Garfield cool to Encana’s claim to roads

Garfield County commissioners reacted coolly Monday to a request by Encana to stop listing 10 roads north of Parachute as county roads.

The energy company says the roads, listed as county roads 401-9 and 249, cross its North Parachute ranch property. It wants the county to either stop showing them on its maps or indicate they are private roads crossing land the company owns.

“I think I’m flabbergasted by this request,” Garfield Commissioner Tom Jankovsky said.

He said he’s traveled some of the roads and some of them access public lands or Rio Blanco County roads.

“Just because a road goes across somebody’s private property doesn’t mean it’s not a county road,” he said.

Commissioner John Martin said he’s found that the roads have been shown on maps at least as far back as 1972.

County officials indicated that if Encana believes the roads are private, it’s up to the company to formally petition to the county to have them vacated and to prove ownership.

The county is becoming increasingly active in road-access issues. A newly hired employee will be specifically in charge of researching road-ownership and access questions. The county has called on the Bureau of Land Management to close fewer travel routes than it is proposing in its Grand Junction Field Office draft management plan. Commissioners say they support keeping open roads that access public land, while respecting private rights.

Encana says it allows controlled public access to its roads.

“We’re not trying to deny or change access on these roads; we’re merely trying to change how they’re labeled on the map to reflect the fact they’re on private property,” company spokesman Doug Hock said by email Monday.

He said that given the concerns expressed by county officials Monday, Encana is “certainly willing” to meet with county road officials to further explain its position and answer questions.

Encana’s North Parachute Ranch previously was owned by Unocal, which at one time sought to develop oil shale in the Parachute area.

Encana says it maintains the roads, and public access to some of them, and some of the ranch, is granted in accordance with terms of a wildlife mitigation plan agreed to between the company and Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

In a letter to the county, it says “has posted signs on each road indicating Encana ownership of the property,” but asks that the county modify maps and brochures “to clarify and affirm Encana’s ownership of the roads and to ensure that the public knows that Encana owns” them.


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