Outtakes From Gus Jarvis’s Interview with Tom Chapman for Telluride Magazine
by Gus Jarvis
Dec 15, 2010 | 2520 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
For Jarvis’s article and for a full transcript of the Chapman interview, please visit telluridemagazine.com

“My avocations are piano and reading. I grew up in Paonia, Colorado.

“Actually, I think the creation of wilderness areas and open space is a wonderful thing. I fully support the preservation of open space. Of course, my opinion is that it should be done with full agreement and cooperation of the affected landowners. In other words, I think Telluride's approach to open space and private property rights (Neal Blue and the Valley Floor is an example) is an abomination and is mostly peculiar to Telluride. It is not what the majority of Americans would support as the correct way to resolve mutual interests in preserving open space.

“I like working with friends and clients whose private property rights are being abused by others.

"I have been a Colorado real estate broker for 38 consecutive years. In that period of time I have done exactly one land exchange. That was the Telluride/West Elk Wilderness land exchange in1994. In those 38 years, I have held small minority ownership interests in exactly four real estate investments....

In those four transactions in which I have held a principal interest, my objective was, and is, to sell for more than we paid and make a profit….I consider myself a landowner advocate, particularly in the specialty area of private lands entrapped by federal legislation, usually wilderness expansion legislation, but national parks as well. The entrapped private lands have immediate compromised values, in that the typical landowner does not have the money resources to battle the gargantuan federal government, state government, and right on down to the county level where County Commissioners pass regulations that limit the use of these lands due to their 'special designation' or 'elevation,' or whatever ostensible reason they believe exists for protecting the public from “adverse” use by a private landowner just surrounded. The resulting valuation process is compromised due to restricted use and restricted access….So, if I were to try to assess what I see as my role in this process, it would be first and foremost to represent the interest of compromised landowners, in seeing that they have every opportunity to sell their lands for the highest possible price, just as would be the case for the landowner back in town. In this sense, my goal would be to have a positive impact on the reasoning process at the political level, say at Congresswoman Diana DeGette's level, where she is trying to introduce legislation that would expand and create new wilderness areas in Western Colorado and Eastern Utah. I would like to have her, her staff, her fellow Congressmen and Senators, and all proponents of wilderness designation, be aware of the conflicted circumstances that arise when decisions are made for pure political expediency. There is a better way of accomplishing the same goal, and it's called sitting down at the kitchen table with proposed inholders, or in this case, the Bear Creek landowners. That is the correct way to resolve the issue, the way our founding fathers would have endorsed….

“Nearly every person in America, every environmentalist, every nonprofit organization, and most of the people in Telluride, buy real estate of some kind with the thought of selling it for more than they paid for it. This opportunity should not be denied a landowner who happens to be entrapped within a wilderness area or within Bear Creek….

“I started 38 years ago at the age of 22, upon graduating from the University of Colorado. In that 38- year period of time, I have never had a complaint filed against me, or my company, on any matter, with the Colorado Division of Real Estate. Few brokers in Telluride, if any, could make a similar statement. My success may be your failure. Success can be measured in many ways….

Gold Hill Development Corp.’s Plans for Bear Creek

Gold Hill Development Corporation intends to:

1. Reopen the multiple existing gold and silver mines on the various claims, utilizing the historic and still existing Gold Hill Road to remove ore to processing plants, subject to a pending minerals analysis showing this option to be economically viable.

2. Construct a 1000 square foot European-style rock chalet on the westerly portion of the Little Bessie parcel, just below below Gold Hill Ridge, just above lift 15, just over the ridge from the Telski ”chute” runs, in the area known locally as the “Delta Bowl”.

3. Develop “eco-tourism” facilities on the Modena Parcel (the large flat area just below San Joaquin Ridge and just above the “Wedding Chutes”). Those facilities would consist of Yurt-style structures, in the concept of a spa resort. In the winter, we would utilize the “balloon-igloo construction technique”, whereby you create living space by the void created by large balloon structures packed with snow and ice.

4. We intend to fence the property for maximum privacy in summer months.

5. We intend to close our lands to all public travel, both summer and winter months and will take whatever measures are necessary to stop the trespass skiing occurring on GHDC lands via the upper Gold Hill backcountry release gates, including injunctive relief if necessary. The liability associated with public skiing over our private lands is unacceptable. This should be obvious, with Bear Creek Off-Piste ski run names like “Graveyard” and “Deep & Dangerous”, both of which are on the GHDC Little Bessie parcel. As you know, there have been several deaths in Bear Creek in the last 15 years. The snow is not controlled in this area. It is not safe to ski in this area without avalanche control. Therefore, we intend to terminate skiing over GHDC private lands and we have asked the Forest Service to close the Gold Hill release gate and rescind all current guide permits that would result in trespass over Bear Creek private lands. We are not the only Bear Creek landowner who has taken this position. There is absolutely no way that a skier who exits the two upper Gold Hill release gates, above Lift 15, can descend down to Telluride without crossing private lands (including non-GHDC lands). All of these private lands were surveyed this summer, and all are closed to trespass and skiing.

6. We intend to reopen vehicular access along the historic Gold Hill Road for the entire 4 1/2 mile length of the road, starting at the mine dump on the Little Bessie parcel in Upper Bear Creek Basin all the way back to town, crossing the bridge at the lower Gondola station and then crossing to the first public street. This road is clearly shown on the Drake Mountain Maps’ 2002 Map of the Mountains of Telluride. We had the entire road surveyed this summer, including those portions that travel through the five Telski private parcels on the ridge. We are initiating legal proceedings in federal court against two parties for the purpose of quieting title along the historic Gold Hill Road, most of which, as you know, is a well-maintained boulevard utilized by Telluride Ski and Golf year-round. The public would know this road right-of-way as the “See Forever Run”.

The actions will be against:

*As against the Forest Service, in a claim of DOI Easement (known as a Department of Interior Easement). The Little Bessie Parcel was patented in 1892, with all rights of ingress and egress appurtenant thereto along the then existing Gold Hill Road, fully 13 years before the 1905 Uncompahgre National Forest reservation. The right of ingress and egress for the Little Bessie parcel along the Gold Hill Road predates Forest Service rights in and to the same road right-of-way. As an alternative to this action, GHDC has offered to exchange non-exclusive easements with the Forest Service that would grant GHDC vehicular road access on the 97% of the Gold Hill Road owned by the Forest Service, and in return, GHDC would grant a non-exclusive easement to the Forest Service for public access through those portions of the Wasatch Trail and the East Fork Trail that pass through GHDC lands.

*As against Telluride Ski & Golf and TSG Asset Holdings, in a quiet title action against the five private parcels they hold along Gold Hill ridge. The GHDC Little Bessie Parcel was patented in 1892. All five of the Telski parcels were patented subsequent to that date, and therefore are ”junior” in line of patent. The appurtenants clause found within the Little Bessie patent creates a senior right for ingress and egress over all subsequent patents issued along the road, including all of the subsequent patents issued on parcels now owned by Telluride Ski & Golf and TSG Asset Holdings. All patents now held by Telski are “junior”, and in fact have been ”junior” to the senior rights of the Little Bessie for the last 118 years.

If There Are No Rules…Then We Have Anarchy’

“There's quite a bit of real estate available in Colorado at the moment, and I haven't had the time to eye it. I guess I would have to admit that on those numerous occasions when I have been in Telluride, usually skiing, I would eye Bear Creek Basin and wonder why no one in the entire community of Telluride cared a whit….

“In fact, public access has never existed in Bear Creek, not since the 1880s with the patent of numerous private lands that cross the width and breadth of Bear Creek. From that date forward, public access up Bear Creek was always subject to permission to cross private lands. Gus, you will notice in Telluride that you have to have permission to do a lot of things. For example, if you want to park on the streets, you are required to buy a parking stub. If you don't, the rules say the town police department can give you a ticket or impound your car. If there are no rules, and if people are not willing to respect the next person's property rights (or the right of the town to create parking rules), then we have anarchy.

“The correct way to handle this issue, is the way the Hardrock Hundred folks handled it this summer. They asked permission of GHDC to cross the private lands. And permission was granted. So in that regard, if a skier wants to pass through this winter, he will have to explain how he will mitigate the liability issue from accidental death or injury, which are the two over-riding factors in the decision to not allow skiing over the private lands, most of which is treacherous skiing as you know. No one has yet to explain why it is acceptable to transfer very real injury and death liability over and unto the several Bear Creek landowners, just so Telski can pocket another $92 lift ticket or a $600 guide ticket."

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