The Sopris Sun

GarCo commissioners continue CRMS road discussions

By John Colson

Sopris Sun Correspondent

A road-related dispute between Colorado Rocky Mountain School and its neighbors to the north, in the unincorporated community of Satank, apparently will play out at a meeting of the Garfield Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) on May 4 in Glenwood Springs.

And one outcome of that meeting could be whether the school will be forced to undo some of its recent moves involving a historic road that bisects the campus property.

At issue is a series of actions taken by the school that critics say have affected the public right-of-way of County Road 106 through the CRMS campus, which is located to the west of town where West Main Street turns into CR106.

Founded in 1953 by the late John and Anne Holden, the school was built on both sides of CR106, on land donated to the school by Harold “Shorty” Pabst, of the Pabst Brewing Company family in Wisconsin. Pabst, also a former mayor of Aspen, died in 2005.

Years ago the county acceded to a school request to eliminate auto traffic on CR106, which passed through the school, on through Satank and over a historic bridge across the Roaring Fork River to link with Colorado Highway 82, along what was once the main road between Glenwood Springs and Carbondale.

The county agreement to close off auto traffic on CR106 through the school coincided with the closure of that historic bridge, known as The Pink Bridge or the Satank Bridge, which was deemed unsafe.

The only road into Satank is now Dolores Way, built over land deeded to the county by the school, as a way for Satank residents to get to and from Highway 133, Carbondale, and the intersection of Highway 133 with Highway 82.

In recent years the school, expressing concerns about security and student safety, has tried to get the county to vacate CR106 and let the school take possession of the right-of-way, but as recently as last year the BOCC declined.

Satank residents have persistently maintained that they regularly use the old CR106 right of way as a pedestrian or cycling route, in order to get into Carbondale by way of West Main Street, or to get up into the Thompson Creek drainage on CR108 past the Spring Gulch cross country ski area.

In the ensuing years since the old right-of-way was closed to traffic, the school has built a berm at the north end of the right-of-way, which was said to be needed to keep headlights from shining into the windows of faculty housing at that end of campus. The berm effectively restricted the pedestrian/bicycling public use of the old right-of-way to a narrow trail leading from Dolores Way into the campus.

And in the past couple of months, the school has rerouted the southern end of the right-of-way inside the campus boundary, where it meets the remaining CR106 connection to West Main Street or the connection to CR108 and CR109 leading to the Aspen Glen subdivision.

The rerouting of the right-of-way has eliminated what was a straight-shot entry into the campus.

In addition, the school has built both a fence and now a cinder-block structure, which together appear to sit in the historic right-of-way, according to Satank residents.

The structure, according to CRMS Headmaster Jeff Leahy, is to form the core of a new sign.

“That is the foundation for what will ultimately be a beautiful ornamental sign identifying the main entrance to our campus (not a wall),” Leahy wrote in an e-mail to The Sopris Sun on Tuesday. “The sign and its location are on all the drawings and other documents we submitted to the county when we went through the application for a new driveway; in addition, a separate application for the sign itself was also approved by the county.”

Leahy has declined to comment on the broader accusations from Satank residents, and he and other school officials have maintained that everything they have done had county approvals.

But in a recent meeting of the BOCC, at least one county commissioner was quoted as being alarmed by the school’s actions involving the road.

“In my opinion, we have a closure of a (county) road without a proper permit, that was done in violation,” said BOCC Chairman John Martin, according to a published account of a meeting on April 6, adding that the school’s actions should be the subject of a future meeting.

One Satank resident, neighborhood activist Jeannie Perry, last week complained to Garfield County officials about the school’s actions, out of concern that the school was hoping to close off public use of CR 106 entirely.

Perry wrote in an e-mail to The Sopris Sun this week that the county’s code enforcement officer, Wade Patton, told her that any county action concerning the fence and the cinderblock structure, which Satank residents refer to as a “wall,” would be up to the county commissioners (editor’s disclosure: Perry is a columnist for The Sopris Sun).

In an earlier e-mail to The Sopris Sun, Perry wrote, “This wall is a waste of school resources, as it will have to come down. It was constructed in the public ROW without public notice or approval (and on the weekend.)”

Published in The Sopris Sun on April 30, 2015.