Judge denies parking injunction in Lenado

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado
Janet Urquhart/Aspen Times fileSnowmobiler parking in Lenado, a small community east of Woody Creek, will continue this winter. A district court judge has declined to issue an injunction sought by landowners to halt the practice.

ASPEN – Parking along Woody Creek Road in Lenado by snowmobilers and others again will be permitted this winter after an injunction sought by two area landowners was rejected this week by a district court judge.

Judge James Boyd, in a ruling issued Thursday, denied a motion for a preliminary injunction sought by Lenado landowners Frank Peters and Daniel Delano. Boyd’s decision comes after an all-day hearing in September in Glenwood Springs.

Peters and Delano challenged a plan approved by Pitkin County commissioners that establishes parking areas along the road where snowmobilers and other winter recreationists can leave vehicles and trailers. The road abuts property owned by the two men and accesses areas of the White River National Forest that are popular with snowmobilers in particular.

With Boyd’s decision, the designation of parking areas will take place again this winter, according to Brian Pettet, director of public works for the county.

“The signs will be installed early next week to allow parking on upper Woody Creek Road,” he said.

The county plows the road to a point not far beyond Lenado, a tiny community east of Woody Creek. Beyond the end of the plowed roadway, snowmobilers use the road to access the national forest and ride on the road itself.

The county’s adopted parking plan designates areas where parking is permitted along one side of the plowed road; signs are installed for the winter season to identify those areas.

“Ninety-five percent of the time, if not more, there’s adequate parking,” Pettet said.

But on a busy weekend with a big snowfall, capacity can be a problem, he conceded. That’s when it’s up to the Sheriff’s Office to issue warnings and citations. Vehicles aren’t towed out of fear that someone coming out of the backcountry would be left stranded.

In his decision, Boyd acknowledged a number of complaints by the plaintiffs about the arrangement, including insufficient space to accommodate the number of vehicles that are sometimes present and users congregating, drinking beer and urinating on and next to the road and parking area.

Boyd said the requested injunction would not alleviate those issues.

“The elimination of a designated parking area and signage will not change the public nature of the road and the ability of users to drive to the end of the plowed area and to park along the road,” he wrote.

The public’s interest is “disserved by unrestricted and unmanaged chaos at the end of the road,” he further concluded.

Boyd also ruled that the county had the authority to implement the parking plan.

A separate lawsuit related to the property rights of the landowners and easements that allow use of the road is pending in federal court.

Neither Delano nor Peters could be reached for comment Friday.