Lenado parking sparks lawsuit
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
PITKIN COUNTY – A pair of Lenado landowners are suing the Pitkin County commissioners over a recent decision to designate parking areas along the road that runs through the tiny community east of Woody Creek.
The suit, filed last week by Lenado Twelve, LLC and Last Chance Number 2 Inc., claims county commissioners exceeded their authority in designating an area where parking will be allowed along Woody Creek Road near Lenado.
An easement across public property was granted to the county in 1954 for a public road extending beyond Lenado, built in 1955, but the easement permits only a road, not a parking lot and snowmobile staging area, according to the lawsuit. Beyond Lenado, the road, also known as Forest Road 103, climbs Larkspur Mountain and links into a network of old logging roads.
Lenado Twelve and Last Chance Number 2 consist of a collection of mining claims in the area owned by Frank Peters and Daniel Delano. The partners own about 175 acres; some of their land abuts the road on both sides in various stretches in and near Lenado, according to Peters.
The lawsuit claims the commissioners’ action to designate parking will alter the status quo by formalizing parking that has been occurring illegally, resulting in trespassing, theft and devaluation of the land owned by Peters and Delano, and the denial of access to their property. The action seeks a court order to prevent the county from implementing its parking and snowmobile staging plan until the case can be heard, and asks for a trial. The suit seeks a finding that the road easement doesn’t allow the parking and staging uses.
The two property owners have also asked the court to order the county to provide a record of all its proceedings related to use of the road for parking, as well as use by private and commercial snowmobiling operations.
Commissioners voted 3-1 in December to designate 470 feet of parking along parts of one side of the road, west of the bridge that spans Woody Creek on the east end of Lenado, a former mining and logging community that now boasts a handful of funky cabins. The parking – an experiment for this winter – is intended for vehicles and trailers, primarily left there by snowmobilers heading up the road and to Kobey Park in the national forest.
Beyond the bridge is the staging area for a commercial snowmobiling operation permitted by the Forest Service.
“The area we’re contesting is where the road crosses our land, above the bridge and below the bridge,” Peters said. “We don’t think they have to right to park along the road under the easement.”
Peters and Delano have provided a small parking area on their land, off the south side of the road, west of the bridge, for use by the 10th Mountain Hut Association.
“We will not be doing that for snowmobilers,” Peters said.
The county has not yet posted its signs along the stretch where it intends to designate parking, but there are signs posted beyond the bridge that may have been erected in conjunction with the commercial snowmobiling operation. They were not posted by the county, said Public Works Director Brian Pettet.
Snowmobile activity and vehicle parking along the road has long been an issue, and was the focus of talks by a task force earlier this year that included participation by the county, the Forest Service and other affected parties. Various alternatives were discussed, according to Peters, but the group essentially endorsed the option that “legitimized everything we’d been complaining about.”
If the snowmobile staging and parking were moved about three-quarters of a mile farther up the road, it would take place beyond the private property, where the abutting land is part of the national forest, Peters said.
“Nobody wants to plow the road. That’s the bottom line. Nobody wants to pay the money to plow the road,” he said.
The county doesn’t currently plow beyond the bridge.
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