Colorado’s mining past meets present in a sinkhole at Breckenridge Elementary

A sinkhole in the parking lot at Breckenridge Elementary is turning into a history lesson. 

There is no threat to students.  This is the second time a sinkhole has appeared in almost the exact same spot, at the exact same time of year.

Back in 2018, when the sinkhole first cracked through the pavement, Summit School District called the Colorado Department of Reclamation, Mining and Safety. The DRMS dug deep into the history of that property (pun intended), which suggested old placer mining in the area. An 1880s survey of mining claims confirmed their investigation.

Fast forward six years and the mining division was called back to Breck El, this time digging deeper. Using an excavator, crews followed the hold 20 feet underground before finally hitting solid earth.

So where did it come from, and why did it reappear? There are several theories, according to district facilities director Woody Bates:

“The dirt is moving underground, perhaps from spring runoff, which could explain the peculiar timing. In a 2018 geo-technical engineering study the school district had commissioned, it was suggested that there was placer or other mining activity in the area of Breckenridge Elementary. This geo-technical boring report from 2018 also mentioned that the parking lot of Breckenridge Elementary sits on up to 22 feet of “man-placed”, uncompacted loose fill material, consistent with mining activity. The DRMS staff found historical survey information from the 1880s confirming mining and surface ditches running in the area, which have long since been covered with fill. The collapsing hole in an elementary school parking lot and the historical mining surveys were sufficient for the DRMS to act on this as an emergency repair.”  

Those emergency repairs in 2018 were not enough. The plan this time around: plug the sinkhole with concrete and fill it with braces. This should prevent it from happening again.

School officials know this caused concern, but now, they are turning it into a learning experience. In 2 weeks, the mining division will share all this and more with students and parents at a school assembly, explaining how Breck’s mining history broke its way into the parking lot.