favor of the county.
After excavation began in early July, coaster construction is set to begin in August.
Engineers from manufacturer Weigand Sports will be onsite to oversee a group of 10 men as they construct the coaster, working 75-90 days straight, 70 hours a week, until the project is complete.
The coaster will be about 1,000 linear feet on the uphill track pulled by an electric cable and bullwheel, and roughly 2,000 linear feet of gravity-fed descending track.
While it would have been most cost-effective to pour the concrete pads a more traditional way, the machinery involved would have left a much larger construction footprint. So, Walker and Coal Creek decided on the helicopter.
“First and foremost with any construction project is keeping safety in mind,” Weisell said. “Working on that slope trying to place concrete traditionally with machinery on the ground or getting it up there in other non-traditional ways such as horses … we just didn’t want to do that. We would have to clear more trees and disturb the earth a little bit more to make it safer enough to get the material up there.”
Mountain Blade Runner out of Montrose provided the helicopter and pilot for the project.
Weisell said the project is being constructed in a way that will not impede the visual beauty of Estes Park and he did not expect there to be an issue with noise pollution either.
“It is dry up here so another concern of ours is ensuring that were mitigating the dust, especially given the high profile of this project and pushback from community,” Weisell said.
Lifetime coaster passes are currently available for $500 and are transferable. Expected ticket prices are $60 for an all-day pass or $20 per coaster ride.