September 2005

Lone cone access

By Art Goodtimes

LONE CONE ACCESS ... The threat of 100 homes is real, from the folks who closed off traditional access to the west side of Lone Cone and all the national forest lands up in that region, as the Free Press reported in last month’s opinions. But the story is a bit more complicated. And there's more to learn than going slow on land swaps ... Turns out that access route had been used for close to 50 years by citizens of all stripes in accessing the Lone Cone area from Norwood -- hunters, snowmobilers, hikers, birders, peak-baggers, jeepers, mushroomers, etc. In fact, San Miguel County has been receiving state Highway Users Tax Funds for about 30 years for County Road 40-J, as we knew it ... However, the State Land Board sold its part of the road to some rich folks, who promptly closed the well-known access route (which shows up on most Forest Service maps as public right-of-way). So here we had one state agency failing to recognize the 30 years of public monies that another state agency had put into this public road (no wonder we're in such a financial mess at the state level, right?) ... But just because one state hand doesn’t know what the other is doing doesn’t help the locals. Or San Miguel County, which is spending thousands of dollars in trying to reclaim Norwood's traditional access to its totem peak — Lone Cone ... Oh, sure, there is an alternate Jeep road to the region, which takes an hour or more longer, and is impassable in wet weather. May as well just call the whole west side of the Cone a wilderness area with that kind of access. And, hey, maybe that wouldn't be all bad ... But San Miguel County is committed to trying to regain Norwood's lost forest access for its citizens, if Dolores County will help us do so (at our expense) ... Unfortunately, the Dolores County Planning Commission, siding with the property rights of rich landowners over the public interest of Norwood citizens, has recommended not to allow San Miguel County to invoke state statutes in regaining that access. Let's hope Dolores County Commissioners are more receptive to the common good, and of preserving traditional hunting and fishing access to our public lands.