Sports team scores big with drive over McClure |

Sports team scores big with drive over McClure

Roaring Fork School District is softening restrictions against trips over McClure Pass
Will Grandbois / Post Independent |

For more than three years, Roaring Fork School District policy has sent buses the long way around to the North Fork Valley, but with rock scaling along Highway 133 winding down, the district is reconsidering its stance.

Roaring Fork High School baseball coach Marty Madsen was the first to take advantage of a tentative repeal of the rule. With Madsen at the wheel of a short bus and another coach in a companion vehicle, the Rams headed over McClure Pass to play Hotchkiss on March 10. The game ended in defeat, but the boys left school in the afternoon and were home before dark, a different kind of victory for Madsen.

“I knew there were safety concerns, and I respected the decision the district made, but I was not enjoying taking the kids out of school for that much time,” he said. “The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. With how nice and warm it’s been, I wasn’t feeling very nervous driving over that at all.”

The change of policy comes with some caveats. At least for now, buses will need to be accompanied by another vehicle that could find a landline and call for help in the event of a breakdown in the many cell phone dead zones along the route.

Buses may still be barred from the pass when weather is bad, and are encouraged to take Interstate 70 and State Highway 50 out to Delta or Olathe.

“Right now it’s sort of a pilot,” said Superintendent Diana Sirko. “In many cases, it may not be worth the hassle.”

Roaring Fork High School basketball coach Larry Williams thinks those cases will be pretty rare.

“Until we were told we couldn’t, I can only remember two or three times we had to go all the way around,” he said. “Usually, McClure is pretty well taken care of.”

Williams says it’s been frustrating watching teams from Aspen and Paonia use the pass while Roaring Fork goes out of its way. The Rams have even avoided scheduling nonleague games on the other side of the pass.

McClure Pass isn’t the only stretch of road restricted by policy. Field trips or teams bound for the southwest corner of the state generally route through Utah rather than face Red Mountain Pass, and most districts avoid Kebler and Independence even in small buses.

There are also some scary stretches of road without a viable alternate route, including stretches of Highway 82, Highway 50 and I-70.

“If the issue is falling rocks, I’d be more worried about the Glenwood Canyon than McClure,” said Williams.

Still, he gave the district credit for being willing to re-evaluate the policy.

“I appreciate that it wasn’t just a closed issue,” he said.

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