Court grants injunction to keep quarry trail open
Gunnison County has been granted a preliminary injunction keeping open the trail to the quarry in the town of Marble.
The court action, in Colorado District Court in Gunnison, is the latest in a series of rulings resulting from a 1998 lawsuit filed by Gunnison County. In the suit, against landowners Steve and Kim McIntyre, the county seeks to gain permanent possession of the popular trail in order to keep it open to the public.
The ruling follows the June 4 denial of the McIntyres’ motion to dismiss the county’s lawsuit. The trail was already kept open by a temporary restraining order issued after the June 4 court session.
Gunnison County Attorney David Baumgarten said Judge J. Steven Patrick’s ruling, issued Friday, indicates the county has a good chance of prevailing in the suit, based on the evidence presented in the preliminary injunction hearing. The hearing took place June 21.
“It’s a little like a poker game,” Baumgarten said. “At a preliminary injunction, you have to show all your cards right now.” The judge saw that the county clearly has a good chance of success in the actual trial, which has not yet been scheduled.
The judge’s order includes the statement, “The court is persuaded that on balance the public interest is better served by preserving the public access.” It further reads, “… the public right of access prevails, particularly under the facts here, access to a historic tourist attraction which has existed for at least 36 years if not more than 60 years.”
At the June 4 hearing, the judge granted the McIntyres’ motion to include all the other property owners along the road to the quarry in the lawsuit. The road is about four miles long, but the last few hundred yards of road that is actually passable for vehicles is closed to the public and open only to quarry vehicles.
That section of road is bypassed by the trail, which the McIntyres closed, along the edge of Yule Creek. The only landowners along the actual trail section are the McIntyres and OMYA, the Vermont company that owns the quarry itself.
As many as 18 parties own property between the town and the quarry. Baumgarten said the U.S. Forest Service, OMYA and Sierra Minerals, the company that now leases the quarry, have already signed on with Gunnison County’s effort to keep the trail open. Baumgarten doesn’t oppose the judge’s effort to join the other owners in the action.
“There’s a certain logic to what the judge said, which is `let’s clear up this road from end to end,’ ” Baumgarten said.
The width of the trail at some points indicates it was also a road at one time, but the sloughing and erosion have made it impassable to vehicles. In fact, one section of the trail, which has been completely eroded away, has been replaced by a wooden bridge along the bank.
Gunnison County brought the litigation against the McIntyres, of Tempe, Ariz., at the request of local residents, who asked that public access to the quarry be restored.
People come from all over the world to visit the quarry, which produced the white marble used in the Lincoln Memorial, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and other Washington, D.C. landmarks.
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