Garfield County, Hidden Gems agree to wait on presentation
March 1, 2010
GLENWOOD SPRINGS – As the Hidden Gems wilderness proposal continues to make its way through the thickets of local politics, one controversial claim by an apparent critic is being denied by the proponents and a Garfield County commissioner.
Hidden Gems is a proposal to designate as wilderness roughly 400,000 acres of federal lands in Summit, Eagle, Pitkin, Garfield and Gunnison counties. If approved, it would close those lands to motorized and mechanized recreation, such as snowmobiling and mountain biking.
Garfield County contains approximately 1,600 acres of the total proposed wilderness, according to proponents.
A letter to the editors of local papers last week maintained that “the Hidden Gems folks have fallen short of keeping their word again.”
The letter writer, Nancy Williams, argued that the proponents had “refused an invitation” to make a presentation before the Garfield County commissioners.
But Commissioner John Martin said on Friday that it wasn’t a matter of a refusal, so much as a decision to wait and use the delay to do more public outreach.
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“They thought that [having a big, public meeting now] would be kind of a set-up for confrontation,” Martin said.
He added that he did not feel the Hidden Gems proponents had gone back on a promise or somehow betrayed the county or its residents.
But “they’ve got a rough row to hoe,” Martin said.
Sloan Shoemaker, director of Wilderness Workshop and a leader of the Hidden Gems effort, said he had met with Fred Jarman, Garfield County’s director of building and planning, and that the two had agreed a public meeting would not be productive “at this point.”
He explained that the Hidden Gems proposal ran into a hostile reception recently at a large public forum in Eagle, and proponents realized they have more work to do to win public approval.
“It just turns into a shout-fest,” he said of the big public meetings.
But, he said, the proponents are meeting with a variety of “stakeholders,” such as the White River Forest Alliance and representatives of motorized user-groups who object to the proposed wilderness designations.
“We are building trust and moving forward,” Shoemaker remarked. “We’d like to resolve as much of that conflict as we can and then go public.”