Resolution approved to address winter access in “quiet corridor”
By Cayla Vidmar
The Gunnison County commissioners have spent the summer grappling with a regulation to address winter snowmobile access to the Gothic area, which is designated as a “quiet corridor,” meant for non-motorized recreation.
This week they passed a resolution that enforces a gated closure of Gothic Road where it turns to dirt, just past the Snodgrass trailhead, during the months when mud and snow may exist. Access to the road and the corridor beyond is restricted to non-motorized travel only (cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, fat biking, etc.), with specific exceptions for property owners, the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory, the Crested Butte Mountain Bike Association and emergency access.
The regulation discussion was kicked off by concerns that snowmobile use in the quiet corridor is increasing, and the county did not have a means to control or restrict this use. The regulation underwent much discussion over the summer, including public input from concerned Gothic area homeowners and ranchers who occasionally rely on snowmobiles to access their property in the winter months.
Initially, the regulation dictated that property owners could access their property using a snowmobile only in emergency situations. If property owners wished to use a snowmobile to access their property in a non-emergency situation, they would have to get the request approved by the director of public works on a case-by-case basis. This raised concerns from a number of Gothic area property owners who were troubled by the room for interpretation of the “case-by-case” basis of approval.
County staff went back to the drawing board and presented a resolution that removed the case-by-case language for property owners. Instead, a gate will be placed at the entrance of the Gothic corridor, restricting all snowmobile or motorized access except in emergency situations. Property owners “may access such property from the closure gate north by snowmobile,” but they must obtain a Forest Service permit to do so, and snowmobile use is restricted to: “access to legally permitted structures on private property and agricultural purposes, such as activities related to livestock maintenance.”
The regulation further states, “Property owners are expressly prohibited from using snowmobiles for purely recreational purposes unrelated to either structure access or agricultural use.”
The regulation also addresses access for the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory (RMBL), limiting snowmobile use to no more than one round-trip per week, on a regular schedule. RMBL may use a snowmobile only from 3 to 10 p.m. The Crested Butte Mountain Biking Association also uses a snowmobile to groom the road for fat biking and cross-country skiing; their access will remain the same.
The regulation was approved by commissioners Jonathan Houck and John Messner, with commissioner Phil Chamberland absent for the vote.