For hikers, the news in March was good: The Colorado State Legislature passed a bill that exempts high-altitude landowners from liability. Trails on several of the fourteeners in the state cross private land, and the owners had increasing concerns about theft, trespassing, liability and vandalism issues.
But the issue that impacted a trio of fourteeners the most - Lincoln, Democrat (at right) and Bross - is far from being solved, even though the bill's passage was celebrated. The appropriate signs and trail maintenance has been delayed.
In a release sent out today by the U.S. Forest Service,
"South Park Ranger Sara Mayben said, 'We are doing what we can to meet the requirements of the new Bill. Recreationists need to know that public access to the 14ers in Park County may be 2007, at the earliest. We are doing what we can to meet the requirements of the new Bill. Recreationists need to know that public access to the 14ers in Park County may be 2007, at the earliest.'
"Private land owners have stated they will not grant access to Mounts Bross, Lincoln and Democrat this upcoming hiking season unless all stipulations of HB 06-1049 are complete. Additionally, issues regarding liability, vandalism, theft, etc. must also be addressed. Stipulations of this Bill require the land owners or entities that hold a trail easement across the private land to clearly identify and maintain the trail(s). The land owners will not grant public access until after the trail easements are in place, trail maintenance has occurred, and signing has been posted to direct public use to the approved trails. The land owners may also require trail reconstruction in sections they consider to be dangerous prior to allowing public use.
"Although every effort will be made to comply with the stipulations within House Bill 06-1049, there may not be enough time for all the existing trails to mapped and landownership to be determined by the 2006 hiking season. The process to acquire the trail easements will be a lengthy one. The Pike National Forest-South Park Ranger District and our partners will begin mapping the existing trails during the summer of 2006.
"Once that is completed, land owners along the existing trail routes will need to be identified because of the trails cross several different private properties.-more-Finally, land owners will review the maps to determine which, if any of the trails will be granted easements. Reviewing may require land owners to look at the trails 'on-the-ground' and determine if any trail relocation or reconstruction is necessary prior to approving a trail easement."