By Michael Abeyta

JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) – More than 10 years ago, the last remnants of the Rocky Flats Plant in Jefferson County came down with a bang. Saturday morning, the Rocky Flats Wildlife Refuge opened with a whisper.

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At 10 a.m., when it was supposed to open, the west gate remained locked. Richard Marchbanks came in search of a new mountain biking trail only to be turned away.

“Here we are. Can’t find the trail just a closed gate,” he said.

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Eventually, everyone found their way to the northern gate which was unlocked and ready for visitors.

Darl Hobson and his wife decided to come out Saturday morning to check out the area which for so many years was off limits.

“It’s special… a special treat” he said.

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Not everyone was excited to be there. Protesters, who had hoped this day would never come, held signs voicing their opposition to the opening of the area to the public.

“There’s more going on than what it looks like, and definitely more than what the signs say,” said Michelle Gabrieloff-Parish. “We’re worried that people are going to think that that this is a wildlife refuge and not a nuclear super-fund buffer zone like it really is.”

Darl says he knows there was nuclear activity here, but he’s confident it’s safe now.

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“There’s been so much testing going on for years and hopefully we can get it right,” he said.

There were plenty like him who came out to enjoy the sunny day and wonder at Colorado’s natural beauty.

“I think it’s marvelous. It’s open space. Big open space close to the metropolitan area and it will give us access to wildlife that we don’t have easy access to,” said Darl.

While they enjoyed, those who wish this area was still closed hung around to remind people of this area’s troubled history.

“A lot of people from Colorado kind of know about it, but so many people from out of state have no idea,” Gabrieloff-Parish said.

Michael Abeyta is a 4th generation Coloradan and a Multimedia Journalist for CBS4. His stories can be seen on CBS4 News at 5 & 6. He is on Twitter! Follow him @AbeytaCBS4.

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