The Crestone Eagle, September 2008:

County asked to keep trails near Crestone open
by Lisa Cyriacks

The Saguache County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) has received a RS 2477 request from citizens to consider the trails up Spanish Creek and Cottonwood Creek as public accesses to National Forest lands. This request was presented by Baca resident and business owner, Bill Folk. The County Commissioners have decided to schedule a public hearing on this issue for October 20, 9am at the County Courthouse.

The commissioners received a letter and a petition with nearly 70 signatures including leaders from our business community stating that the trails are being obstructed by “No Access” signs that transgress on the public’s right to access. The citizens cited a Resolution 96-G-7 passed in 1996 by the BOCC that states: “all public roads that have not been heretofore formally vacated by the BOCC are designated as public highways”. Public roads are also defined in this resolution, leaving no need for interpretation, to include “highways, roads, mining roads, logging roads, wagon roads, trails, horse trails, hiking trails, and foot paths”.

Citing the federal authority for express dedication of public highways: 43 Use 932, also known as RS 2477; and a 1921 Colorado law that grants authority of such public highways other than those maintained as state or federal highways to Saguache County Commissioners, Resolution 96-G-7 requires that “neither private nor public tracts of land traversed by these public routes may be fenced, gated, or otherwise obstructed by any means whatsoever without the express written consent of the Board of County Commissioners” nor can these public routes be “closed to the historic use of public travel for which they have been utilized without the express written consent of the Board of County Commissioners”

The citizens’ group “Save Our Trails” has collected written statements documenting historic use by the public, and historic maps that show these trails as access prior to 1976. The group has also documented the important economic role that these trails leading to 14er (mountains with summits above 14,000’) access have in our communities.

The Colorado State University extension service conducted a study in August 2007 determining the loss of revenue experienced when access to 14ers is closed. The study yielded three significant findings:

1. 14er closure has the potential to significantly impact local economies.

2. 14er climbers place a high value on access to the peaks, spending as much as $336 per person per expedition.

3. Much of this money is spent locally, and it is worthwhile for local communities to develop creative solutions to ensure that peaks remain open.

The citizens are requesting quiet, non-motorized uses of these trails to public land adjacent to the Crestone/Baca community and that public land users should be educated on respectful behavior and limitations on use (such as no camping, no fires, no trash, no bathroom facilities, no parking, etc.). The request is that these trails remain open as the pack and hiking trails they were used as historically.

The petition stated, “The mountains are meant to be free and open access for all—a place to enjoy and experience wilderness.” In recent master planning meetings (February and March 2008) the public indicated widespread support for continuing to provide access to public lands. Ninety per cent of participants countywide felt it was important to very important that access to public lands and regional trails be kept open. In the Crestone/Baca area, ninety-three per cent supported continued use of existing trailheads and creation of new trailheads accessing public lands.

If you have questions about this issue or would like more information, copies of the resolution 96-G-7 (Reception# 316837) are available at the clerk’s office in the courthouse. Other relevant information related to this issue can be reviewed in the Land Use office. Contact Wendi Maez, 655-2321 or wmaez@saguachecounty-co.gov.

The contact persons for Save Our Trails, if you would like to support their efforts or sign the petition, are William Folk, wfolk@folkenterprises.net or Lisa Cyriacks, lcyriacks@rocketmail.com. Copies of County Resolution 96-G-7 and other related documents are also available by contacting Save Our Trails.

The meeting will be held on October 20, 9 am at the Saguache County Courthouse. This is the opportunity for the public to express their opinions on this important issue.

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