Letter: CRMS blocks access to Crystal
As a resident of Carbondale and a long-term advocate of public access to both streams and trails for non-motorized use, here is my opinion on the issue of the public road running through the Colorado Rocky Mountain School as discussed in the Post Independent on July 27.
As a boarding school for teenage girls and boys, CRMS has a rational security interest in preventing public access to its central campus where these young people live. CRMS thus has a legitimate reason to oppose a public road or trail running through the heart of its campus.
On the other hand, CRMS owns over 200 acres of tax-exempt land outside of its central campus that is mostly pasture, rarely used for school activities. Most of this land is adjacent to the Crystal River, and whether legally or not, the school has signage prohibiting public access to the river where the public County Road 108 (the westward extension of Carbondale’s Main Street) crosses it.
I find it to be both incomprehensible and reprehensible that any private landowner should be able to block public access to any stream crossed by a public road. And that is particularly true in an area such as the Roaring Fork Valley that rather hypocritically promotes its rafting and stream fishing opportunities to attract tourists. Those opportunities are severely limited by a combination of water diversions during low flow periods and restrictions on public access. These restrictions are not only imposed by private parties such as CRMS, but sometimes by public agencies imposing extreme measures to protect wildlife and other natural values, based on the unscientific philosophy “When in doubt, keep people out.”
But here is a proposal for a rational compromise between Garfield County and CRMS: Garfield County abandons its claim to a public road through the center of the CRMS campus, in exchange for which CRMS permits public access to the Crystal River on its property — particularly at the County Road 108 bridge.
Carl Ted Stude
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