Garfield County balks at vacating road, urges talks instead
Post Independent staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – The Garfield County commissioners this week declined to either approve or deny an application by the Colorado Rocky Mountain School to vacate County Road 106 as it runs through the campus.
Instead, they convinced the school to withdraw its application to have the road vacated, and to try to figure out some other way to meet the school’s objectives.
The school applied to have the road vacated, according to testimony from school officials, mainly due to fears about “unwelcome visitors” passing through campus who might pose a danger to students or faculty.
The school also hopes to build two new dormitories either very close to or overlapping the road right of way.
But neighbors objected, maintaining the right-of-way is an important pedestrian link between Satank, an unincorporated neighborhood just north of CRMS, and Carbondale’s Main Street to the south of the campus.
The publicly owned right of way, neighbors said, safely avoids the congestion of State Highway 133 – the main thoroughfare through Carbondale.
Before a packed house of neighbors and others, the board of county commissioners urged school officials and community members to get together, talk about the issues involved and come up with a plan that all parties can live with.
According to documents submitted to the BOCC, CR 106 dates at least back to 1910, when it first appeared on a map of county roads connecting Carbondale with Glenwood Springs.
The school was founded in 1953 by John and Anne Holden, on a small parcel next to CR 106. It was soon expanded onto the adjacent Bar Fork Ranch, donated by Harald “Shorty” Pabst, which put the school on both sides of CR 106.
The road was closed to traffic and taken off the county roads inventory in 1979, after the school deeded the land for Delores Way to the county, along the northern edge of the school’s property.
Delores Way intersects with Highway 133 and, since the closure of the old Pink Bridge that once connected Satank to Highway 82 across the Roaring Fork, currently is the only way to drive into Satank.
At the time, around 1980, the county agreed to close CR 106 through the campus to vehicles, at the school’s request, but not to vacate the county’s right of way. County officials were concerned that there may be a need to reopen the road in the future, and felt the right of way needed to be preserved.
The school’s headmaster, Jeff Leahy, argued that the students at CRMS, who come from “all over the world,” do so in large part because of the school’s “safe environment … we have control over the environment in which their learning takes place.”
Because students and faculty often walk around the campus at night, he said, “You want to be able to restrict the unwelcome visitors that come to your campus.”
A sophomore at the school, Tamsin Pargiter-Hatem, told the BOCC that “the students feel a great sense of freedom and security” on campus. If the road were opened to traffic, or to become “an improved bike path … the sense of security I feel would be shattered.”
School officials noted that there are several publicly used trails through campus, and a conservation easement on a large parcel of land, all of which would still be open to use by the public if the road were vacated.
Commissioner Tresi Houpt, after stating she was not in favor of vacating the road, told the school representatives, “When you have a right of way in place, you should plan for that as you develop the campus.”
Her fellow commissioners agreed, and rather than force a vote, the school’s attorney, Larry Green, withdrew the application with a promise to open negotiations with the interested parties.
The public hearing on the school’s application was continued to allow time for those negotiations to take place.
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