Pitco seeks users of Smuggler Road
Valley locals who have used Smuggler Mountain Road for at least two decades have an opportunity to help keep the road open to the public.
Pitkin County is seeking citizens who would be willing to sign an affidavit asserting they’ve used the road for 20 years or more. The affidavits will be used in a court action to establish that Pitkin County owns the road and the Hunter Creek cut-off road which branches from it.
The county initiated the court action last summer in federal court. The county’s suit names landowner Wilk Wilkinson and other owners of Smuggler property as defendants. It asks the court for “declaratory relief and for quiet title” to the road, said assistant county attorney Debbie Quinn.
“It’s so that everyone will know once and for all the status of the road and its location,” Quinn said. Wilkinson claims he owns the roads, based on a deed transaction in the 19th century that connects Smuggler Road with some of his mining claims. He has threatened in the past to close the roads to public use and has asked the Tenth Mountain Hut Association to pay a steep fee to use the road.
County planning director Cindy Houben has circulated several sign-up sheets which ask residents to pass them on to friends who are known to have used the road for a long time. Signing up only means a citizen would be willing to discuss the matter with Quinn, Houben said.
“I’m hoping people will call Debbie,” Houben said. “There’s potential for us to lose the use of those roads if we don’t win this.”
Another sign-up sheet is available in the Pitkin County Planning Department in Aspen City Hall.
The affidavit asks longtime users of Smuggler Road to affirm that: they are residents, they have used the roads for a period of years, they haven’t had to ask permission and they are aware of Wilkinson’s claim to the roads. Those actually signing the affidavit could be asked to testify in court, according to the introduction on the sign-up sheet.
Quinn couldn’t say exactly how many of the affidavits would be needed. But she said the county needs a good number to establish “regular and continued public use” of the roads.
The affidavits might be used for motions that would eliminate the need for a trial, she said, but in all likelihood, a trial will occur.
“It would also be useful if Wilk actually does try to close the road,” Quinn said.
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