Voices of the Peninsula: Don’t believe the panic over gravel pits

My home is located across the street from a 19-acre gravel pit in Nikiski.

  • Wednesday, June 19, 2019 10:24pm
  • Opinion

I would like to offer a response to the June 18 article in Voices of The Peninsula by Linda Bruce.

My home is located across the street from a 19-acre gravel pit in Nikiski. I also own a small gravel pit nearby off the Spur Highway. Years ago I used to be able to see into the 19-acre pit. It has never been a problem for me or my neighbors. The pit operators have never run equipment there in the early morning hours or late at night, even when they have been providing material for large jobs.

This is a common practice with pit owners, including myself. Even though my home is so close to their gravel pit, noise has never been an issue either. Not even during screening operations. Today’s modern equipment just isn’t as noisy as in the past. Machines have adequate exhaust systems that are actually quiet enough that the operator might not even need hearing protection. The screening operation would create the most sound, but even that is difficult to hear inside my home. Sure, I can hear it if I am out in the yard, but it is not loud enough to be annoying.

I used to be able to see Mount Spur from my house. Now that the trees have grown up around that 19-acre pit, I have lost that view. If I owned the view, which none of us do, I would insist those trees be removed so I could see the mountain again.

I also did enjoy watching the equipment work in the pit. The backup alarms are the sound I would notice the most. I can understand people not wanting to hear those all day. They are necessary for the safety of the men and women who happen to be around working equipment. This is why the road-grader that comes through your subdivision has a backup alarm on it. I don’t suppose you complain about that piece of equipment though. Not even when they are clearing snow late at night.

Most gravel pits are set up so the trucks showing up to be loaded never have to back up. They negotiate the pit in a circle, get loaded and are gone. You shouldn’t hear an alarm from them. Just from the loader.

There are benefits to having a pit nearby that many people never consider. The pit near me, and also me with my pit, have informed our neighbors that in the event of a fire sweeping through the area, they would be welcome to move their vehicles and other belongings into the pit where they may be safer from the fire. A gravel pit also makes a great fire break.

I understand people’s hesitation to have a gravel pit open up nearby their home. But I assure you it will not be at all like you might anticipate. It will be quieter than you expect. Especially during the winter. Best winter neighbor you could have. Quiet as a cemetery then. Clean gravel doesn’t create a lot of dust. I’ve seen comments that a gravel pit is a scar on the land. It’s just a gravel parking lot after the overburden has been removed. Your modern pit owner is not going to fill his gravel pit up with a bunch of abandoned equipment.

The 19-acre pit near me has absolutely no equipment in it when it’s not working. The only equipment in my pit that stays there is the screen that is set up ready for use. So far this year, I have only operated it once for six hours to make product for a job. Everything else is brought back to the shop and safely secured until it is needed again. Often times I can be working in my pit, and the neighbors on the adjoining parcels did not even know I was there.

Yes, having a pit next door would be a change. It will not be the monstrosity many people are making it out to be. Property values near gravel pits have stayed the same as any other parcels. Checking with the borough will confirm this.

I have seen and heard plenty of falsehoods about gravel pits that have been brought up and repeated in public meetings and online. Come on out and watch mine work. I’d be happy to put on a show. I’ll even run the screen and you can walk the perimeter of the property while I work it. You might be surprised that things just are not what you expected.

Joseph Ross lives in Nikiski.

• Joseph Ross lives in Nikiski.

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