Green Mountain Falls’ Trail Fights Continue

Property Disputes May Clash With Popular Hiking Route

Rick Langenberg

One of the most popular hiking routes in the Ute Pass, the trek to the Catamount Reservoirs from Green Mountain Falls, may become illegal.

Plus, concerns continue to mount about the lack of comprehensive trail maps for prospective visitors, and developing a hiking information hub.

As a result, the GMF Trustees last week instructed its Parks, Recreation and Trails (PRT) committee to come up with recommendations,  and to compile an informal temporary map. The forthcoming map could list the current trailheads, popular routes, conditions and even offer more guidelines for prospective users.

Last week, the trustees had a spirited discussion about the GMF trails’ situation. They also heard a detailed presentation by PRT committee member Jay Kita, who provided a sample of what could be featured.  He cited details listing current conditions and the skill level required to use the specific routes.

Kita also recommended establishing a new trail kiosk area in the main parking area used by hikers and many visitors off Maple Avenue (near the post office). “What do we want to say about the trails we have?” questioned Kita, who provided a smorgasbord of  possible  trail information and prospective maps.

The trustees supported his ideas, and urged the committee to move forward with an informal, temporary trails map.

Several residents cited the importance of developing a trails map, even if it served as a temporary guide. “It can mean life or death,” said Planning Commission member Lamar Mathews, who lives near one of the main trail routes.

She cited a big concern over liability for lost hikers and problems with illegal trespassing.

A big problem identified by community leaders is tangible information to provide visitors, as many hikers come to town with fancy mobile aps and often get lost or confused. They sometimes flag down locals,  who may be walking their dogs or taking casual strolls, in an effort to find the trailheads and inquire about parking.  Many don’t look prepared for their journey, based on local reports.

Trustee Dyani Loo, who heads up a GMF trails’ ambassador program, agreed with the concerns of Mathews. She said the trail ambassadors, a group formed to provide information to out-of-town, outdoor-goers, need some information to distribute to summer visitors and prospective hikers.  “We need some type of tool to guide them,” said Loo.

Legal problems with Catamount Trail

Only one big hurdle in developing a GMF trails map: One of the main prime hiking routes could be illegal, at least in some parts of the trail.

Mayor Jane Newberry informed the public last week about possible problems in certain sections of the popular Catamount Trail, which provides access to such scenic spots as the “Garden of Eden Meadow” and the North Catamount Reservoir. It is probably the most popular trail route in the area. It can be accessed from Hondo Avenue and from the end of Belvidere Avenue. This route takes hikers up the Catamount Falls, and is highly populated on the weekends in the summer and fall months.

At issue are property disputes over parts of the trail switchbacks, according to the mayor.   A property owner last week raised concerns about sections of the trail being located on private property.

Town Manager Angie Sprang responded that the GMF administration is trying to correct possible errors in the past, and the lack of official transactions not recorded. She advised any property owner who had concerns to get a survey done on their property, and the PRT committee would address these issues. If needed, parts of the route could be relocated.

One property owner, though, objected to this request. “I am fighting these battles that I shouldn’t have had to fight,” said the land  owner, whose property reportedly intersects the Catamount Trail.  He cited the high expenses involved in correcting an error that should have been handled years ago.

But Sprang held firm, and stressed that the town is trying to follow the proper legal course.

“We don’t have the money to survey the entire town,” said Sprang.

In a cautionary  note, Newberry believes this situation can get resolved.

“This is a problem I think we can solve and get ahead of,” said the GMF mayor.

Property disputes are not a new phenomenon for the GMF trails’ scenario.  Last summer, the town adjusted connecting trails at the summit of Mt. Dewey, the newest addition to the local trails’ system, and re-routed part of the route and posted no trespassing signs in certain sections. In fact, this trail was shut down for part of 2020, as a result of property disputes.

The trustees advised the committee to come up with recommendations and to develop a temporary map.

As for the current dispute on the Catamount Trail, town leaders have time on their side.  Due to the current ice conditions, walking access to the reservoirs, via the Catamount Trail, is virtually impossible.