Bear Creek, Telluride Issue Returns With Armed Guards?

Post by blogger | April 22, 2011      

Gold Hill Development, the company that owns controversial property in upper Bear Creek near Telluride ski resort (Colorado), has apparently decided to ramp up their push to prevent trespassing as well as utilize what they claim to be legal vehicular access to their land. The base issue with this situation is one of private property rights vs public rights, which manifest in this case with a summer hiking trail that crosses the property, as well as use in winter by backcountry skiers.

We’re kind of enjoying the way these guys are pushing private property issues to a head — but rest assured that as recreation advocates we’d most certainly like to see the situation resolved in some way that allowed public passage through the private land, rather than such being in a sort of weird legal limbo that could result in armed guards but no presence from the County Sheriff (who has said he has better things to do than enforce no-trespassing on undeveloped backcountry land). The whole situation sounds like a real buzz killer, doesn’t it? More in Telluride newspaper, Gold Hill press release printed verbatim below with date added:

Gold Hill Development
Press Release re Telluride’s Upper BEAR CREEK Basin
(April 22, 2011)

A meeting was held Wednesday, April 13, 2011, at the GMUG National Forest offices in Delta, Colorado. In attendance were representatives of the Gold Hill Development Company (GHDC), the West family (owners of the Nellie Mine and the Laura Lode for four generations), the Norwood District Ranger, Judy Schutza, who requested the meeting in response to multiple written communications (specifically directed to Forest Supervisor Charles Richmond) from GHDC and the West family, and Kathy Peckham, also from the Norwood office of the USFS. Noticeably absent from the meeting were the GMUG Supervisor, Richmond, and his number two, Cory Wong. The purpose of the meeting was, purportedly, to discuss issues related to trespass and increased liability exposure impacting landowners in Telluride’s Bear Creek Basin. The absence of Richmond and Wong, both of whom knew of the meeting well in advance, resulted in an absolute impasse in the negotiation.

Multiple meetings within the last year led the GMUG Forest Service Supervisor to close the Gold Hill access points erected by Schutza in 2009, access points which promoted and encouraged trespass upon private lands in Bear Creek. Ranger Schutza’s arbitrary and unilateral decision to open a new access point at Palmyra Peak, in March of this year, raised the same issues as before but with the added component of increased risk to the skiing public due to the USFS cancellation of the avalanche study program initially touted as a primary safety feature of the 2009 decision to permit skiing in avalanche prone Bear Creek.

Ranger Schutza arrived at her most recent decision without consultation or the consent of the Bear Creek landowners. Legitimate doubts persist about whether or not she consulted with San Miguel County Sheriff, Bill Masters, whose office is responsible for Search and Rescue in Bear Creek, prior to making this decision. Her decision making process is consistent, however, as she also failed to contact San Miguel County’s Board of County Commissioners, the Town of Telluride, the Bear Creek Preserve, and other local interests such as the Sheep Mountain Alliance before making the decision to grant a Forest Service permit to Telski with the express purpose of initiating guided skiing in Bear Creek, in March of 2010.

While these issues follow their course through the various systems in place for dealing with such things, the following must be made clear in the absence of Ranger Schutza’s retraction of her recent assertions that the public somehow has a right to trespass on private lands in Bear Creek. Until Ms. Schutza, the Forest Service, the Telluride Mountain Club and others have obtained a written easement from the landowners or have perfected an alleged easement within the court system for the right to use the property of others for their own private and commercial recreational purposes, neither they nor the public have any right to traverse Bear Creek private lands on any trail or route at any time of year.

We will defend the rights that attend the ownership of our private property, including the placement of armed guards at points of entry at random times through the coming summer, and beyond. We ask that you respect these rights, just as you would expect others to honor yours.

Ron Curry,
Principal, GHDC

See our other Bear Creek posts for a heap of controversy.


Please Enjoy A Few Suggested WildSnow Posts


80 Responses to “Bear Creek, Telluride Issue Returns With Armed Guards?”

  1. Maggie April 22nd, 2011 9:12 pm

    In Telluride, there are stickers all over town that read, “Tom Chapman… what a ***.” I am a skier, and although I prefer to avoid name calling, I can’t help but share the sticker-spreader’s sentiment while reading the above press release. Mr. Chapman should be careful, or else no one will want to go skiing with him.

  2. Lou April 23rd, 2011 6:21 am

    Maggie, since you know Telluride, can you tell us first hand if anyone is doing anything substantive about obtaining legal access for the public in Bear Basin? Name calling and bumper stickers are fun, but one has to wonder…

  3. chase harrison April 23rd, 2011 7:48 am

    Makes me want to move to B.C. or Europe. You can ski where ever you want.

  4. Bobby April 23rd, 2011 8:38 am

    I don’t know if Mr. Chapman is the greedy, evil, a-hole some claim, an honest guy trying to make an honest living, or a man trying to make a point in a world driven by situational ethics, but I respect & support what he’s doing. So many people want what they want, with no consideration of the impact on others. How would you feel if squatters moved into your living room and the government stuck their heads up their behinds and most others thought it was OK? You wouldn’t like it. The bottom line is whether or not we believe in private property rights. If we don’t, lets just say so and march down the road of the other cultures that have been founded in this belief system.

  5. Lou April 23rd, 2011 8:54 am

    Bob, thanks for thinking deep and posting about your thoughts.

    According to the article in the Telluride newspaper, the USFS might actually try to assert that the trail across the private property has been used long enough to make it a public easement. That would be amazing to see and set somewhat of a precedent for management of thousands of other inholdings in Federal Lands. It would also be even more incentive for private property owners to post their land, so it would cut both ways. Super interesting and very important stuff for all backcountry recreationists.

  6. Ali E April 23rd, 2011 2:15 pm

    Private property rights and public rights of way are not mutually exclusive. In Scotland we have both. There is no law of trespass, but users of our extensive backcountry exercise their right of way responsibly, without infringing on the rights of private landowners. There is a middle ground on this.

  7. Lou April 23rd, 2011 2:22 pm

    Same in central Europe…

  8. Caleb April 23rd, 2011 4:24 pm

    Hmmm, I bike a lot in the summertime and my favorite trail runs right through a piece of land that was bought up and developed. The owners or developers posted it for no trespassing and eventually it was developed. I say that to show I have been stung by the whole property trespassing vs recreational use issue. However I think here in the US its also a great thing to be able to own a piece of land and do whatever you want with it. It’s your land, if you don’t was anyone else on it then thats the way it should be. That being said, the guy has the right to cause such a stink about it, but is be being neighborly? No. Is he an *&^ hole? Probably, but thats an American right too I suppose……

  9. brian h April 23rd, 2011 5:42 pm

    Nobody ever built a home in upper Bear Creek. This is land that was bought up from a federal govt. that stole it from the utes. The purpose being to extract gold, silver, create wealth. The whole 19th century mining law b.s. stinks.

  10. Gentle Sasquatch April 23rd, 2011 8:29 pm

    State and National Natural treasures should be open to public access and use
    Otherwise we will only know about them from virtual presentations.t

    It should not be allowed to buy the view, the beach, the mountain and shut down recreational use on it.

  11. Bobby April 23rd, 2011 10:31 pm

    or the river, or the stream, or the meadow, or the hill, or the forest, or the……….?

  12. Ray April 24th, 2011 9:23 am

    FYI….you cannot buy land and “do anything you want with it”…..never have and never will. We do live in a community (your valley, your town, your state, your country, your planet) and we need to act responsibly within that community. I have to say…I HATE the attitiude (and its classic Americana) of ME and what MY rights are. There is someting much greater here than YOU. IMO.

  13. Kim Kircher April 24th, 2011 9:55 am

    This is a great discussion. I wonder if it’s possible in this country to adopt an outlook similar to Scotland, as Ali E describes. Once name-calling and the proprietary nature of these debates gets underway, it’s hard to stop that momentum.

  14. Clint Viebrock April 24th, 2011 10:57 am

    I grew up in the rural West, in farming and ranching country. It was understood that access across private land was allowed: if the gate was open, leave it open; if it was closed, close it after you have gone through.
    Post your land “No Hunting” if you’ve got livestock there, so someone who doesn’t know the difference doesn’t shoot your cow instead of a deer. As the visitor, stay away from the ranch house unless you have business with the owner.
    It’s not neighborly to put fences with no gates across time-honored routes of travel, nor is it neighborly to divert water without returning to the stream.
    And it damn-sure is not neighborly to erect a fence with the sole purpose of keeping others out, when you have no intention of really using the area yourself. That was called “dog-in-the-manger” as early as Aesop.

  15. brian h April 24th, 2011 11:13 am

    There are other forces at work here besides Chapman. This land came to the attention of Chapman after Telluride ski corp began guiding into Bear Creek. Then rumors spread that Telluride had expansion ideas into Bear Creek. That land then quadrupled in value (or did it? this is the kind of speculative b.s. that leads to $4 dollar gas when crude oil holds steady). I suspect that it’s all smoke and mirrors given the debacle of “mountain village” and the ski corps. financial depth. I think that a lot of core b.c. people in the region have given up on Bear Creek (for skiing, maybe not as a symbol). What you will see is anarchists with an agenda going in there and deliberately f*****g with these “armed guards” (are these guys going to stay up there in the winter?). Let the “owners” sit on their “gold mine”. Two years from now, the powers will have moved on to more lucrative ventures.

  16. John Gloor April 24th, 2011 12:52 pm

    Chapman tried this same BS a few years ago on a trail that goes around the Fossil Ridge wilderness area near Taylor reservoir in Colorado. He posted armed guards and short sections of chain link fence on the trail where it entered and left his recently purchased claim. That area proved unfruitful for him since only a few dirtbikers, mtn bikers and horse riders ventured back there. Today the guards are gone and the fence is laying flat on the ground. In Bear Creek he has more clout since more people want what he controls.

  17. Adam Olson April 24th, 2011 1:24 pm

    How funny? Is Mr. Chapman actually saying the public has no right to the backcountry? There is alot of public land accessed by this “new” gate. Not just his precious island in the sky.

    I see Mr. Chapman as the character Golum from “The Lord of the Rings”, coveting his precious!

    What a tool, you just cant teach this level of stupidity and arrogance!

  18. Ben April 24th, 2011 1:57 pm

    I was day-hiking in the Dolomites, following one of those marked trails with painted blazes, when it crossed a meadow and road and appeared to go right through someone’s front yard. This unsettled me at first, but they were outside chatting with the neighbors and didn’t bat an eye. We practically had to duck around their laundry line before the trail went back into the trees. It is just the way things are done there.

    Property rights are not absolute (for example, zoning codes). I doubt anybody wants to set up camp on this claim, they just want to cross it. Due to the nature of mountainous terrain it is possible for a property owner to close off practical access to public land/trails, and that’s a shame, not a celebration of individual rights. Especially if the main purpose is to extract money to be paid for an easement or to go away.

  19. Walt April 24th, 2011 4:40 pm

    All of the controversy surrounding bear creek made it an irresistable trip. It is definitely a beautiful place to ski. The beta I received from your website was very helpful in navigating the terrain.
    Sure could use some more info on the Ophir area. It was fun skiing. The skin track was filled with beautiful women. They were all extremely friendly. They told me not to tell anyone about the place. Most of them had absentee husbands working in telluride. I think they were all lonely and just needed someone to pay attention to them.
    P S Chapman should do something about the monkey-swing before somebody gets hurt.
    Thanks Again,

  20. Hank Whynoski April 25th, 2011 12:46 pm

    Has the route/trail across the private property been reserved as Revised Statue 2477? RS2477 is found in section 8 of the Mining Law of 1866. It granted states and territories unrestricted rights-of-way over federal lands that had no existing reservations or private entries. The law remained in effect until Congress repealed it in 1976. It states: “The right of way for the construction of highways over public lands, not reserved for public use is hereby granted.”
    It sounds like the owners of this in holding are accreting their rights to access their property across US Forest Service lands. If a RS2477 access their land most likely it crosses their land. Just food for thought from some dusty old law books.

  21. Lou April 25th, 2011 12:50 pm

    Hank, indeed, I hope someone is looking into that.

  22. holmstrom April 25th, 2011 2:58 pm

    I like the comments by Clint Viebrock above. I wish something like what he said or this bit below from Finland had been written into our constitution:

    A few people’s selfish acts are costing everyone too much.

  23. Thomas Chapman April 25th, 2011 4:05 pm

    Lou, I got involved in the Bear Creek issue because private landowners were (and are) being abused by the public. A fair minded person will have to admit that the public has appropriated Bear Creek private lands for public use, in violation of the 5th Amendment, not unsimilar to what Hugo Chavez does. How else do you explain the fact that the public knowingly and gleefully ski trespass across these posted and closed private lands with impunity, thumbing their nose and defying the landowners to do anything about it?

    The Forest Service and San Miguel County granted Telski permission to build ski lifts in Bear Creek (Revelation Bowl). But an adjacent Bear Creek private landowner is denied the right to build a log cabin. The Forest Service and San Miguel County grant permission to Telski to build major roads into the highest reaches of Bear Creek at 13,000 feet (Hillary Steps), yet the Bear Creek private landowners are denied the right to use an existing road leading to their lands — a road paid for and constructed by the landowners in 1956.

    It should be made clear that prior to the landowners closing the trails, the public closed the road to the landowners. Why is that? Who really started this? The road is there, and it’s a good one. On any given summer day, a dozen Telski pickup trucks travel the four miles up to the area near Lift 15, bypassing the walking landowner with a backpack, heading for his private lands.

    The public wants their cake and eat it too. The public wants the right to pass through the private lands, while denying the private landowners the right to travel across the road on public land.

    The solution is not that complicated. GHDC is willing to work out a compromise with Telski such that their ski area is not damaged. With regards to the summer trails and road in question, GHDC is willing to cross easements with the Forest Service. Then everyone has their access. It’s as simple as that.

    Thomas Chapman
    GHDC General Partner

  24. Lou April 25th, 2011 4:35 pm

    Thanks Thomas, I really appreciate you being willing to chime in here. The issue is nuanced, but also seems very simple in some ways.

    Interesting point about Telski building, and private land owners not.

  25. brian h April 25th, 2011 4:42 pm

    Is it that simple? If ghdc and telski and the f.s. and san miguel county all play nice then everybody wins? If ghdc gets to build some gucci lodge then do SKIERS get access (not just “lease” holders)? Really? boy, I guess I had this whole thing figured wrong…

  26. Lou April 25th, 2011 4:48 pm

    Brian, what exactly is wrong with a gucci lodge? Seems like you’ve got a few of those around Telluride already, and they provide a lot of jobs and might even be considered a major underpinning of the local economy? More, if Telski gets involved in a gucci lodge, I’d think it more likely than not involve some ski access.

    I’m getting the sense you would you rather keep some sort of imaginary class warfare going rather than be positive and support possible solutions?

    Seems like GHD provides a nice whine and moan excuse for the locals. Suggest moving past that…

  27. brian h April 25th, 2011 6:01 pm

    Lou, I can’t /shouldn’t speak for the people of Telluride, because I am not one of them. I am a citizen in s.w. colorado. I do not espouse(?) class warfare because all classes are selfish in their own way. My point of view is more a lament for a time passed buy. I was brought up in the dreamscape that Colorado once was (and sometimes still is). Just seems that kind of freedom is leaving us bit by bit.

  28. Lou April 25th, 2011 7:39 pm

    Apologies Brian, you were sounding “local” so I made the assumption. I can relate to the concept of your lament. I feel the same quite frequently. I think where we differ is I tend to blame myself and my peers for not working harder on access issues back when we could have easily made a difference. But of course that’s just hindsight, and in my opinion we do still have a ton of excellent opportunities to set things right. Whatever your feelings about GHD, at least they’re bringing all this to people’s attention. If that makes any difference, who knows.

    If I may be so bold as to say it, I’d watch the tendency to just whine about this stuff. Doing so sounds rather childish and serves no useful purpose.

  29. Lou April 25th, 2011 7:41 pm

    Whine and cheese parties are fun, but there comes a time to pack up the picnic basket (grin) and go do something.

  30. brian h April 25th, 2011 8:34 pm

    Lou-Ok, i agree, it’s much better to work, and talk, and hash it out. That’s what will likely happen, right? I would think that the most active, motivated folks in the area will step up, figure it out.. I guess I was a little incensed that “armed guards” were going to be used to stop people from skiing (or hiking) in a place where they have been doing so for decades (without much hulabaloo). Telluride, like so many places we’ve all loved, is an amazing place but we are now living in a time where things like powder (and trout and rivers and elk) are commodities that are sold as part of a lifestyle package that comes with the purchase of your new slice of high country heaven. These are things that I think belong to the public. I guess it’s been going on for a long time but I remember a time when you could ski a line or float a river or climb a rock and the sheriff didn’t get called… But I’ll stop whining…sign a petition…

  31. Lou April 25th, 2011 9:19 pm

    Brian, oh, you know, those property owners come up with all sorts of ideas. No sense getting alarmed and yeah, the work is what will get the results.

    BTW, as for armed guards, shotgun enforced no-trespassing is a noble tradition and really quite an amusing part of our western culture. Personally, I’m glad to see it is still happening, though I’d rather it was a gold miner defending his land against claim jumpers, or something way more exciting than keeping hikers away (grin).

  32. John Gloor April 26th, 2011 9:17 am

    There are very defined parameters for the use of deadly force. Trespassing is not one of them. If a guard were to brandish/menace someone with a weapon merely for trespassing on undeveloped land, they could be in hot water legally. If they actually shot someone, they would face murder charges. I hope the firearms are for their personal protection in case they were threatened, and are not to be used as a deterrent. Mr. chapman is responsible for the actions of his employees, so I hope he does not hire clueless doofuses.

  33. Adam Olson April 26th, 2011 10:03 pm

    If Mr. Chapman really had the rights to his “precious” 1956 summer road he would have used it. His whining about being passed by on road use is a ruse to further his selfish ambitions.

    Personally, I would love to ski past his Gucci ski chateau on MY water rights. He still doesn’t own the snow, or the air.

  34. John Gloor April 26th, 2011 10:43 pm

    Adam, everyone here sees past Mr. Chapman’s transparent property rights claims. He has valid points, but he is using them for his own gain. It is not like he is the little guy who was denied the right to develop his property. He is always the newcomer who pushes people’s buttons to line his pockets under the guise of property rights issues.

    As far as walking on the snow, while it is water, the undefined Colorado water laws as far as floating rivers go, do not apply to snow. All law agencies in this state will arrest you for walking/skiing over the snow on someone’s property if you are tresspassing

  35. Adam Olson April 27th, 2011 8:27 am

    Are saying that the snow pack has no value to the rivers or the water rights owners? And that an avalanche is not a form of river? The snow pack is constantly in motion thus the snowpack IS the rivers and streams. Without the snow the rivers and streams die.

    What exactly are the government Snotel sites for? They are there to measure the water content of all Colorado drainages. The Dept. of Natural Resources uses the data to manipulate runoff levels and make water diversion decisions. These Snotel sites mark the headwaters of all Colorado rivers and streams.

    I would hate to think that any person could own the air. This harkens back to the dark ages when each peasant paid tax to the king based on the size of the windows in there home. You were, after all, breathing the king’s air. In these same ways Mr. Chapman does not own the snow (mostly air), only the ground and trees. He has no right to make a claim to the water and air. In stopping the skiing he is making a claim to the snow. And must be called out.

    Lastly John, It would seem that nobody will ticket you or arrest you for skiing Bear Gulch, (apparently there is some private LAND there). So, maybe a precedent is being set down there in Telluride for over the snow travel?


  36. See April 27th, 2011 8:41 am

    Does Mr. Chapman merely want to use a vehicle on public land so he and his family and friends can access a cabin, or is it his intention to use roads that currently see only light traffic associated with ski area maintenance, to serve a large resort development? If the latter, the image of the “Telski pickup trucks…bypassing the walking landowner with a backpack” would seem a bit misleading.

    Likewise, “the public knowingly and gleefully ski trespass(ing) across… private lands” is very different from vehicular traffic associated with a major resort passing through public forest.

  37. Sean April 27th, 2011 8:59 am

    “…not unsimilar to what Hugo Chavez does….”

    Wow. That’s some ignorant blowing of steam there, Mr Chapman. Are you auditioning to be the next Glenn Beck?

    Succinctly: what you are complaining about is fascism, which was modeled by Benito Mussolini and Francisco Franco in Europe in the 20th C, and by a string of leaders in the USA (Bush41, Clinton, Bush43, Obama) in the 20th and 21st Cs. It’s socializing the costs for private corporate gain.

    On the other hand, Chavez is socializing the resources for public benefit, which is diametrically opposite what you’re complaining about.

    5th Amendment property rights in tension with “takings” sounds dramatic when you are jingoistic and Glenn Beck-ish, but it loses its rhetorical power when it’s mixed in with an erroneous grasp of governmental policy and practice, especially the naive jingoist sort.

    If your intention is to stop a big ski corporation from developing the land, I say you should be commended.

    But I can’t sit idly while you misunderstand and then misrepresent what’s motivating disputes regarding property rights and “development.” A ski corp using the government to gain access to land and “develop” it is not really like Chavez’s regime. Instead, it’s very consistent with Mussolini’s.

  38. John Gloor April 27th, 2011 9:04 am

    Adam, the Colorado laws regarding water travel over private land are murky. River travelers are operating under a 1983 (?) Colorado Attorney General opinion that you can float over private property. It is not law and different law enforcement agencies treat river travel differently. Rural Sheriffs in ranching communities seem to think you cannot float through private land more often that sheriffs in ski /recreation based communities. Last year Kathleen Curry sponsored a bill to make that opinion law, but it stalled or was repealed. It would be a huge stretch to saw fallen snow on someones land has the same river travel rules, which are not even law. While a property owner might not have rights to the water that falls on his property, that fallen snow does not create a cushion that one can legally walk on over the land underneath. If you are walking on snow on someones land against the owner’s wishes, you are trespassing. If this was not the case people could do whatever they wanted, including snowmobiling, on peoples land in the winter. We know that is not how things work. If the sheriff in Telluride refuses to arrest any trespassers, then he is not doing his job. It does not matter what the popular opinion is.

    I am opposed to what Mr. Chapman is doing, and I have no doubt his motivation is financial gain. I do no believe he is standing up for the little guy. Trespass issues are another issue and are a black and white issue unless there are travel easements in place.

  39. Sean April 27th, 2011 9:04 am


    “I’m getting the sense you would you rather keep some sort of imaginary class warfare going rather than be positive and support possible solutions?”

    Like it or not, Lou, there is class warfare ongoing in the USA. You seem monetarily and materially wealthy enough to ignore it, but some of us live in places where the gulf between the ritzy Haves and the dirty HaveNots is stark and glaring all the time.

    You suggest that people should be happy to be serfs if in exchange for serfdom they get to sometimes hike across the Liege-Lord’s Manor.

    I don’t mean to suggest that class warfare should be inserted where it doesn’t belong.

    I mean to suggest that it’s already there, even if you wish it were not.

    I don’t admire the rich and I don’t appreciate someone telling me I should be in awe and admiration of them simply because they have tossed a few crumbs in my direction.

    You sound a bit like Alex P Keeton here, Lou. Remember the TV show “Family Ties”?

  40. Steve April 27th, 2011 4:36 pm

    This is the American West at it’s finest. This guy has the right to protect his land from trespassers and in some states it’s OK to shoot. Like I said before in the earlier thread, the land was for sale FOR CHEAP several years ago and Telluride did not step up and buy it. That was a mistake.

  41. John Gloor April 27th, 2011 6:23 pm

    Steve, I would be curious as to which states will allow a property owner to kill someone for merely being on their land and not being a threat. It just does not happen anymore. In Colorado, your life or safety needs to be jeopardy to use a firearm. An intruder in your house is another issue.

  42. Robert April 27th, 2011 6:34 pm

    Colorado law cannot constitutionally reglulate travel over water. The shipping clause of the constitution that most of you call “interstate commerce” gives the US government the sole authority over any navigable water and the laws have been in place since George Washington. That being said, frozen snow is not navigable as far as commerce and shipping go so it is under the private property laws of a given state.

    It appears both sides have a valid point. If a road crosses the private land that the ski area is using then the owners of said land have a legitimate claim to its use. Road laws also come under the US constitution in the order to maintain and regulate postal roads. If the road doesn’t cross their land then it is a moot point. I think the real question here is whether or not there is a hiking trail that has existed long enough to be grandfathered in as a right of way. If so then score one for the hikers. If the road is private then ask the owners of it why it can’t be used for skiing out. If it is public then bring it up with the FS or county or whomever owns it and problem solved. It seems to me that this is too much name calling and nobody has legitimately looked at why this problem exists.

  43. John Gloor April 27th, 2011 6:42 pm

    Robert, the shipping clause you mention does not apply to small streams and rivers which can carry no commercial shipping traffic. The Law Kathleen Curry tried to pass would give the right of passage through streams which are considered unnavigable for commercial vessels as long as the boater did not touch the sides and bottom, which are the landowners property. These conflicts do not happen on large rivers which have a history of commercial usage.

  44. Adam Olson April 27th, 2011 6:43 pm

    I respect the “opinion” of the CO Attorney General. My point is that the very “cushion ” you deny the skiers, exists for the boaters. Why not look at it through a broader lens, and include cushion to all water users? Or, no cushion to any water user. I’m fine with that too. The status quo is on the skiers side, in my “opinion”.

    I’m sure the sheriff is doing exactly what the constituents seem to want in Telluride. Letting the people ski.

  45. Robert April 27th, 2011 6:45 pm

    You are blatantly ignoring that boating applies to navigable waters and is a Constitutional issue. Trespassing against private land, whether snowcovered or not, is a private property issue.

  46. Robert April 27th, 2011 6:49 pm

    Sorry I meant that last post to be directed at Adam.

  47. Adam Olson April 27th, 2011 6:53 pm

    Does snow-cat skiing constitute both commerce AND shipping? Transporting paying customers from one point to another for recreational skiing? Further the Forest Service awards exclusive leases to snow-cat operators based on demand for snow-cat skiing. The fact that these lease are given and “winter routes” are established furthers my case. These snow-cats would never be able to go where they go without the frozen rivers of Colorado.

  48. John Gloor April 27th, 2011 6:58 pm

    Robert, I did a little brief google search, and I might be in error. I used do do a lot of kayaking and river trips, so river access is an issue for me. Apparently the Supreme court ruled at some point that “Rivers that are navigable in fact, are navigable in law”. There is some consensus that a river that can be boated in a canoe or kayak is navigable. If it is that basic, then I do not know where the conflict arises. There is more to the issue and it varies state to state. These river/water issues do not carry over to snow covered land though

  49. Robert April 27th, 2011 6:58 pm

    Again Adam, you are ignoring the CONSTITUTIONALLY MANDATED basis of FEDERAL laws on navigable waters which as John has already stated are waters where ANY boat can navigate without touching land vs discretionary laws of states on property access whether public or private.

    By the way, check the dictionary for Water and Ice. Snow is ICE crystals, not water.

  50. Adam Olson April 27th, 2011 7:10 pm

    I guess the Snotel sites are for nothing then. And from what you are saying snow has no value to the river system. Your making sense.

    My grade school teacher taught me about the physical properties of water. Snow, ice and water are all the same. They just all exist at different temperatures. Sometimes water is a gas too! Surprise!

    If I am skiing down a snow covered river, am I navigating it?

  51. Ron Curry April 27th, 2011 7:20 pm

    Returning to the fundamental principle.The following is the Fifth Amendment to the US Constitution in its entirity, the last sentence of which might come as a surprise to some. I would recommend considering this in the context of the current debate.

    “No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”

    The Founders did not make this provision conditional upon considerations of location, use or profit motive. This distinction between private and public property distinguishes American citizens from their counterparts in totalitarian regimes.

    “–nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation.”

  52. John Gloor April 27th, 2011 7:28 pm

    Ron, why do I get the feeling that you are one of those people who feel zoning regulations are a “taking” for which you deserve compensation? If I am wrong, please correct me

  53. Adam Olson April 27th, 2011 7:35 pm

    I’ll drop some change in the snow bank when I ski by 🙂

  54. Lou April 27th, 2011 7:42 pm

    Ron will probably answer, but I feel like entering the conversation. John, it is nuanced and I’m sure you know that. So trying to pigeon hole Ron or anyone else as “one of those people” seems a bit much. There is a constant tension between gov regulations and private property rights and being involved in that is a legitimate and important part of keeping our government and public sorting this never ending issue out. In my view, sometimes the zoning goes to far, and sometimes the property rights desired are excessive. You can Google the issue, but there are even examples in our own valley here of things that could be viewed from either side of the issue.

    At the least, our Constitution does say that property owners will be compensated. That a pretty powerful concept. But yes, open to interpretation.

  55. John Gloor April 27th, 2011 8:17 pm

    Lou, just a little friendly baiting going on. What I am fishing for is a feel if Ron believes ANY zoning is a taking. I’ll let his answer define his views for us. Regulation does not necessarily equal a taking, and in case after case zoning regs have been upheld as legal and not eligible for compensation. You are right that there are instances in this valley which probably cross the line though.

    While I and others may not like Tom Chapman’s goals and how he operates, he does so in a very legal way. I hope both sides on this issue will do so.

  56. Lou April 27th, 2011 8:44 pm

    Well, I know Ron and Thomas can take it (grin). Though I should add that the minute this comment thread goes over into name calling and raging, it’ll be shut down. It’s amazing that Ron and Thomas are willing to chime in here, so while many of you don’t agree with their approach, please be gracious.

    It is indeed good to get people to be intellectually honest and state their positions clearly.

    Private land really brings up some good discussion. But what many people seem to fail to realize is that if you own a yard, you can fence that yard — even if people have been cutting across it as a sidewalk shortcut for 50 years. Just because those people are skiers, or hikers, or parents with baby strollers, or Hugo Chavez himself makes no difference, you can still fence your yard. That is unless the government decides they want to establish the right for people to cross your yard. In that case, they have to compensate. Then it gets sticky. How much compensation? What form? Reading up on this stuff reveals quite a quagmire…

    What’s annoying about the Telluride deal is that 1. If people think they have the right to cross the private land, they need to give their legal basis for that and get a court decision. That’s not the same thing as whining. And 2. Accusations of “hostage taking” and that sort of thing have viritually no bearing on any final decisions or actions that might result in a solution. In other words, so what a company comes along who’s goal is to make money in any legal way possible? Is that supposed to be some kind of big deal and somehow give us the right to take over their private land?

    As anyone who knows me or reads WildSnow knows, I’m a recreation advocate so I hate seeing these sorts of things happen. But I try to be a realist who also understands that importance of property rights to the very foundation of our society, so I’m not going to run around moaning about Gold Hill Development Corporation. Instead, I’ll keep encouraging discussion, trying to understand all positions, and hoping that someone actually sits down with the property owners and in some fashion makes things work — even if that means buying them out and giving them a, lord forbid, profit.

  57. John Gloor April 27th, 2011 9:02 pm

    Lou, there is one scary error in your sidewalk analogy. In Colorado, if you have been walking on that same unofficial sidewalk uninterrupted for (I believe) seventeen years, you can gain title to it with NO compensation. It is a sort of squatter’s rights law which is total BS in my opinion.

  58. See April 27th, 2011 9:20 pm

    Sorry I didn’t read Mr. Chapman’s comment closely enough.

    Do I understand right that he is not allowed to build even a “log cabin” on what I assume is a large piece of land that he owns?

    I’m not a local, but I would like to know enough about the situation to be able to make sense of this discussion.

  59. John Gloor April 27th, 2011 9:33 pm

    See, Mr. Chapman has no intention of building a cabin at all, though he might if the fight bogs down for long enough. He is seeking support from people who have been denied building rights. Mr Chapman searches for areas which can serve as chokeholds in popular areas so he can can force a sale of his property at vastly inflated prices. He does so strictly by the book and follows the law. Do not feel sorry for him, he is not downtrodden by the government and he actively sought this fight, and in the end he will make a tidy profit. This could be even more profitable for him than his exploits in vail. His efforts at the Black Canyon and Fossil ridge did not pay out however.

  60. See April 27th, 2011 9:52 pm

    I wonder if this is what the founders had in mind when they wrote the 5th amendment?

  61. Gray April 27th, 2011 10:41 pm

    Regulations on private land can be considered takings, however they generally have to deprive the landowner of essentially all of the value of the land. It is most obvious when there has been a change in regulation that affected the land owner.

    So the two characteristics are generally that there must be
    1-change in the regulations
    2-the landowner is deprived of the value of the land.

    The issue that most people in the telluride situation are looking at are easements, the right to cross the property of another. That is a matter of state law and different states have different requirements to get it. They all make you go to court to prove your case or make a deal with the land owner.

    Telleski missed their opportunity, as did the Telluride community when the land was for sale.

  62. John Gloor April 27th, 2011 10:42 pm

    See, I think we are better off with the system we have now, even if a few people play it for their benefit, than a system where we do not have those rights. I agree with Mr. chapman’s stance on private property rights. if he genuinely wanted a house or property for his own use I would back him. I do not really like how he is a self appointed lightning rod for this issue though. For self gain. In a legal sense our likes and dislikes have no bearing though

  63. Lou April 28th, 2011 5:59 am

    Gloor, from what I understand the 17 year rule is not quite that simple.

  64. See April 28th, 2011 8:03 am

    Hi John. Thanks for the reply.

    Who said anything against “the system?” Not me. If, by “the system we have now,” you mean the system established by the U. S. Constitution, I also prefer it. However, if interpreting the Constitution were as simple as some suggest, we wouldn’t need the Supreme Court.

  65. Andy Massagli April 28th, 2011 10:19 am

    Wow. How easy it is to judge when it others have already made someone out to be a bad guy.

    Clint, I appreciate your comments and I live in a community like that, but it’s based on a community of values and basic respect for your neighbors. You can’t do that in Los Angeles, for example, because not enough of the people have that same respect. That’s why there are no personal fireworks allowed there anymore on the 4th of July. We lose freedoms when we lose respect for each other, in order to protect the rights of individuals.

    It’s clear that this community has no respect for Mr. Chapman and his partners. So that makes it difficult for him to grant the courtesies you ask for. If someone is injured or killed in an avalanche or other incident while on that private property, I have no doubt, reading what I have from this local population, that the people would sue Chapman and the jury would not be unbiased. That’s why he must defend his rights as a land owner and that’s why those issues would be resolved if the government agencies and other entities would just sit down and agree to make the road for everyone as GHDC Chapman has proposed. And yes, some trails will have to be adjusted around some mining claims. But you can still ski, bike or hike. They don’t own all of Colorado, or your bike.

    Ironically, many of you want to make Chapman and his partners into the giant evil corporate hogs. But they are the small business owners and private citizens (an owner-operated gold mine and rental property) and Telski is the big corporation encouraging trespass along with help form the government. That seems to be what most of you are really against, so why are you fighting so hard against the guys who have come to meetings with solutions only to be stood up by these other guys?

    Ben, while you were hiking the Dolomites, you were probably in Italy. But had you held a conversation with the lady you thought was so gracious, you would notice that she probably spoke German. That’s because Hitler took over Austria (watch ‘Sound of Music’) then gave that piece of the Dolomites to Italy (and even Sean agrees that Mussolini was bad). The funny thing is; that lady was never asked whether she wanted to become an Italian citizen. Her property and her very nationality was forcibly altered. So having become accustomed to that lack of personal freedom, I find it very easy to see why she would not think twice of you hiking through her yard. She was just glad you weren’t wearing a swastika. On the flip-side, you would have been hunted tenaciously, if not incompetently, by the Alpini had you stolen her laundry. You didn’t, so the rules under Clint’s type of society applies.

    As for Chapman and his “gang”, I will say that I have known GHDC Principal, Ron Curry who wrote the press release, for many years. If you knew him the way I and many others do, you would be astonished, even ashamed, to read the kinds of things written by many of you about he and his partners. He is not a wealthy man, but I have seen him devote more of his time and talents to charitable causes than most people I know. And not big, public, “look at me, I’m being charitable” events, but personal, anonymous, neighbor helping neighbor kind of stuff. He is the friendliest and easiest man to negotiate with that you could hope for in this kind of situation. You are a fool if you speak without thinking and fail to sit down with this man who would likely risk frostbite to make you a splint from his shirt should he find you injured in the back country. He is a devoted patriot and wants to see that good people can still make good agreements and respect individual rights in this country. I understand that some of you disagree with individual rights and embrace a more socialist form of government, but that is not currently the law of this nation. And you do have the right to leave and live in one of the several countries that accommodate your point of view (if they allow you). I don’t know Mr. Chapman, but Ron tells me that he is the same type of man. These are both men with families and challenges of their own. If you write ignorant statements and drive around with distasteful bumper stickers defiling the name of your neighbor and his children, how can you call them bullies?
    YOU are the bully. YOU are on the side of big corporations (Telski) and uncooperative government (USFS) who are squeezing the rights of the citizen. These guys have a lot of people who care about them personally, and I hope that you do too. So keep that in mind and go work this out like men and leave the stickers at home.

    And for those of you who say, “Well the back country belongs to everyone”, ask yourselves if you’re just mad that it’s the trail that’s so close to town. If you can go hiking for a few hours then come back and talk about your day over some pizza, how far into the “back country” do you think you really were? If you must buy a ski ticket and get a ride on a ski lift, (which incidentally, also impacts the landscape) then you probably aren’t in the middle of the wilderness. As a pilot I can tell you that there are miles and miles of true back country out there where nobody will bother you. Go find it. This is civilization now, it just looks like back country. They don’t have ski resorts in real back country. And if you are going to protest a cabin for not letting you ski in its yard, then you MUST protest the local Holiday Inn for not letting you skateboard in its parking lot. It’s the same thing.

    Please, think things through and understand that most people are reasonable. If something somebody told you sounds completely astonishing and that any reasonable person would be outraged, then they probably didn’t know all of the facts. And so, neither do you, if they are your only source. Especially if that source is a bumper sticker.

  66. Thomas Chapman April 28th, 2011 12:12 pm

    It should be noted that while Colorado statute has granted certain authorites to Colorado counties for the regulation of lands within their counties, and it is generally conceded that the counties have fairly wide latitude in the intrepretation of that authority, one thing is clear. The State statute specifically prohibits a county from applying those regulations in an arbitrary or capricious fashion. The Aspen area readers will be aware of just such an instance a number of years ago in which the Pitkin County Board of County Commissioners were found guilty of doing just that. The several CORA requests we have implemented in San Miguel County bring voluminous information to the table that supports our contention that arbitrary application of zoning regulations has in fact occurred in Bear Creek — in favor of Telski and to the detriment of the landowners.

  67. Lou April 28th, 2011 12:53 pm

    Adam’s concept of traveling on snow and not touching the land may sound a bit out there, but check this out, Telluride Mountain Club brings up the same concept:

    It’ll take quite a bit of convincing to get me to think this concept is anything more than wishful thinking, but it’s interesting that TMC has it in their official position writing and recommend using it as a point when you write letters to the USFS.

    Lou, who reads stuff when he has the chance (grin).

  68. Lou April 28th, 2011 1:19 pm

    Andy’s comment above got a false positive from my spam filter, probably because of the length. Sorry about that. It’s up now. Quite a bit of writing!

  69. John Gloor April 28th, 2011 1:57 pm

    Mr. Chapman, could you refresh my memory and tell us what case the Pitkin county commissioners were found to be in the wrong? I am always surprised/appalled at their views on property ownership here, and the loopholes one has to jump through to build anything. Their bulldozing of Wilk Wilkinson’s home up Smuggler was their worst transgression in my opinion.

  70. brian h April 28th, 2011 2:02 pm

    Andy, I respect your opinion of Mr. Curry, as I do not know the man myself. Nor do I know Mr. Chapman, only his reputation. Which brings me to my question; Is Mr. Chapman acting solely out of some desire to see the law applied correctly? Is there not a profit motive (however legal and “American” it may be)? I know that everyone loves to hate the boogey man. Again, I refer to the reputation of Mr. Chapman (which come from his previous “dealings” right?). In regards to those that have said that the people of T.ride missed the boat in buying up Bear Creek when they had a chance: Many of us live in mountain towns that have “properties” like Bear Creek all around them. It’s certainly not possible for a community to predict something like this, and decide which land owner would sell because public access to public lands is at risk because of inholdings. I skied yesterday in a basin that has a couple of cabins in it, not old mining cabins but ski huts or summer cabins. I didn’t see one “no trespassing” sign. I think this is about money and not about much more. If this property wasn’t accessed form the top of a chair this discussion wouldn’t be happening. Andy, I agree, Telski is as much an enemy of Bear Creek as GHDC. Lou, I stayed away from this thread as long as I could…

  71. Lou April 28th, 2011 2:06 pm

    Gloor, the classic ones have been the things they’ve done to try and block churches from doing things, and have resulted in big money settlements going to the churches. The most well known being Alpine Christian Academy and Alpine Christian Fellowship Church back in what would I think be the early 1980s. Basically, in that case the nimbys complained about the church doing a school in their building, and the county went to court with the church to try and block the use based on their zoning. The county lost the case based on various constitutional principles, not the least of which was freedom of religion.

    Wilk might be a better example, but he didn’t win. What Wilk did was illegal according to the zoning (OMG, he built a house on his land), but in my opinion it was really tragic that it was made illegal in the first place. Yet who am I to know? Aspen Ski Company can stick lifts and ski runs all over a mountainside, but a guy can’t build a house on his own land. Hmmmm.

  72. Lou April 28th, 2011 2:16 pm

    Brian H (grin), go ahead and be here, but please keep it civil.

    As for GHD’s motivations, I think they are varied and nuanced and again, I don’t see where motivation enters into this discussion except being a straw man in the argument. Some people buy property to resell, some buy it to use, some buy it and wait and see how things pan out. And on and on, that’s been going on for years. Also, what’s this whining (not speaking directly to you) about private land that originated with 1812 mining law? If that’s a problem, then nearly everyone in Colorado mountain towns should donate their property to the government and move away. Oh, and in turn, that property should be turned back to the American Indians, and they in turn should probably turn it over to their ancestors…. Again, another straw man in the argument.

    The point is, what rights do the public have to the GHD land? And secondary (or perhaps primary), what do stakeholders do about it if the land access is effectively blocked (by armed guards or whatever)?

    To put it bluntly, GHD is a business. Generally, businesses are in business to make money. Businesses also tend to reflect the philosophies or principles of their owners… and so on.

  73. brian h April 28th, 2011 2:59 pm

    Lou, yes it’s all true, business is business and that’s the song we all dance to. I guess I’ve become the master of the moot(?) point. Once upon a time, Bear Creek was a place for the few who dared drop in but that was before this last “gold rush”. I accept that I’ve been grasping at symbols. Maybe that’s all the opposition has. I can only hope that I’m finally done with this thread. 🙄

  74. Lou April 28th, 2011 4:10 pm

    Once upon a time fortunes were made and broken in places like Bear Creek. Around 1890 is what I recall. As for the dance, I wouldn’t exactly call working my tail off for the last 40 years a dance, but it’s been quite a ride and I’m grateful for all the business opportunity I’ve had, everything from owning a guide service to owning a website… Those of you who’ve never worked for yourselves don’t know what you’re missing, and you might just say ignorance is bliss (grin).

    He he, you’ll never be done with this thread! It’s like, you have to pay to get out!

    As for the opposition, I think you’ve got a huge resource otherwise known as human beings. Be optimistic, organize, and go for it!


  75. Andy Massagli April 28th, 2011 4:43 pm

    Brian, I appreciate your civility and appropriate questions.
    To answer you question, “Is Mr. Chapman acting solely out of some desire to see the law applied correctly?” the answer is…YES.

    Perhaps the word, “Solely” is incorrect, because this is his business and he can’t and shouldn’t just walk away from it any more than anyone else can just walk away from their jobs or businesses. But I can tell you that the sense of patriotic duty in standing up for individual property owner’s rights is a key component in this issue, at least as it has been communicated to me.

    Remember, when you reference “Inholdings” you are talking about land which was originally privately owned when the government bought (or otherwise appropriated) all the land around it, essentially isolating that owner’s property and his ability to do with it as he wishes. This makes the land useless for anything other than what Mr. Chapman does with it. THAT’s what this is about. Yes, it IS a stand for property owner’s rights based on a sense of patriotic duty. At least in part, if not the primary reason.

  76. Andy Massagli April 28th, 2011 4:55 pm

    … by the way, in reference to armed guards. It is well documented and widely understood among developers that in passionate arguments such as this one, some naturalist and anti-capitalist groups like E.L.F. do make threats and act on those threats in violent and destructive ways. It’s unfair to assume that the guards are there to make threats to hikers. They would only be there in response to a perceived threat. Think about it.

  77. swshred April 28th, 2011 5:18 pm

    The trespassing has been epic lately!

  78. brian h April 28th, 2011 6:37 pm

    Seeing as I haven’t paid my thread exit fee… I cant help myself in commenting on swshreds’ little teaser. Here is someone who didn’t ride the lift (they are closed). The zone is coveted because of the semi epic nature of terrain that you can ride and still make your job on time…without the help of Telski. I think that what’s screwed it up (one of the things) is the new marketability of side country. Have the owners in question really been battling those swift silent riders that knew that they had it good and shut up about it (until that cat was ripped out of the bag)? Or are skiers being used as pawns in the game?

  79. See April 28th, 2011 7:42 pm

    OK, I thought about it, and I think John Gloor was right in using the term “lightning rod” in referring to Mr. Chapman.

    Mr. Massagli’s explanation that the armed guards are a “response to a perceived threat” from “naturalist and anti-capitalist groups like E.L.F.” suggest to me that, in addition to making money, Mr. Chapman may be anticipating some sort of vandalism from the lunatic fringe that would lend credence to the (in my opinion) absurd notion that private property is somehow endangered in this country. In this way, the actions of a few deluded vandals could be used to bolster the view that our way of life is under siege by radical environmentalists and socialists.

    Let’s hope some angry punks don’t play right into the hands of those who seek to divide the vast majority or reasonable, patriotic Americans.

  80. Lou April 28th, 2011 10:35 pm

    What’s weird to me is that there are about ten billion other acres of backcountry skiing in Colorado that are easily just as good as Bear Basin. Um, hey?

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