Garfield County to reevaluate Red Canyon Road winter closure; residents want passage reopened soon
Garfield County commissioners are revisiting their decision last week to temporarily close the Red Canyon Road south of Glenwood Springs over safety concerns with the winter conditions.
Following two solid weeks without significant new snow, commissioners agreed Monday with several residents of the area who urged the county to reopen the road as soon as it can be plowed and maintained for safe travel.
Commissioners on Jan. 10 took the advice of county Road and Bridge Supervisor Wyatt Keesbery to close the road for up to 90 days due to hazardous conditions following the late December and early January storms that left the road icy and treacherous in spots.
The closure could, however, be lifted before that time period is up, if conditions allow.
Commissioners Tom Jankovsky and John Martin both said they walked the steep part of Red Canyon Road (also known as County Road 115) since last meeting, and said they think it could be reopened.
“I think we jumped the gun with the 90-day closure on that,” Jankovsky said, adding he wants an update from Road and Bridge officials soon on what it would take to get the road reopened.
Martin agreed, but also deferred to the opinion of Road and Bridge crews regarding safety, both to clear the road and reopen it to the public.
He also advised the many residents affected by the road closure who spoke Monday that Red Canyon Road is considered a “secondary” route to access the northern portion of Spring Valley, and that the CMC-Spring Valley Road (County Road 114) is the primary access to the area.
Several residents who use the road on a regular basis said they agreed the initial safety closure was justified due to the conditions, but that the extended closure would be excessive.
They also objected to comments made during last week’s discussion that a permanent closure may be considered due to long-term safety issues and the potential need for major upgrades.
“That road is extremely important to our community for a couple of different reasons … one being for fire egress in the summer,” said Tammy Caughlin, referring to the prospect of anything more than a winter season closure.
Martin assured her that the road is a historic route and will remain open in some manner, but that it needs to be assessed for structural upgrades. In particular, the wooden cribbing that supports the road bed in spots along the steep and narrow road that skirts the canyon wall needs to be replaced, he said.
Residents agreed that Red Canyon can be a “scary road” at times, and that it is a challenge for road maintenance crews.
Another issue, they said, is that the Google Maps GPS systems shows Red Canyon Road as an alternate route across Spring Valley and Missouri Heights. That adds more traffic to the road, and motorists who may not be adept at driving on primitive roads.
Jankovsky started off the discussion Monday saying that he has heard the same complaint about nearby Cottonwood Pass, which is closed during the winter.
During extended wintertime closures of Interstate 70 in Glenwood Canyon, eastbound motorists often follow GPS systems up Garfield County road to Cottonwood Pass, only to find it closed. Jankovsky said he would like the county to work with neighboring Eagle County to approach Google about removing that route from its mapping system.
Senior Reporter/Managing Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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