Settlement talks put Lenado snowmobile suit on hold
October 13, 2011
ASPEN – Pitkin County, the U.S. Forest Service and a pair of landowners hope to resolve a dispute over parking by snowmobilers in Lenado, allowing the settlement of a lawsuit against county commissioners.
“I think there’s a workable solution potentially in the offing up there,” said Scott Snelson, Forest Service ranger in the Aspen-Sopris District, during a recent meeting with county commissioners.
He didn’t elaborate, but John Neiley, attorney for the plaintiffs in the suit, said a parking lot in the area that accommodates snowmobiler vehicles and trailers is being explored.
“I’m cautiously optimistic that a settlement can be reached, finally,” said landowner Daniel Delano, one of the plaintiffs. “I think it did take the threat of litigation … it’s finally being taken seriously.”
Delano, along with Frank Peters, sued the county in late 2009 after commissioners agreed to designate parking areas along the road that runs through Lenado, the small community east of Woody Creek.
A court hearing in the dispute was scheduled last month in Pitkin County. Delano and Peters were seeking a preliminary injunction for this winter to halt the parking of vehicles and staging of snowmobiling activities along the road as it borders their property, pending a trial in the case. The hearing was, however, bumped to a November date, and in the interim, the parties have agreed to stay the proceedings for six months while a compromise solution is sought, Neiley said.
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As part of the deal, Delano and Peters have agreed to accept the parking arrangement on the road for another winter, he said.
Putting the parking farther up the road, beyond the private property, has been previously suggested. It’s not the ideal solution, as it would continue to bring traffic through Lenado, but it will make the situation more manageable, Neiley said.
“No compromise is perfect,” he said.
The lawsuit, actually filed by Lenado Twelve LLC and Last Chance Number 2 Inc., claimed county commissioners exceeded their authority in designating areas where parking is allowed along Woody Creek Road near Lenado. Lenado Twelve and Last Chance consist of a collection of mining claims in the area owned by Peters and Delano.
The suit claimed the commissioners’ action altered the status quo by formalizing parking that had been occurring illegally, resulting in trespassing, theft and devaluation of the land owned by the pair, and the denial of access to their property. The suit sought a finding that the road easement doesn’t allow the parking and staging uses.
Snowmobilers and others park along the road to access the backcountry, particularly Kobey Park, a popular snowmobiling spot. Last winter, commissioners, in a split vote, again agreed to designate parking along the road, though the lawsuit was pending.
“I think the county agrees with our position – the snowmobile use should be accommodated on Forest Service land,” Delano said.