Crown Jewel of GMF Hiking System Closed Until Further Notice
In yet another big blow to hikers, outdoor buffs, tourists and visitors in the region, the crown jewel of the Green Mountain Falls’ trail system has been shut down.
Similar to the threatened closure of the Horsethief Park route near Cripple Creek, the latest trail closure dilemma hinges on an ongoing property dispute. This is a familiar trend with many popular hiking destinations in Colorado and throughout the region.
In a formal announcement by the town of Green Mountain Falls, head manager Angie Sprang stated: “Due to an ongoing property dispute, town administration has made the difficult decision to close Catamount Trail starting on Wednesday, August 4th, 2021, effective immediately and until further notice. Trail closed signs will be placed at the Catamount Trail trailheads on Wednesday, August 4th, 2021. Town Administration will be working diligently and expediently to resolve this issue so that Catamount Trail can be enjoyed once again and in a timely manner. Announcements and new information regarding the closure will be posted on the Town website at https://greenmountainfalls.colorado.gov/, as well as on the Town’s Facebook page located at, https://www.facebook.com/GMFCOUS.”
The news, though, has jolted local trail-goers and may put a slight dent into GMF’s new paid-parking program on the weekends. Copies of the announcement were placed on all of the paid-parking kiosk devices throughout town. Visitors appeared perplexed by the notice.
The Catamount Trail is regarded as the area’s premiere hiking route, with access to such gems as the Garden of Eden Meadow and the North Catamount Reservoir. It is probably the most popular trail route in the lower Ute Pass area. It can be easily accessed in GMF from Hondo Avenue and from the end of Belvidere Avenue, and from the Mt. Dewey trail loop. This route takes hikers up the Catamount Falls, and is highly populated on the weekends in the summer and fall months.
Although the closure may surprise many area hikers, the news of potential problems on this route is not a new development.
Part of an Ongoing Problem
In a GMF Board of Trustee’ meeting last April, Mayor Jane Newberry warned the public of a potential problem with a property-related dispute on the Catamount Trail, citing possible legal issues.
At issue are property disputes over parts of the trail switchbacks, according to the mayor, based on comments made at a public meeting last spring. At the time, a property owner raised concerns about sections of the trail being located on private property.
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 GMF Parks Recreation and Trails committee would address these issues. If needed, parts of the route could be relocated, stated Sprang.
However, this suggestion, made at a previous meeting, raised the ire of one unhappy property owner. “I am fighting these battles that I shouldn’t have had to fight,” said the land owner, whose property reportedly intersects the Catamount Trail. The property owner 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. She said the town didn’t have enough money to survey all properties, involving possible conflicts with trail routes.
Disputes between land owners and trail-goers in GMF aren’t unusual, and is one reason cited for the town developing a more managed parking system.
What has taken some by surprise, though, is the timing of the Catamount Trail closure at the peak of the summer tourism and recreation season. Some government agencies have tried to negotiate with property owners in a way that keeps these routes open during the summer. This is apparently what occurred in the recent battle between the U.S. Forest Service and a property owner in the fight involving the Horsethief Park route off Hwy. 67.
Attempts to contact both the town manager and marshal for further comment on this matter were unsuccessful.
A big question hinges over enforcement of the Catamount Trail closure due to the variety of access routes.
And even when this issue was discussed by the trustees last spring, Newberry expressed optimism that the pending dispute could get resolved.
“This is a problem I think we can solve and get ahead of,” said the GMF mayor last spring.
But apparently, these disputes couldn’t get quite ironed out. Not date has been announced for a re-opening of the Catamount Trail.