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Spiro Tunnel Has Been Restored

A brown, wood entrance to the Spiro Tunnel; it's in the snow, near a tree
KPCW Radio

Staffers at Park City Municipal, as well as local historians, are cheering the completion of restoration of the Spiro Tunnel.    A ceremony next Tuesday will mark the occasion.   

The Spiro Tunnel, located in the Thaynes Canyon neighborhood, and the Judge Tunnel, up in Empire Canyon, are over 100 years old and are two of the major water sources for Park City.

Clint McAffee, Public Utilities Director for the city, said that the Spiro alone represents 25 to 30 percent of the city’s total water supply.     

“And we maintain that tunnel back to over 14,000 feet into the mountain, so up to the Thaynes shaft.  It’s a constant task, never goes away, it’s just constantly needing upkeep.  And so we’re always doing assessments on that entire length of the tunnel, and we’ve identified in the past the first 400 feet as the highest risk area.  And so that was the limit of this project, so from the sun shining on you at the portal, you walk 400 linear feet into the tunnel.    That’s how long this restoration was.”

He said the safety and stability of the tunnel entrance is important for a couple of reasons.   

“One, it’s the entrance to the tunnel, so if it caves and you’re in there, you’re in a tough situation.  Or if it caves, we can’t get into it.  And the other part of it is there’s waterworks in that section, so we collect the water that is flowing on the bottom of the tunnel, just kinda like a ditch, and pipes at the 400-feet mark, and those pipes were also failing.   We completely re-did the section of the tunnel, took out all the old steel, the timber, the loose rock, basically everything we had to, to make it stable, which was a lot more than we had planned for.   So in places now where you had to duck to get through, there’s a 30-foot ceiling above you.   And that was just cause the more we pulled away, we were just having big boulders just drop out.  And we had to break em up and pull em out.  So we did that, and then secure the walls, and replaced all the piping in the tunnel.”

McAffee added that the tunnel goes straight into the mountain—so much so that 13,500 feet in, a person can see a pinpoint of light at the Spiro entrance.

Don Roll, co-chair of the Friends of Ski Mountain Mining History, recalled that the Spiro was notable for having a “skier subway” in the mid-1960’s, the earliest days of the town’s Treasure Mountain Resort.

“That was a way to get people, when the gondola wouldn’t run due to the winds, skiiers could take a modified mining car—one of which is in the lower level of the Park City Museum—and then tuck the skis in and then go on a journey to the base of the Thaynes shaft, and then take the shaft up to the bottom of the Thaynes Chair and get up the mountain that way.  It was quite an arduous journey.  It was about 45 minutes.  You got wet on your way up, because the water’s coming through the ceiling.”

Roll said it’s ironic that during Park City’s mining days, water was a liability and had to be drained out of the tunnels.

Now, he noted, the water is an important resource for the city, and the metals contaminating the water are a problem.

The Three Kings Water Treatment Plant is being built to filter water from both the Spiro and the Judge Tunnels.   McAffee said it is due to start up in 2023.

Meanwhile, a ribbon-cutting for the Spiro restoration will be held on Tuesday, October 5th from 5 to 6 p.m.  McAffee said Mayor Andy Beerman, city staff and the Friends of Ski Mountain Mining History will all speak, and attendees can review historic plaques on hand. Tours will also be available.     

“So we will open the gates and walk people into the first 400 feet of the Spiro Tunnel.   It’s something—I’ve been here 12 years.   We’ve never even thought of doing that, just cause it was kind of dangerous just to walk in there.   But now it’s well-lit.   We have nice lighting.  The ceiling is very tall and it’s wide.   It’s easy to walk on.  It’s just kind of a gravel surface, so we want people to bring close-toed shoes if they plan to walk into the tunnel.  But it is safe.  Its well-lit and we’re excited to show the work.  You get to peek further into the tunnel at the 400-foot mark.”

Don Roll added that the Silver Star commercial/residential community has probably the largest local collection of historic mine buildings.


Known for getting all the facts right, as well as his distinctive sign-off, Rick covered Summit County meetings and issues for 35 years on KPCW. He now heads the Friday Film Review team.
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