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.