By Roger Baker
A couple of meetings are taking place next week with significant implications for who will use our high country forests – and how.
There was a great piece in last week’s Register-Call from the paper 30 years before, about Bobby Clay and Kent Blake trying to get the Rollins Pass road – the old railroad grade from the days of David Moffat – open for the (very brief) summer.
In those days, though the road was only open a short time (the goal was to have it open from July 4th through Labor Day), one could still drive all the way over to Grand County.
With the collapse of the Needle’s Eye Tunnel a few years later, it became impossible for regular vehicles to drive all the way through, though intrepid 4-wheelers and All-Terrain Vehicles (ATVs) would bypass the tunnel and make it over the old wagon road.
Then came the creation of the James Peak Wilderness Area immediately adjacent to the road, and suddenly there was a powerful disincentive for the road to be kept open, though at the same time the act creating the wilderness area mandated that – if one of the adjacent counties requested – the Forest Service would provide “technical assistance” in getting the road in shape for 2-wheel drive vehicles to use.
That vague language, and an uncertain understanding of how much reopening the road would cost (and who would pay), have made the reopening a contentious issue. The Gilpin Commissioners will tour the road next week (if schedules and weather allow), and then in August meet with their counterparts from Grand and Boulder counties, as well as Forest Service staff, to clarify some of those uncertain issues and see if there is common ground anywhere.
The day after the Rollins Pass tour is scheduled, County staff will be meeting with Forest Service officials to discuss another ongoing problem, the illegal ATV parking around the cemeteries just west of Central City.
The ever-growing number of ATV trucks and trailers has contributed to a disruptive display that is certainly out of harmony with the peaceful cemeteries themselves. Since the ATV riders are nearly all from outside Gilpin County, and drive from this staging area into the national forest to use the trails there, the County has long maintained that the Forest Service should provide them parking IN the national forest.
At long last, Forest Service officials appear to understand our concerns, and are willing to at least look at solutions that will alleviate the parking problem. As with the Rollins Pass discussions, though, the devil will be in the details – especially the financial ones.
Since these discussions have already gone on for years, no one expects a quick solution that will be acceptable to all the parties. Throw in the funding factor, and the odds of achieving a solution that is not just acceptable, but actually achievable, decrease even further.
Still, everyone feels that progress is being made, and for now, that’s encouraging. The good relationships the Commissioners have sought to maintain with their governmental colleagues at federal, state and local levels are paying off, because these are problems that – like so many we encounter in county government – we can’t solve on our own.