Judge sidetracks effort to re-open Glade Park road
An effort to reopen a rugged road on Glade Park, shut to public access in April, was dealt a big blow last week when a judge sided with property owners who originally pressed Mesa County to close the road.
A group of users of 21 1/2 Road, also known as Jacob’s Ladder Road, had cobbled together a legal case against the county’s vacation of a segment of the road and seemingly convinced county commissioners that their original decision was ill-advised.
Key to the original decision to close the road was lack of use by the public, an idea reinforced by the absence of public comment when the resolution decision was quietly passed by commissioners in March.
Although the county met all the particular legal criteria for notification about the proposed closure, signs were posted in winter when no one uses the multi-use trail. Users claim they first found out about the closure by encountering padlocks after the snow had melted.
Further strengthening users’ claims were rows and rows of people who packed the County Commission meeting room to testify against the closure at an informal hearing in October.
After that hearing, on Nov. 20, the county attorney filed a motion in District Court to rescind commissioners’ original decision and remand it back to them for another hearing.
Chief District Judge David Bottger granted the motion the next day.
But after a Dec. 7 special hearing, called at the request of the landowners, Bottger decided he erred in issuing an order to remand the decision.
“Upon further review, the Court realizes that it made a mistake in granting the Order,” he wrote. “The Court was under the mistaken belief that both the Court and the (county) could rescind (the original resolution vacating the road).”
Landowner lawyers presented case law that essentially found that once a decision to vacate a road is official, adjacent land immediately becomes the property of those landowners, and can’t be rescinded with a simple stroke of a pen.
Terri Schmitt, who led the effort to fight the closure, said she was “stunned.”
“The county was on our side, in that they wanted this issue back in their hands,” she said, citing public comments by Commissioner Janet Rowland, among others, saying as much.
“We feel that it is back in the Board of County Commissioners’ hands,” Schmitt said.
The county, though, said no action can be taken until a pending motion filed by the user group—called a Rule 57 motion—is resolved.
The county declined to say what it might do absent the Rule 57 motion currently in play, with county spokeswoman Jessica Peterson writing in an email that potential county action “may be a discussion the commissioners have at some point.”
Dave Grossman, coordinator of the Grand Valley Trails Alliance, a group that has supported the road users in their efforts to reopen the road, called Bottger’s decision “frustrating” but not the end of the issue.
“I think there’s still some momentum, and maybe there are a couple other cards that maybe we can play,” Grossman said.
Landowners adjacent to the vacated road who joined together to press for revocation of public access include Ronald Tipping, Rodney Power, William Patterson, James Fromm and Ronald Smith.