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Public barred from Prehm Ranch road

Greg Masse

The attorney for the upscale Prehm Ranch development barred 60 walkers and cyclists from taking a walk-through on a disputed county road Wednesday.

“This was a ridiculous statement,” said Tresi Houpt, a Glenwood Springs resident and candidate for Garfield County District 1 Commissioner, of the developer’s decision to lock the gate and call the sheriff’s department.

The crowd expected to get a glimpse of the possible 1.5-mile trail connection between Glenwood Springs and Carbondale, but attorney Rick Neiley, representing Marlin Colorado Ltd., called the sheriff’s department to prevent trespassers from entering the property.

The walk-through was organized by the Glenwood Springs River Commission and the Carbondale Trail Committee as a chance to take a look at the disputed county right of way.

“I’m not sure if there is anything to be gained by crossing the line,” said Jeff Houpt, chairman of the River Commission, advising cyclists and walkers to “take a gander” from the locked gate.

Many reacted with surprise and even anger, especially when they saw that the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office had been called in to enforce any possible trespass infractions.

Garfield County Undersheriff Jim Sears said if anyone traveled past the locked gate, deputies would take their name. It would be up to the district attorney to decide whether to press charges, he said.

“I personally agree with you, but I can’t let my personal feelings get in the way of how I enforce the law,” Sears told the group of walkers and bikers who gathered at the rodeo parking lot for what they thought would be more of a sightseeing trip road than a protest.

“There’s not a clear answer to this,” he added.

Neiley said the gate was locked because it is unclear where, or even if, a right of way exists, saying it’s a matter for the courts to decide. He said if the right of way indeed exists, it is not clear where it is.

He said the county commissioners voted in April to vacate the right of way, and he has filed a motion asking the court to force the county to follow through on the decision.

“A lot of things have happened since then,” he said, referring to the sale of two lots based on the assumption that the subdivision will remain private. Another two are under contract. Lots in the fishing-oriented subdivision are priced at $650,000 to $1 million, he said.

“I’m glad nobody wanted to create a confrontation today,” Neiley said. “We are open to dialogue, but nobody’s ever come to us to start it.”

Trail advocate Mark Gould, a Westbank resident, insists the county has a legal claim to a 60-foot right of way.

“There is a continuous road running through Prehm Ranch. I have an opinion from Land Title (Guarantee Co.). I can’t tell exactly where it is, but it exists through here, and it’s worth fighting for,” Gould said.

“All we have to say is, `We own it, what 60-foot strip would you like us to take?'” he said, rolling out a map that showed the 1902 county road.

The Garfield Board of County Commissioners are taking up the subject in a public hearing at 10:15 a.m. Monday during their meeting at the new County Courthouse Plaza on 8th Street. (See related story.)

Wednesday’s tour was intended as an advance look at the road.

“Our purpose was to walk along the right of way,” Houpt said. “Recently, since notice was published of the plan, the owner of Prehm Ranch said the road is not within the right of way. … The bottom line is there are a lot of unknowns on this. It is in litigation.”

The group gathered at the Glenwood Springs Rodeo Arena around 5 p.m., and after Sears and Houpt explained the situation, they began walking, jogging and biking down to the gate.

At first, it was unclear if anybody would risk a trespass charge to make a statement. When the group arrived at the locked gate, people milled around and talked, but no one made a move to scramble around or over the gate.

Neiley leaned defiantly against the gate sporting a pink shirt, with three sheriff’s deputies behind him and Sears standing to his side. He said the ranch is private and any incursion past the red gate would be a trespass.

“There’s no evidence that it’s a right of way,” he said. “The county vacated access on the other side a year ago, so it doesn’t go anywhere.”

Danielle Hammond, a Westbank resident, walked the disputed road to join the tour, pushing her 19-month-old daughter Jenna in a stroller.

“I’ve done the highway route to get home from Glenwood. It’s death-defying,” she said, explaining why she favors opening the route to cyclists and walkers. “I’m glad to see a lot of people showed up today.”

She said opposition in Westbank to opening the access to nonmotorized users is coming from a “vocal minority,” and added, “A trail is not that big of a deal.”

Glenwood resident Robert Faris, the new assistant principal for Glenwood Springs Middle School, agreed.

“I support the whole idea of having a corridor between Carbondale and Glenwood Springs. I think it would be great for the people.”

The Glenwood Springs City Council recently offered its support for the trail. Representing them Wednesday was Councilman Don Gillespie.

“I’m just glad it’s back in front of the public to look at it,” he said. “Once it’s gone, it’s gone.”

Many cyclists favoring the access aren’t focused on the politics and legalities. They just want a safe way to bike or walk between Glenwood Springs and Carbondale.

“We need to be able to get to Carbondale without getting on 82. If it’s county right of way, I can’t believe they’d give it up,” he said.

Many reacted with surprise and even anger, especially when they saw that the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office had been called in to enforce any possible trespass infractions.

Garfield County Undersheriff Jim Sears said if anyone traveled past the locked gate, deputies would take their name. It would be up to the district attorney to decide whether to press charges, he said.

“I personally agree with you, but I can’t let my personal feelings get in the way of how I enforce the law,” Sears told the group of walkers and bikers who gathered at the rodeo parking lot for what they thought would be more of a sightseeing trip road than a protest.

“There’s not a clear answer to this,” he added.

Neiley said the gate was locked because it is unclear where, or even if, a right of way exists, saying it’s a matter for the courts to decide. He said if the right of way indeed exists, it is not clear where it is.

He said the county commissioners voted in April to vacate the right of way, and he has filed a motion asking the court to force the county to follow through on the decision.

“A lot of things have happened since then,” he said, referring to the sale of two lots based on the assumption that the subdivision will remain private. Another two are under contract. Lots in the fishing-oriented subdivision are priced at $650,000 to $1 million, he said.

“I’m glad nobody wanted to create a confrontation today,” Neiley said. “We are open to dialogue, but nobody’s ever come to us to start it.”

Trail advocate Mark Gould, a Westbank resident, insists the county has a legal claim to a 60-foot right of way.

“There is a continuous road running through Prehm Ranch. I have an opinion from Land Title (Guarantee Co.). I can’t tell exactly where it is, but it exists through here, and it’s worth fighting for,” Gould said.

“All we have to say is, `We own it, what 60-foot strip would you like us to take?'” he said, rolling out a map that showed the 1902 county road.

The Garfield Board of County Commissioners are taking up the subject in a public hearing at 10:15 a.m. Monday during their meeting at the new County Courthouse Plaza on 8th Street. (See related story.)

Wednesday’s tour was intended as an advance look at the road.

“Our purpose was to walk along the right of way,” Houpt said. “Recently, since notice was published of the plan, the owner of Prehm Ranch said the road is not within the right of way. … The bottom line is there are a lot of unknowns on this. It is in litigation.”

The group gathered at the Glenwood Springs Rodeo Arena around 5 p.m., and after Sears and Houpt explained the situation, they began walking, jogging and biking down to the gate.

At first, it was unclear if anybody would risk a trespass charge to make a statement. When the group arrived at the locked gate, people milled around and talked, but no one made a move to scramble around or over the gate.

Neiley leaned defiantly against the gate sporting a pink shirt, with three sheriff’s deputies behind him and Sears standing to his side. He said the ranch is private and any incursion past the red gate would be a trespass.

“There’s no evidence that it’s a right of way,” he said. “The county vacated access on the other side a year ago, so it doesn’t go anywhere.”

Danielle Hammond, a Westbank resident, walked the disputed road to join the tour, pushing her 19-month-old daughter Jenna in a stroller.

“I’ve done the highway route to get home from Glenwood. It’s death-defying,” she said, explaining why she favors opening the route to cyclists and walkers. “I’m glad to see a lot of people showed up today.”

She said opposition in Westbank to opening the access to nonmotorized users is coming from a “vocal minority,” and added, “A trail is not that big of a deal.”

Glenwood resident Robert Faris, the new assistant principal for Glenwood Springs Middle School, agreed.

“I support the whole idea of having a corridor between Carbondale and Glenwood Springs. I think it would be great for the people.”

The Glenwood Springs City Council recently offered its support for the trail. Representing them Wednesday was Councilman Don Gillespie.

“I’m just glad it’s back in front of the public to look at it,” he said. “Once it’s gone, it’s gone.”

Many cyclists favoring the access aren’t focused on the politics and legalities. They just want a safe way to bike or walk between Glenwood Springs and Carbondale.

“We need to be able to get to Carbondale without getting on 82. If it’s county right of way, I can’t believe they’d give it up,” he said.

“I’m glad nobody wanted to create a confrontation today,” Neiley said. “We are open to dialogue, but nobody’s ever come to us to start it.”

Trail advocate Mark Gould, a Westbank resident, insists the county has a legal claim to a 60-foot right of way.

“There is a continuous road running through Prehm Ranch. I have an opinion from Land Title (Guarantee Co.). I can’t tell exactly where it is, but it exists through here, and it’s worth fighting for,” Gould said.

“All we have to say is, `We own it, what 60-foot strip would you like us to take?'” he said, rolling out a map that showed the 1902 county road.

The Garfield Board of County Commissioners are taking up the subject in a public hearing at 10:15 a.m. Monday during their meeting at the new County Courthouse Plaza on 8th Street. (See related story.)

Wednesday’s tour was intended as an advance look at the road.

“Our purpose was to walk along the right of way,” Houpt said. “Recently, since notice was published of the plan, the owner of Prehm Ranch said the road is not within the right of way. … The bottom line is there are a lot of unknowns on this. It is in litigation.”

The group gathered at the Glenwood Springs Rodeo Arena around 5 p.m., and after Sears and Houpt explained the situation, they began walking, jogging and biking down to the gate.

At first, it was unclear if anybody would risk a trespass charge to make a statement. When the group arrived at the locked gate, people milled around and talked, but no one made a move to scramble around or over the gate.

Neiley leaned defiantly against the gate sporting a pink shirt, with three sheriff’s deputies behind him and Sears standing to his side. He said the ranch is private and any incursion past the red gate would be a trespass.

“There’s no evidence that it’s a right of way,” he said. “The county vacated access on the other side a year ago, so it doesn’t go anywhere.”

Danielle Hammond, a Westbank resident, walked the disputed road to join the tour, pushing her 19-month-old daughter Jenna in a stroller.

“I’ve done the highway route to get home from Glenwood. It’s death-defying,” she said, explaining why she favors opening the route to cyclists and walkers. “I’m glad to see a lot of people showed up today.”

She said opposition in Westbank to opening the access to nonmotorized users is coming from a “vocal minority,” and added, “A trail is not that big of a deal.”

Glenwood resident Robert Faris, the new assistant principal for Glenwood Springs Middle School, agreed.

“I support the whole idea of having a corridor between Carbondale and Glenwood Springs. I think it would be great for the people.”

The Glenwood Springs City Council recently offered its support for the trail. Representing them Wednesday was Councilman Don Gillespie.

“I’m just glad it’s back in front of the public to look at it,” he said. “Once it’s gone, it’s gone.”

Many cyclists favoring the access aren’t focused on the politics and legalities. They just want a safe way to bike or walk between Glenwood Springs and Carbondale.

“We need to be able to get to Carbondale without getting on 82. If it’s county right of way, I can’t believe they’d give it up,” he said.


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