Gate shuts on popular trail access
Recreationists fear for the future of one of their favorite Glenwood Springs trails after no-trespassing signs were posted this fall.Public access through private property above Linwood, or Pioneer, Cemetery, on the eastern edge of town has been closed. The move shuts off a route to Bureau of Land Management land on Lookout Mountain above town.”They seem to have closed the gate up there,” said Kendall Spyker, who lives near the trail and has sledded and mountain biked on it for years.Spyker had hoped the closure was just for safety reasons during hunting season, but it apparently may continue year-round. The owners of the property, Lookout Mountain Associates of Prairie Village, Kan., declined to comment, but the former owner said he understands the trail has been closed due to liability concerns.”It’s an insurance situation with ranching that’s going on there,” said Wayne Rudd, of Carbondale. “It’s just the inability to get liability insurance with letting the public access the entire ranch. It just doesn’t work out for the current owner.”The closing doesn’t affect access to the cemetery, which is a popular tourist destination because the gunslinger Doc Holliday is believed to be buried there. But just above the cemetery, a gate with a no-trespassing sign on it is pulled shut across the trail.Rudd sold the property in the late 1990s. Spyker said Rudd always had appeared supportive of allowing the public through the property.”I hope there hasn’t been a reversal of that,” Spyker said.The trail is popular both summer and winter, with some recreationists making a loop hike out of it and the Boy Scout Trail. It’s one of only a small handful of trails providing public access from Glenwood Springs to BLM and Forest Service lands above town. “The old-timers talk about sledding up there 60 years ago,” Spyker said. “I think it’s probably been a viable Glenwood recreation site since. I hope that any landowner would see that, but who knows.”Rudd said the problem is that landowners need liability insurance or they can’t open land to public access.”It’s just a common situation on other property I own elsewhere too,” he said.He said he never had a problem with public access through the property when he owned it.”But the insurance people will prevail,” he said.Both the private land and BLM land above it are leased for sheep grazing. Rudd said encounters with sheepdogs can be a problem. When someone walks up to them, they’ll leave the person alone, but when a recreationist comes racing by the animals can get aggressive, he said.Spyker said he has become adept at watching for droppings and other signs of sheep in the area, so he can avoid encounters with sheepdogs.”You can kind of tell where they are on the mountain,” he said.The current owners of the property appear to be entirely within their rights to deny public access to the BLM land through their property. Neither the BLM nor city of Glenwood Springs have any access agreement with the property owners, or apparent legal standing to insist on public access.Dorothy Morgan, outdoor recreation planner with the BLM in Glenwood Springs, said she always had been under the impression the trail was a city trail.Andrew McGregor, Glenwood Springs’ community development director, said the city has never pursued any access easement with the property owners.He said he thinks most people consider the trail to be public, as it has been used by so many for so many years. Most probably don’t realize it’s private land, he said.”We certainly recognize that it’s a valuable resource,” he said.McGregor said the city always has had positive dealings with the property owners. He assumes the owners wouldn’t have closed the property without some triggering reason.It’s possible the city could open discussions with the owners, perhaps in conjunction with the BLM, to see if a solution to any problem could be worked out so access could be restored, McGregor said.Meanwhile, at least some local residents aren’t waiting: A fair number have simply been going around the gate to continue using one of their favorite trails.Contact Dennis Webb: 945-8515, ext. firstname.lastname@example.org
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