Printed letters, January 13, 2013
It is very sad when an auto accident takes the lives of pedestrians, but downright tragic when that accident was preventable, long-predicted and entirely unnecessary. The loss of two lives on Highway 65 on Grand Mesa this month is one of those tragic accidents that never needed to happen.
It will happen again. More lives will be lost unless the U.S. Forest Service, Mesa and Delta counties and the state behave responsibly by reducing highway speeds at the trailhead and building a long-requested parking lot to serve the public at County Line on Grand Mesa.
For more than nine years, private persons and the Grand Mesa Nordic Council have implored the Forest Service and other agencies to rebuild the County Line parking lot away from the highway. Many Nordic Council members have worked long hours with the agencies to get this parking lot project rolling. Nine years is a long time.
In those nine years the nonprofit, volunteer Nordic Council has developed and improved many miles of ski trails on the mesa, purchased grooming equipment, employed groomers and ski instructors, offered low-cost lessons and ski rentals to local children, organized and hosted a citizen ski race series each winter and provided an outstanding recreation area for locals at no cost.
Anybody can ski or snowshoe at the trails on Grand Mesa for free, and hundreds do so each winter weekend.
Late last summer, I drove over the mesa and was aghast to see that the long-discussed parking lot expansion still wasn’t complete.
Like many other skiers, I made a call to the Forest Service and talked to a recreation specialist. I asked him, “Have you been up to that parking lot on a winter Sunday? Have you seen the overcrowding?” No response. “Someone is going to get killed!” I said.
We are grieved and outraged at this unnecessary loss of two precious lives.
Skiers on Grand Mesa could use an alternate parking lot
Regarding the complaints by various groups about the County Line parking lot: Did anyone try to stop people from using this parking lot? It was deemed unsafe by a number of people, yet people still park there.
There’s a new parking lot a quarter mile down the road that looks safe. It’s away from the road, but people would have to find a new way to the trailhead.
I understand that what I do sometimes might not be the safest thing, but I try to make sure that I don’t put myself into harm’s way.
The groups state that it’s unsafe and their appeals to the state, counties and U.S. Forest Service went unheeded. Did anyone post a sign up there stating this? Did anyone chain this off so no one could use it? Did these groups tell all their people not to use this pull-off because it is unsafe? Has anyone tried to close the trailhead? I’m sure plenty more trails have safer parking.
Adequate signs might have protected two skiers who died
With great sadness, I read the news that friends Glen and Linda Eyre were the two skiers killed Jan. 5 at County Line. Both were strong skiers and hikers, quiet and well-liked by fellow adventurers.
Before moving to Grand Junction, the Eyres lived in Pagosa Springs, where he worked with bighorn sheep counts, etc.
Both were in a helicopter during frigid February weather about 10 years ago. The helicopter popped a fuel line and crashed into rugged, snowy terrain near Grizzly Lake. Awaiting rescue on a narrow shelf, the Eyres and their pilot survived a bitterly cold night. Glen told me he and Linda were both warmly dressed. Linda was wearing cross-country ski clothing. The pilot was not so well prepared, however.
(The crash site, in the headwaters of the upper Navajo River, was the site of an epic battle between outfitter Ed Wiseman and a female grizzly bear in 1979.)
As many have said, this was an accident waiting to happen. I do not recall seeing any caution signs, pedestrian warning signs or reduced speed limit signs near County Line.
No doubt someone filed these requests, since the cost is minimal. We won’t be told who refused to fund a sign, but perhaps the individuals are suffering enough already.
Issue of same-sex rights not as urgent as economy
It is pretty bad when House Speaker Mark Ferrandino and the Democratic Party are more interested in same-sex couples’ rights than in the job market and the economy.
Maybe they need to spend a little more time working on what would help the people of Colorado. They need to stop spending so much time on their personal wants and get to work.