In a split decision, the Montezuma County commissioners blocked a citizen proposal to consider abandoning a 75-foot section of County Road N that borders Bureau of Land Management land.
Road N resident Tara Olson requested a hearing be held to deliberate closing the green-signed county road for public access.
She and Chip Olson cited concerns of increased vehicle traffic, parking and trespassing because of the proposed expansion of the Phil’s World mountain bike park.
Commissioners held an informal public comment session on the matter on Monday, Sept. 12 to hear the pros and cons of closing the short section of road.
Connie Clementson, field manager for the BLM’s Tres Rios Office, urged the county to keep the section of road open.
“Ensuring access to BLM lands is critical to our mission,” she said. “County roads are the most reliable, long-term access.”
Clementson said closing Road N could set a legal precedent for removing public access from other green-signed roads that border BLM and national monument lands, such as County Road 20.
Public lands “are not for the benefit of a few,” Clementson said. “A lot of our BLM lands are already landlocked. Vacating these roads is not in the interests of the community.”
A recently released BLM proposal to expand Phil’s World shows new trail access from the east end of Road N, but a parking lot and developed trailhead are not in the plans.
“Our concerns are about development in the future,” Chip Olson said. “The road can’t handle the traffic, maintenance is an issue.”
He said there is concern that trespassers will continue past the end of Road N onto private drives and roads.
Road N resident Monica Noland said that “as a BLM access point, it is a serious concern that people will find it on the map and start parking on the road.”
She said farmers rely on the narrow road to move large equipment to and from fields, and more public use could block the road, including for rescue and fire vehicles.
The commissioners were divided on whether to move the issue forward for an official road abandonment hearing.
Commissioner James Lambert said the matter deserved a public hearing and made a motion to set one, but it died for lack of a second.
“It remains a public road,” said commissioner Larry Don Suckla after the motion failed. “We would be hypocrites if we abandoned this county road when we are fighting with the BLM and Forest Service to open up access.”