On the Trail: All about access
August 24, 2005
The tops of mounts Bross, Lincoln, Cameron and Democrat provide brilliant vistas for 100 miles and more, but the view of how to get there is still cloudy.Many climbers assume they are on public land as they strive to add more of Colorado’s 14,000-foot mountains to their list of accomplishments, unaware they are trespassing on private mining claims.The hikers and the owners of those fourteeners are trying to solve the problem of providing access to those peaks, but they stumble on the crux – how to keep hikers using the trail without putting the landowners in a position to be sued.One Park County organization, the Mosquito Range Heritage Initiative (the mountains in question are in the Mosquito Range) has been trying to find a solution that will work for both sides of the access issue.The initiative acts as a consortium of widely diverse groups that have a stake in the welfare and use of the Mosquito Range land. Representatives of the Colorado Division of Wildlife, the Colorado Fourteeners Initiative, Colorado Mountain Club, ATV clubs, the U.S. Forest Service, Park County government officials and historic groups all share concerns and try to find solutions to conflicts over the usage of the area.One proposal voiced at a recent initiative meeting in Alma was that perhaps mining property owners could lease access to marked trails through their claims to an organization that could indemnify the landowners. A Park County agency arranged a similar program, in which ranchers lease restricted access to private streams for trout fishing.Discussions are under way to consider some form of a similar arrangement.Cara Doyle, president of the Alma Foundation and one of the founders of the initiative, offered to gather volunteers to build and post signs along some of the existing trails to tell hikers they are crossing private property and to warn against leaving the trail. She said a number of locals in the Alma area are eager to resolve the problems and willing to help.