County Abandons Old County Road 8 on Owl Creek Pass
by Peter Shelton
Sep 13, 2012 | 2247 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print

OURAY – The big deal, the meat of Tuesday’s regular Commissioners meeting at the Ouray County Courthouse, was a public hearing regarding the abandonment by the county of two historic roads in the Owl Creek Pass area.

The issue, as momentous as it looked on paper, was over in a jiffy, and was the result of a strong presentation by representatives of the applicants, Chimney Peak Ranch and J Bar M Ranch. With Commissioner Mike Fedel as chairman, and Lynn Padgett and newly appointed Commissioner Pat Willits listening, County Planner Mark Castrodale said he had “not seen one of these since I’ve been here,” over six years.

The applicants, represented by Bob Thomas, wanted the county to vacate its ownership of two roads between Owl Creek and Nate Creek in the high oak and sage country leading up to Owl Creek Pass. The petitioners were asking for the entirety of a short spur called CR 8C and a longer portion of old CR 8. The latter route had been abandoned in 1987 when earth slippage closed the road repeatedly and a new route was cut around the ridge to the north.

Both roads, Thomas said, are “completely internal” to the private-land ranches. And both landowners, he said, had worked out easements to one another’s fields off CR 8C.

Castrodale said the application was accurate and met all the requirements in the Ouray County Land Use Code, and he didn’t “find any reason not to approve this request.”

“If you have any questions for the ranch managers,” Thomas said, turning in his chair and indicating the four cowboys in the back of the courtroom. “They’re ranchers, not very loquacious, but I’m sure they’d be happy to answer them.”

There were no questions, nor any comments from the public.

“Seems like a no-brainer to me,” Fedel said, and the commissioners unanimously passed the resolution.


“We have very different conditions from the eastern plains,” Commissioner Lynn Padgett said without sarcasm at Tuesday’s Ouray Board of County Commissioner meeting in Ouray. “We should not be denied OHV (off highway vehicle) grant program money because of our slightly more stringent regulations.”

Padgett and her fellow commissioners wanted to send a message to Colorado Parks and Wildlife, which has recently denied Ouray’s request for funds to support the Alpine Ranger program on the jeep roads crisscrossing four high-elevation counties: San Miguel, San Juan, Ouray and Hinsdale.

“We believe in local control and that we are not in conflict with state regulations,” Padgett said. “The state is not one-size-fits-all. This is an exemplary program with the three other counties and the Forest Service, and we should fight for it.”

The Alpine Ranger is a seasonal USFS position, a summertime presence in the high country, there primarily to advise and give out information to motorized visitors, who occasionally steps into a law-enforcement role. Without CPW grant funding, it would be difficult for the four counties to afford the ranger. And CPW has refused Ouray’s application because, it says, Ouray and its neighbors impose stricter OHV regulations than state law mandates.

Padgett admitted that all four counties require liability insurance of OHV riders, where the state does not. And three of the four require drivers to have a valid driver’s license. Ouray County has a minimum driver age of 10, provided a licensed driver, 16 or older, accompanies the youngster. The state sets no such limits. But, Padgett reiterated, the situation here dictates: riding to 13,000 feet on what are essentially primitive mining tracks.

“We are not asking the state to change its regulations,” said County Attorney Martha Whitmore, “but to recognize that there are unique situations and to essentially give us a variance so we can participate in the grant funds.”

The resolution passed unanimously.


The Ouray County Commissioners wrestled on Tuesday with next steps regarding a detailed (and colorful) map produced by the Public Access Group and presented to the board on Aug. 14.

The PAG map shows, according to the document itself, “a map of historic roads and trails in Ouray County that are considered to be open to public access,” either through public ownership or use over time. PAG asked the county to “officially adopt and record” the map.

What about the official county road map, asked Commissioner Mike Fedel, adopted, when, in the 1970s? How does this new map compare? Would adopting this map supersede or change the legal status of roads or trails that cross private property? Could private roads suddenly become public with the adoption of this document? The questions came from all three commissioners.

Would the new map likely result in litigation? County Attorney Martha Whitmore asked rhetorically. There is some risk, she concluded in her memo to the board.

Can the county adopt a “living document,” as it is called by PAG, one that is expected to change over time?

Can the map be recorded in color? (No. Not at this time, said County IT Manager Jeff Bockes. It would have be monochrome, rendering many of the subtle map colors indecipherable.)

Commissioner Pat Willits suggested the county “adopt but not record” the map, to invite comment and objections from the public.

“I still want to compare this to the official county road map,” Fedel said, and the board agreed to hold a workshop with Bockes and the two maps.

PAG counsel Kathryn Sellars spoke up to say, “PAG just doesn’t want all the research, the four years worth of work on this map to be lost.”


The hippo in the room for most of last week’s Ouray Board of County Commissioner  meeting was the county’s ongoing attempt to revise Section 9 of the Land Use Code, on visual impacts. But the purpose of the discussion with County Planner Mark Castrodale on Tuesday was to move a few other LUC issues forward on the board’s calendar, ahead of what he called the “big animal.”

These would be relatively uncontroversial, easy fixes, Castrodale said. He included as examples a provision that would allow owners of non-conforming parcels (overlapping mine claims, for example) to combine those lots into a more conforming lower-density parcel. This is not currently allowed for but would be “good for everyone – good customer service.

“I’d like to clear this stuff up, move it up the priority list,” he said.

“Ahead of Section 9?” Chairman Mike Fedel asked.

Castrodale: “No. That’s such a big animal. That also needs to be wrapped up and sent on to you [by the Planning Commission].”

Fedel: “I don’t have to remind anybody that this has been going on for three years. We need to wrap this up.”

To which Planning Commission Chair Ken Lipton replied: “You don’t have to remind me!”


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