A multiphased plan is being considered by Montezuma County, San Juan National Forest and McPhee Reservoir managers that would prevent motorized boats from launching at the Sage Hen area from County Road X.
“The goal is provide recreational access and prevent a mussel contamination from uninspected boats,” said James Dietrich, federal lands coordinator for the county.
The Sage Hen area is considered vulnerable because there is no boat inspection station, and motorized and trailered boats are known to launch from there.
Controlling boating access is part of a larger, regional plan to stop invasive mussels from entering local lakes and causing damage to critical irrigation and municipal water systems.
There will be a public hearing June 19 to consider a partial closure of Road X and other measures to mitigate the mussel risk.
County planners put forth a plan during Monday’s commissioner meeting that would block lake access for motorized and trailered boat launches, but preserve recreation access as much as possible.
“The agencies are working together to find a solution,” said commissioner Larry Don Suckla.
The first action proposed is a gate across the Road X just past the horse corrals and the Sage Hen loop trailhead to allow access to those facilities.
A gate would also be installed at side road heading south from Road X to the lake, and one would be put up at a Sage Hen entrance off Road 25 to block lake access there. Fencing would be installed along the south side of Road X to further deter people from accessing the lake with motorized boats.
While motorized access will be restricted, hiking, biking, horseback riding and fishing from the shore will still be permitted in the Sage Hen area.
Hand-launching nonmotorized boats such as kayaks, canoes, paddle boards, belly boats, windsurfers, rafts, and sailboards are also be allowed.
Eventually, the county wants to keep Road X open entirely, while completely blocking off any access to the waterfront by vehicles carrying motorized boats.
Dietrich said the proposed closure of Road X is considered temporary until a larger mitigation plan can be put in place.
“We know there is a popular beach on the east end of Road X at the reservoir shore, so the ultimate goal is keep the road open so people can continue to use that area,” he said.
Sage Hen has taken recreation hits over the years. Camping was banned in 2006 because of a lack of resources to manage impacts, and a bathroom was removed because of vandalism in 2016.
The county has been pushing for Forest Service to re-open Sage Hen to camping under a management plan that would use volunteer monitors and increased sheriff patrols. The county is also seeking legislation that would transfer the Sage Hen area to the county from the U.S. Forest Service.