Residents can now access a secluded piece of public land south of Summit Lake, but if they park along the road they might get a ticket.
After two tense public hearings on the matter, Montezuma County commissioner voted Monday to change Road 35.6, Road N and Road 35.9 to green-signed status, meaning that they are open to the public and are under county jurisdiction.
“I support access to public lands and believe when you have the chance to improve access, take it,” said commissioner Larry Don Suckla, upon making the motion.
The road has graded status, meaning that maintenance is limited to grading at least once per year.
The issue has been simmering for years, as map-savvy recreationists have noticed Road 35.6 touches a large parcel of Bureau of Land Management land south of Summit Lake.
But as more people have discovered the access point, neighborhood roads, which residents pay to maintain and plow, have been seeing increased impacts. Residents want the county to improve the road and urge the BLM to install a parking lot for the public lands. The green-signed road status means residents can get free gravel from the county, but must haul and spread it themselves.
The Tres Rios office of the BLM has expressed interest in creating a parking lot at the access point. The land is designated for nonmotorized use, with an emphasis on hiking and horseback riding, BLM officials said. To discourage mountain biking, no trails would be built.
But the process to plan and get approval for a parking lot will take time, officials said. In the meantime, county commissioners said they are considering prohibiting parking along the roads to BLM lands south of Summit Lake to prevent them from being blocked for residents and emergency vehicles.
“That is our leverage for the BLM to put in a parking lot,” said commissioner Keenan Ertel.
In general, the county can prohibit parking on county roads as a way of preventing overflow parking from impeding driving lanes, said county road supervisor Rob Englehart.
A similar situation is happening at the Sand Canyon trailhead, where overflow parking is occurring along County Road G. The county installed signs warning that parking along that stretch comes with a $100 fine.