The Crestone Eagle, November 2006:

Community members evaluate proposed alternatives for traffic routes to National Park north boundary & trailhead
by Lisa Cyriacks

Meetings continue for the Community Study Group reviewing options related to north access for the Great Sand Dunes National Park. At the October meeting, participants were presented with a list of six proposed entry points, some with multiple route variations—for a total of twelve alternatives. Two of these alternatives completely avoid using roads through the Baca Grande subdivision while the rest vary in their use of those same roads.

The Sonoran Institute has been working with the Saguache County Commissioners, the Baca Grande Property Owners Association, and the three federal agencies owning land adjacent to the subdivision to formulate a collaborative community process to assist in making a recommendation of where to route traffic from County Road T to the Great Sand Dunes National Park boundary.

People have been given information, asked to think about that information seriously and to propose solutions that meet criteria identified by the study group. The importance of this process is that anywhere from 60 to 100 people have been engaging in civil dialogue, working toward a solution that meets the interests of different stakeholders in the community. The desired outcome is for the community to speak with a unified voice on this issue and thereby best influence the decisions that need to be made to provide access to the National Park.

Steve Chaney, Great Sand Dunes National Park Superintendent, updated the group on the progress of the General Management Plan. At this point the NEPA process and the public hearings portion is more or less complete. The time frame for adoption of a plan is May to June of 2007. At this point there is no time frame defined for implementation of the Park’s plan for access; i.e. no road from the north boundary inside the Park will be built until there is a public road identified to meet it.

October’s meeting did not yield an answer to that question, but members of the study group identified additional areas where more information is needed. A meeting will be scheduled in November to review the possibility and parameters of a transportation planning study based on three of the alternatives, evaluating traffic impacts, parking, and including a fiscal study to determine costs of improving or constructing additional roads.

Another outcome is that the group has identified the need for an overall Subarea Comprehensive Plan review that covers related issues such as build out in the Baca Grande subdivision, traffic related to growth and spiritual center activities, location of commercial centers and travel routes to serve those areas, and environmental impacts of these activities in the subdivision.

Copies of the alternatives, the criteria identified to date for the decision, and previous meeting summaries are available on the Saguache County website: www.saguachecounty.net under “North Entrance Study Group”. Or, you may contact Marjo Curgus of the Sonoran Institute 970-263-9635 or mcurgus@sonoran.org.

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