CRMS tour offers look at right of way (with video)
A marked foot and bike trail extending from the Satank bridge through the quaint rural neighborhood and on through the old Bar Fork Ranch that has been home to Colorado Rocky Mountain School since the 1950s might just serve as a little history lesson for students and visitors alike.
That’s how Satank resident Jocelyn Twight envisioned things as she joined about 70 local residents on a walking tour hosted by the Garfield County commissioners Thursday morning to get a close-up look at the historic county right of way that bisects the independent college preparatory school campus outside Carbondale.
“A walk through time that honors the history of the area could be a draw to CRMS, instead of a deterrent,” Twight said during a side interview.
She was referring to security concerns expressed by school officials related to the public easement that runs past dormitories and academic buildings on the private campus.
CRMS has tried for years without success to persuade the county to vacate the easement and turn it over to private ownership, while neighbors have fought to keep the access open to foot and bicycle traffic.
The byway was closed to through vehicle traffic in the late 1970s when CRMS dedicated land for what became Dolores Way on the north end of the campus. But the county elected to maintain the historic County Road 106 easement for nonmotorized use, which at the time included cattle drives.
Carbondale residents Bill Spence and his wife Sue Edelstein agree with Twight that the issue comes down to preserving history as much as public access.
Avid bicycle riders, they often use the passage through the CRMS campus from the County Road 106/108 intersection to Satank and across the refurbished pedestrian bridge to the Rio Grande Trail.
“I would like to see a clearly marked trail through here that is signed on both ends, and that protects the historic route that has been here for over 100 years,” Spence said.
DON’T WANT TO TRESPASS
Such a trail would be the best way to avoid any confusion about where exactly the right of way runs through the campus, and take care of any trespassing concerns, Edelstein added.
“We don’t want to trespass, but the way it is now there’s no way of really knowing if you are trespassing,” she said.
County commissioners organized the field trip in an effort to try to settle a growing dispute between the school and area residents over maintaining public access through the campus.
No public testimony was taken during the tour, only questions to clarify where the 60-foot-wide right of way lies and what encroachments exist along the roughly 1,200-foot-long easement.
Most of that exchange was limited to the commissioners and county staff, as well as with CRMS’ contract engineer, Yancy Nichol of Carbondale-based Sopris Engineering.
Public comment is to be taken at a follow-up hearing that will be part of the regular Board of County Commissioners meeting Monday, beginning at 1 p.m. in commissioner’s meeting room at 108 Eighth St. in Glenwood Springs.
For the tour, Nichol staked the right of way as it runs from the south end of the CRMS campus at the intersection of 106 and 108 roads.
The county issued a stop-work order two weeks ago for a permitted driveway realignment and landscaped monument entryway that was determined to be within the right of way.
All along the easement are various instances of encroachment as the campus has been developed in the years since the road was closed to traffic, from benches and internal walkways to parking areas and part of the school’s soccer field.
DITCH WORK AND DIVISION
More recently, hay bales were stored on the north end of the campus and across part of the easement, raising the ire of Satank residents who claimed that and the entryway work appeared to be an attempt to hide the fact that a public access exists through the campus.
In recent weeks, some Satank residents also took matters into their own hands, replacing an old iron grate walkway across an irrigation ditch to improve a footpath that follows the north end of the county right of way.
The county also issued a stop-work order on that project, saying proper permission was not obtained. Residents have said they were just doing ditch maintenance on the lateral that serves the Satank area, as they were advised to do by the Rockford Ditch Co. A majority of the ditch company is controlled by CRMS interests for irrigation purposes.
The neighborhood spat has caused the county commissioners to step in to try to find a solution once and for all. But even the three commissioners have been divided on the issue.
When the county board voted 2-1 last year not to vacate the right of way at CRMS’ renewed request, Commissioner Tom Jankovsky was in the minority,
During Thursday’s tour, Jankovsky asked about the potential for a new trail link from Satank along Dolores Way and out to Highway 133 as an option. CRMS officials offered that as a solution to maintaining a pedestrian access into Carbondale, in exchange for the county giving up the right of way through the campus.
Several CRMS administrators and faculty also joined the tour, and the school provided coffee and doughnuts to welcome those who showed up.
“This was helpful for people to see the scope of the right of way and everything that sits within that,” said CRMS Head of School Jeff Leahy. “I think we’re all looking for and hoping for a solution that people can at least be content with, even if everybody is not completely satisfied.”
County Manager Andrew Gorgey said afterward that he, too, was optimistic.
“I was encouraged by this morning’s meeting, and I am confident that the comments (Monday) will lead to a reasonable solution,” he said.
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