Gunnison celebrates new gathering place 6 years after gas leak

Published: Friday, Nov. 15 2013 3:45 p.m. MST

In 2007, Gunnison was severely impacted by an underground gasoline spill. Now a new clock tower stands at the place where the leak took place, and the property has been transformed into a community gathering place.

Sam Penrod, Deseret News

GUNNISON — Six years ago, Gunnison was dealing with a major gasoline leak that seeped into the ground and contaminated homes and Main Street shops.

On Wednesday, the city celebrated its new clock tower — built where Top Stop spilled 20,000 gallons of gasoline.

"It's a beautiful piece of artwork here," Gunnison resident Melissa Judy said. "(I've) got a son in London, England, so I took a picture yesterday and sent it to him and said, 'Here’s our Big Ben.'"

For years the lot was considered an eyesore until the city acquired it through a settlement in its lawsuit against Top Stop. Now, the property has been transformed into a community gathering place.

"I was born and raised here," resident Vicky Larson said. "My father was born and raised here, and we are so proud of something that will stand for hundreds of years."

"Family coming through town a few years ago said, ‘This town looks so trashy and dirty. How can you stand to live here?'” added resident Karen Prisbrey. "And I said, ‘Now come and see us,' and they were amazed at all the changes that have taken place on Main Street."

The clock tower is now in place, but the Utah Department of Environmental Quality continues to monitor the cleanup of the Top Stop spill, taking soil samples on a regular basis.

"The DEQ is keeping an eye on it, and we are told that it’s really looking good, like it’s pretty close to being 100 percent cleaned up," Gunnison Mayor Lori Nay said. "It's such a change from six years ago when we had the gas spill and closed businesses. It really is a tribute to the people in this community, how they don't let trouble define them."

Businesses along Main Street have seen a jump in sales, and the street and town look much more inviting since the spill.

"Our investment in our downtown has really paid off," Nay said.

Email: spenrod@deseretnews.com

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