WESTERN SLOPE San Juan Skyway turns 25

The San Juan Skyway, a Colorado Historic and Scenic Byway, turns 25 this year.
Plaindealer photo by Bill Tiedje

By Bill Tiedje

This year the San Juan Skyway celebrates its 25th anniversary as a Colorado Historic and Scenic Byway, and a series of meetings is planned to discuss the future of the iconic Southwest Colorado loop.

From Ridgway, the Skyway heads south on US 550 to Durango, east to Cortez on SH 160, north to Placerville on SH 145 and returns to Ridgway on SH 62.
On this silver anniversary, public input is needed to determine where locals envision the Skyway project heading, as well as who will lead the project in the future, explained facilitator Marsha Porter-Norton.
A public meeting will take place in Ridgway Town Hall on Aug. 14 from 6:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. to gather input from communities on the northern portion of the loop, including Telluride, Placerville, Ridgway and Ouray. On July 31, another meeting will be held in Mancos for southerly communities on the loop.
A second set of meetings, yet to be scheduled for October, will summarize the findings of earlier meetings.
All of the meetings were made possible by a grant from National Scenic Byways Program and are led by the Montezuma Land Conservancy, a member of the Colorado Scenic Byway Conservation Coalition as well as by the U.S. Forest Service.
The San Juan Skyway Corridor Management Plan was completed in 1996 by Friends of the San Juan Skyway Association. FSJSA is no longer operating.
The corridor plan included an inventory of tourism and scenic assets, a list of suggested projects and traffic improvements.
Since 1996, the same year the San Juan Skyway received the federal "All American Road" designation, a long list of these goals has become reality in the form of land conservation easements, interpretive signs, traffic pullouts and restrooms.
"The work over the years has been really impressive," Porter-Norton said.
The meetings will not serve as a formal update to the 1996 corridor plan; however, suggestions and new attractions developed since the 1990s may be included in the existing plan as an addendum.
The San Juan Skyway includes "the Million Dollar Highway," located between Ouray and Silverton.
Reaching 11,000 feet on Red Mountain Pass, the "Skyway" got its name from that and other high elevations on the route.
At remote locations, the Skyway project has supported important amenities such as roadside pullouts and restroom facilities, Porter-Norton said.
The meetings will also determine whether there is community interest and support for restarting a group such as the FSJSA.
Individuals who cannot attend a public meeting may submit input via an online survey at https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/SPSGNLQ.
Although not required, anyone planning to attend the Aug. 14 meeting may RSVP by Aug. 11 to Kathy Sherer at jksherer@q.com or 970-884-2355.