Crestone Eagle, April 2007:
North Access Team seeks collaboration
on traffic study
by Lisa Cyriacks
NAT (North Access Team) is soliciting proposals for a private
transportation assessment and study for the various routes
to provide access to Great Sand Dunes National Park (GSDNP)
lands that were identified through the Sonoran Institute public
meetings. Collaboration is indeed proving to be the key. As
the GSDNP is wrapping up its planning process for a General
Management Plan (June 2007), the U.S. Rio Grande Forest Service
(USFS) is beginning its planning process to amend its management
plan to incorporate the Baca Tract, lands recently acquired
east of the Baca Grande subdivision.
The Sonoran Institute was engaged in 2006 to assist in resolving
federal and private conflicts over public land access. The
process ended without an agreed-upon access route to public
lands through the Baca Grande subdivision. Part of this lack
of agreement was due to uncertainty about future traffic and
associated impacts on residents over time by visitors accessing
public lands using roads through the subdivision. A consensus
document was prepared on November 13, 2006 —the North
Entrance Study Group Consensus Recommendation Report. One
of those recommendations of that report was to have a study
prepared that would analyze the impacts additional traffic
would have on the community along the various possible routes.
Also part of that consensus process was the formation of a
committee to implement recommendations. That committee is
the North Access Team.
The proposal prepared by NAT includes as assessment of the
cumulative traffic impacts of visitors to the GSDNP and the
USFS Baca Tract as well as traffic impacts of Baca Grande
and Crestone residents accessing multiple trailheads. A build-out
analysis of the Baca Grande subdivision will be included to
quantify the transportation impacts of future growth and evaluate
the need for a secondary access into the subdivision. An environmental
impact study will also be included to review the various road
options identified through the Sonoran Institute process.
Based on this accumulated information, a set of recommendations
can be developed for the best routes and mitigation measures
for traffic flow, speed limits, environmental concerns, buffer
zones, and seasonal uses.
According to the NAT Team, the study is projected to cost
from $50,000-$70,000 and is to be paid for through direct
and matching funding. Primary funding is being sought through
the Colorado Department of Local Affairs. The Board of Saguache
County Commissioners is serving as the sponsor for the grant,
and has pledged $10,000 in Title III funding. The Great Sand
Dunes National Park has pledged $2,000. The Crestone Spiritual
Alliance is soliciting matching funds among the spiritual
centers. Additional funds have been requested of the Baca
At this time there are no existing official public access
easements for the USFS Baca Tract. Current use of the three
riparian corridors —Willow Creek, Spanish Creek, and
Cottonwood Creek—by locals and visitors are causing
significant trespass issues for the private property owners.
These Manitou Foundation lands, which are being used for spiritual
retreat centers, are highly sensitive to disturbances from
In February, NAT, representatives from various spiritual
centers, and employees from the Great Sand Dunes National
Park and Rio Grande National Forest met to review the process
to date. Time was spent visiting several of the centers and
considering the points of ongoing trespass across private
lands. Federal agencies came away with a better understanding
of the concerns the spiritual centers have related to increased
recreational activity, and members of the spiritual centers
came away with a better understanding of the limitations presented
by federal land planning processes.
Currently, legal access to the Baca Mountain Tract only exists
from the trailhead at South Crestone/Willow Lake, the roads
in the Baca Grande subdivision, and Liberty Road. The section
of Liberty Road closest to the subdivision belongs to the
GSDNP. The GSDNP and the USFS have already agreed to use Liberty
Road for administrative access to their respective lands.
Whenever an access point along the subdivision’s south
boundary is determined for the GSDNP backcountry access and
parking lot, the GSDNP and the USFS will share access at that
Minutes of the NAT meetings can be accessed on the Saguache
County website http://www.saguachecounty.net. Presentations
from the Sonoran Institute public meetings are also available
on that same website. Information about the RGNF Baca Mountain
Tract Planning Process can be found at www.fs.fed.us/r2/riogrande/projects.
If you have questions or comments regarding the transportation
planning process, please direct them to Steve Haines at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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