Balancing recreation with historic preservation

ATV Parking and Staging Area near Central City Cemeteries

by Pam Deck

For many years, use of OHV (Off-Highway Vehicles) has been growing. It’s fun to ride dirt-bikes and ATV’s and explore Central City’s beautiful landscape west of town. But what happens when things get out of control and misused? Ask one of our leading citizens, Deborah Wray. For the past 10 years she has been watching the situation get worse and worse. The conditions became horrific. In the area at the junction of Bald Mountain Road and Upper Apex Road, there was chaos. On any given weekend, you could see campers, vacant vehicles, and abandoned RV’s. Trash was everywhere and illegal things were going on – people shooting guns randomly, using drugs out in the open, and kids running wild and unsupervised. In fact, when a child on an ATV flew over a dirt pile and landed in front of her car on the road, that’s what prompted Deb to find a remedy.

What made matters worse was that the area is a mixture of small private lands, BLM territory, City property, Gilpin County property, and National Parks property with no one taking full responsibility. Wray attended many City Council Meetings, went to the Gilpin County Commissioners, and to the Sheriff’s department – trying to have rules enforced and conditions improved. Her diligence paid off and her dreams are finally coming to fruition. The City of Central and Gilpin County joined forces to approve and install a heavy duty “buck and rail log” fence all along NFSR 176.1 and Upper Apex Road. This strong fence protects our precious historic cemeteries and the space surrounding them, while still giving access through the unlocked gates so the public can walk through and appreciate our history. There are more than five cemeteries within walking distance; the Catholic Cemetery to the north, the Central City Cemetery,  the  IOOF Cemetery 1865 (also known as Rocky Mt #2), the Forrester’s Cemetery, the Red Man Cemetery. These now are more closely monitored and protected from numerous vehicles and vandals which have destroyed some of the area. Last summer, (between June and July 2016) the Sheriff’s department issued more than 65 Violations – everything from Illegal Parking, to Abandoned Vehicles, and Disorderly Conduct. Now this area is being monitored regularly.

While Ms. Wray was instrumental in sparking this cooperative effort, she said she could not have done so without the support and guidance of Central City Manager Daniel Miera, the City’s Community Development Manager Ray Rears, and of course Sam Hoover, the City’s Public Works Manager. She also had the support of the City Council, the Gilpin County Commissioners, and many grateful citizens. She said it is the collaboration of all organizations that is helping address the problem. The National Forest Department’s cooperation was also needed.

The Clear Creek Ranger District is currently developing a proposal to accommodate recreational parking and improve signage to direct visitors to the Columbine Campground area. They are planning to dedicate more than five acres for the parking and staging area, and estimate that 100-120 parking spaces could be accommodated, in addition to a trailer turn-around location. This number is on par with the estimated number of people who used the area last summer. The Columbine Campground, which is set to re-open at the end of May, 2017, would be minimally impacted and conflicts between the staging area and the campground should be minimized. The US Forest Service Public Affairs/ Community Liaison, Reid Armstrong, had this statement. “The Columbine area is quite popular with OHV users, and this project would help accommodate that use in a safe, organized, and thoughtful manner while protecting historic resources near Central City. This will improve with better signs that direct people to the staging areas, fencing to show people where to park and safer ingress, egress, and turnaround points.” The estimated time for total completion is set for late summer or fall 2018. The Forest Service will seek public comment and have environmental review. If you are interested in being notified when the proposal is released, please email Lori Denton at

Stay the Trail is also an organization that looks for safer and environmentally healthy places for OHV users.  You can reach them at

So one person can make a difference! Thank you Deb Wray for your persistence on working with these various organizations and saying “Let’s do it better.” OHV users  and residents can coexist in a peaceful way. This summer enjoy your OHV in a safe, respectful way and love our state and national parks. They are ours to preserve and enjoy. Happy Trails!

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