by Carolina King
On Tuesday the Board of County Commissioners reviewed a Winter Maintenance Agreement proposed by upper County Road 5 property owners, but a decision whether to allow snowplowing was postponed due to changes they requested. The county attorney will submit a revised WMA for commissioners’ review and possible decision at their Jan. 15 meeting.
Over the summer and fall, commissioners attempted, in a series of special meetings, to come up with a solution to conflicts over the winter use of CR 5 from its intersection with CR 5A to the national forest boundary. The conflict pits property owners, who see it as their right to plow to and have wheeled access to their property, against recreationists, who have traditionally used the unplowed road for winter activities such as skiing.
Though past meetings did produce an understanding among the commissioners and members of the public actively involved in the discussions that a parallel trail system would be the best compromise, winter set in before any agreements or plans could be made.
As in previous years, property owner Craig Morrison requested a WMA with the county, which would allow for plowing of the road up to his property.
This year, however, he waited until late into the season and had nine other property owners add their names to a WMA with greater demands than in the past.
At Tuesday’s meeting, after Jeff Copeland, the attorney representing the property owners, presented the proposed agreement to the commissioners, the public was given time to comment on the proposal, which had been available online since Jan. 3.
It was clear that many members of the public had taken the time to review the proposed agreement. Danika Gilbert, a resident on CR 5, commented how vague the document was, in that it did not state how far up the road the plowing would be, nor did it specify a term, as it was open-ended on how long the agreement could remain in place. Previous WMAs have been on a year-by-year basis.
Other citizens, including Ridgway Mayor John Clark, voiced similar concerns.
Anne Hilleman Ryan, a leader in resisting the plowing of this portion of CR 5, was upset that other options for the road she has suggested to the board were not taken into consideration.
“I think it is totally inappropriate that we’re only looking at one proposal today when there are many proposals for the long-term use and management of that road before you,” she said. When Commissioner Don Batchelder reminded her to avoid conflict, Hilleman-Ryan added, “The conflict comes when one party’s vested interest is considered time and time again.”
Ruth Stewart of Ridgway was concerned that...