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USFS, Scarp Ridge LLC sign Scarp Ridge trail access and parking agreement

No parking in the parking lot

By Mark Reaman

Under a new temporary agreement between the U.S. Forest Service and the owners of the Irwin Lodge, hikers using the Scarp Ridge trail will not be allowed to park in the Irwin Lodge parking area or on the road immediately in front of the lot.

But drop-off and vehicle turn-around areas will be provided near the parking lot and at the start of the traditional trail. Parking will still be allowed within the 60-foot right-of-way along the road.

An agreement signed on October 11 between the USFS and Scarp Ridge LLC, a subsidiary of the Eleven Group, which owns the lodge and surrounding property, allows for two turn-around and drop-off areas before the parking lot at the top of the Irwin Lodge Road connecting to “clear and unobstructed public access to the Scarp Ridge Trails.”

Scarp Ridge LLC has contended that the road and a public easement along that road end just before the parking lot at the lodge building. Some members of the public, primarily through a group known as the Lake Irwin Coalition, claim the 60-foot wide easement between the lodge owners and the Forest Service extends well into the lot behind the lodge.

The newly signed agreement states, “Because parked vehicles make it difficult to turn vehicles around within the 60-foot wide road easement for the Irwin Lodge Road, the parties are cooperating to establish a temporary turn-around while they jointly and cooperatively explore establishing a permanent trailhead for the Scarp Ridge Trails.”

Under the agreement, parking will be prohibited essentially beyond the last curve in the road, about 200 feet before the parking lot.

“This temporary agreement clarifies the intent of the easement to provide for public use and access to the trails and provides a safe turn-around and drop-off location, while allowing for incidental parking within portions of the 60-foot Right-of-Way (ROW),” explained Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests spokesperson Lee Ann Loupe in an email. “This temporary agreement respects private property rights and access; and meets the Forest Service objectives of maintaining a clear and unobstructed public ROW and public access to Forest System trails 419 (70 Ridge Trail) and 421 (Scarp Ridge Trail) and Irwin Lake Trail 426. Additionally, it provides for a safe turn-around for the public and/or drop-off area for hikers with parking along portions of the ROW.”

The Forest Service will erect signage and manage the turn-around areas to prevent parking in the Irwin Lodge lot. As part of the agreement, the owners of the lodge will have the ability to ask local law enforcement officials to issue trespassing citations if people park outside the 60-foot-wide easement or in the lot. To facilitate access to the Scarp Ridge trails, there can be no impediments to the trails.

“There will be one turn-around area contiguous to the west boundary of the Irwin Lodge parking lot and another about 180 feet farther to the west, where the Irwin Lodge Road makes a right-angle turn,” explained Scarp Ridge LLC managing director John Featherman. “There will be no parking within 200 feet of the Irwin Lodge parking lot to enable vehicles to safely turn around.”

There is a trail easement that goes through that lodge parking lot. In an email, Featherman said it would be fenced. “The Irwin Lake Trail goes through the Irwin Lodge parking lot, in a northwesterly/southeasterly direction. Scarp Ridge LLC has the right to fence private property along the easements to deter trespassing,” he said.

The Lake Irwin Coalition did not reply to a request for a comment on the agreement before the newspaper’s deadline.

There has not been a resolution over two surveys conducted to try to determine a definitive easement. And as of yet, the location of a permanent trailhead has not been established.

The agreement is in effect until December 31, 2017 and has an automatic renewal unless either party decides to terminate the agreement.

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