By Joel Warner
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Bradley jousted with dozens of angry Golden-area residents during the years of hearings before the county commissioners and makes no secret of his disappointment at not being allowed to mine his land. "That's probably one of the bitterest defeats I ever had in my career," says Bradley. "We could have taken 100 million tons of aggregate off that mountain, and nobody would have missed it. It was a zoning case, and in zoning cases there are lots of emotions involved."
The neighbors who fought Bradley were not only horrified at the prospect of a major industrial operation on the top of South Table, but they feared the constant noise and dust from dozens of trucks carting off loads of gravel. So they organized a coalition of fourteen homeowners' groups that represented 5,000 households around the base of South Table Mountain.
"During the 1975-82 period, there was a petition signed by 10,000 people that was given to the county commissioners," says Bob Woodfill, a Golden resident who played a key role in organizing the opposition to the quarry. "That shows the level of opposition to mining on South Table Mountain."
Carl Eiberger handled much of the legal work for the opponents of the quarry. Eiberger, who lives near South Table, estimates he gave $500,000 worth of free legal time over twenty years. "Leo Bradley called me the quarterback of the opposition," he recalls with a laugh. "Leo's quite a fighter. People would say, 'I've come [to the hearing] to watch you and him fight.' I felt like a monkey in a zoo."
Eiberger says the same coalition that battled the quarry will fight any proposal from Nike and adds that he believes Bradley has an obsession with developing South Table Mountain. "It's ego or something," says Eiberger.
And over the decades, Bradley's alter ego has always been Coors. For years Bradley was one of Coors' principal attorneys. He forged a close personal relationship with the brewing family, one that is symbolized by his living in a brick house across the street from the brewery, next door to the former residence of family patriarch Joe Coors.
Even Bradley's 1992 quarry proposal carried a Coors aftertaste. Though the company's land wasn't included in Bradley's original plan, Coors agreed to let him run a conveyor belt for the quarry over its property on the north side of the mesa. The company also made it clear that if Bradley won permission to mine his land, it would likely want to do the same with its property.
Woodfill believes Coors played a bigger role in pushing the quarry proposal than most people realize. "It's always been hand-in-hand between Bradley and Coors," he says. "There was no way Bradley could put a quarry up there without the help of Coors. They gave him access from the top of the mountain, through the brewery and right to the rail line so he could ship the aggregate."
Woodfill thinks Bradley and Coors hope to wear down their opponents over Table Mesa, offering constant development proposals until one finally wins approval. He also believes the Golden City Council lacks the courage to stand up to the Coors Brewing Company.
"There are no moral leaders on the city council," says Woodfill. "When Bradley and Coors say they want to do something, they fall all over them."
So far, none of the city's seven councilmembers has come out against the possible Nike complex. But city councilwoman Carol Johnson denies that she and her colleagues are patsies for Coors, and she notes that she has always endorsed economic development for the city. She says she won't make a decision on the Nike deal until the company submits a formal proposal but adds that she sees the project as potentially positive. "Nike has told us they'd put in soccer fields, baseball fields and open space," she says. "If they brought a lot of those amenities to the city, it could be an exciting opportunity."
If Coors is flexing its muscles on the project, though, it's doing so quietly. The low-profile approach isn't surprising given that CEO Peter Coors has spent the last several years trying to change the company's image. His father, Joe Coors, who headed up the company in the 1970s, angered scores of groups with his right-wing political views. The company was boycotted for years by labor, environmentalists, blacks, Hispanics and gays. The boycott did great damage to Coors, and Peter Coors has successfully reached out to the company's former adversaries, even painting himself as an environmentalist in advertisements.
That rankles the opponents of developing South Table, who say Peter Coors talks one way in public and acts differently in private. "We'll see if his image matches his deeds," says Don Parker. "It would be a good thing if they'd donate some of their land to open space."
Peter Coors wasn't available for an interview, but Coors spokesman Goldman bristles at the criticisms of the company being made by opponents of developing South Table. "Suddenly the community thinks they have a right to tell us what to do with our land," says Goldman. "I don't see these folks offering to have their homes leveled and converted to open space."