Increased traffic on the Dolores-Norwood Road has prompted the San Juan National Forest to add 4 miles of chip-seal surface.
Dolores District Ranger Derek Padilla announced this month that $502,696 has been allocated to chip-seal Forest Road 526 from the end of the pavement to the Montezuma County line.
“This section is highly used and requires a lot of maintenance in any given year,” Padilla said. “Chip-sealing will provide a better surface that requires less maintenance on an annual basis.”
He said the road was specifically targeted for the upgrade because of the need for forest restoration treatments in that region, requiring increased use of the road.
Traffic from industrial, recreational and residential users has also increased on the road.
The Dolores Norwood Road starts at 11th Street in Dolores, then becomes County Road 31, then Forest Road 526. It is currently paved for 11 miles. It is a key thoroughfare for loggers, ranchers, property owners, Kinder Morgan and hunters, and provides recreational access to Boggy Draw recreation area and McPhee Reservoir. The road also provides access to Groundhog Reservoir and the town of Norwood.
County Road Supervisor Rob Englehart said the county will do the chip-seal project in the spring or summer, and it will take less than one week. The section of road was recently regraveled and reshaped in anticipation of a chip-seal.
The county and forest share maintenance of the road as part of an annual agreement, but the county has been doing additional work, Englehart said.
“Kudos to the Forest for providing the funding for the chip-seal,” he said. “We all know it’s become a very busy road.”
Forest Road 526 has been the topic of a jurisdictional flap between the Montezuma county commissioners and the San Juan National Forest.
The county claims right-of-way jurisdiction because the road was there before the national forest was created in 1905. Forest officials say they county must file a claim in federal court, which would decide the matter. But Montezuma County commissioners say they don’t have to, and have stated that the forest should prove that the road is not a county right of way.
The commissioners want their jurisdiction to be recognized so they can drop transportation fees charged to loggers and commercial users of the road.
In another twist, forest officials said if a court does validate the county’s jurisdictional claim for the section of the Dolores-Norwood Road under the RS 2477 legal process, it still does not translate to county ownership of the land underlying the route.
If the right-of-way assertion is granted, forest officials said, the county would gain the right to maintain the route through federally owned land, but no title would be transferred.