Forty people attended a Montezuma County public hearing Monday regarding a plan to protect the Phil’s World recreation area from energy development impacts.
The 2,400-acre area is six miles east of Cortez and includes mostly BLM land with some state land. There are no active oil-and-gas wells in the area, but it could be leased in the future. The county hopes to establish its own regulations for Phil’s World through a state land-use law intended to help counties protect areas of statewide interest.
“It is a valuable asset, and we should protect it,” said county commissioner James Lambert.
Colorado House Bill 1041 –the Areas and Activities of State Interest Act – was enacted in 1974.
A proposed county resolution would designated Phil’s World under the 1041 regulations as an area of state interest, and establish criteria for controlling development to avoid negative impacts to recreation.
The county commissioners said they want to regulate oil-and-gas development in the area.
“We want to keep intact what we have on that property,” commissioner Keenan Ertel said.
Several people spoke about recreation uses during public comment.
Horse riders and runners said they felt excluded from the area because it is dominated by bikers.
“I’d love to be able to go out there and not feel I will get run over,” said runner Betty Anne Kohlner. A horse rider suggested more “who yields to whom” signs often seen on public-land trails.
The area is multiple-use, but the single-track trails were designed and installed by a bike club to be fast-paced and take advantage of rolling terrain.
“What makes it so famous is the roller-coaster experience for mountain bikers,” said Shawn Gregory, a pioneer of local mountain biking trails at Phil’s and Boggy Draw.
The Southwest Colorado Cycling Association leases the state land area where the trail systems begins and ends, paying a fee and insurance costs. Users are urged to contribute to help cover costs.
The area of trails is crisscrossed by dirt roads, and there is an established and signed ATV trail. It was noted that the dirt roads may be more suitable for horseback riding.
“There’s plenty of room out there, maybe we could add trails specific for horses,” said Dennis Geisler.
Gregory cautioned that oil and gas roads can quickly diminish a bike trail system.
Phil’s World has 27 miles of trails. The BLM is considering a proposal to add 25-30 miles of trails and a new parking lot.
The county said forming the 1041 rules for Phil’s World is still in the formative stages. Another hearing is planned.
“We can’t dictate rules for bikes and horses out there,” said county attorney John Baxter. “We can protect it from certain things like oil and gas. “