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Conflict continues over Green Lake Road access above Irwin

The gate remains while litigants converse 

By Kristy Acuff

It’s been nearly two years since Irwin area resident J.W. Smith built a gate across the road that crosses his property above Lake Irwin to prevent further damage from increased vehicle traffic to the sensitive high-alpine area.

Drivers, bikers and hikers to Green Lake traveling on what many consider to be a Forest Service road cross Smith’s private property. After seeing a dramatic increase in numbers and the subsequent damage to both the road and the adjacent meadows, Smith put up the gate. Since that time, a coalition of Lake Irwin residents has taken Smith to civil court demanding the gate be removed.

At the same time, the U.S. Forest Service has been working to help the litigants find an interim solution to the access issue while also working for a more long-term management plan for the area.

“The intent of the Forest Service is to establish durable, dependable access to Green Lake Road while managing related issues like parking and sanitation,” said district ranger Matthew McCombs. “We take very seriously being a good neighbor to the private landowners in the adjacent area and we are hopeful that we can come up with a long-term solution for everyone. In the meantime, we are discouraging visitors from using the Green Lake Road.”

The Forest Service, a representative from the county and the litigants have been engaging in conversations to try to resolve the issue of access.

“The conversations have been in the works and the discussions are ongoing, but at this point we are continuing forward with the litigation,” says Nate Smith, attorney for the Lake Irwin Coalition.

Smith did not want to comment on the issue and his lawyer, Rufus Wilderson, did not return emails from the Crested Butte News.

So for the time being, the gate remains up and hikers, bikers and vehicle drivers are being asked by the Forest Service to not use the road at the base of Ruby Mountain. Instead, people may access Green Lake the long way, starting at Scarp Ridge.

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