Via ferrata plan clears another hurdle

by Carolina King

The Board of County Commissioners and City of Ouray were closer to an agreement on a recreational access easement for the proposed via ferrata after a work session on Dec. 5.
The county owns a portion of the land in the Uncompahgre Gorge in Ouray on which the via ferrata would be constructed and would grant the easement to the city.
Official votes cannot be taken at a work session, but progress was made by discussing and resolving concerns that have arisen.
The county attorney will assist with changes to the agreement, and board chair Don Batchelder said it would be taken up as soon as possible at a regular meeting of the commissioners.
A via ferrata (“iron way”) is a route along a vertical rockface with anchored steel cables and iron rungs.
Commissioner Ben Tisdel summarized a number of comments he had received from residents who oppose construction of the via ferrata.
“While there is enthusiasm for the idea of a via ferrata, there are concerns about the thoroughness of (proponents’) statements about the economic benefit, about the location,” Tisdel said. “There are concerns about the design using some of the geological features in the Uncompahgre Gorge, in particular the Bipolar Spiral.”
He added there are also concerns about “conflicts with existing climbing routes and mixed climbing,” as the via ferrata would be in the same general area as the Ice Park.
“The city’s system to effectively manage all of its recreational assets while still avoiding conflicts” was also a worry that citizens had expressed to him.
Chris Haaland, who is involved in engineering the via ferrata project, said, “I just want to be perfectly clear that the via ferrata will be used in the summertime.”
He added that the two bridges that go out to Bipolar Spiral “will be taken down in the winter. We can take them down in less than...

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