Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Parties in Green Lake Road conflict agree to a time-out

Looking for a compromise that allows public access…

By Mark Reaman

Attorneys on all sides of a lawsuit dealing with the Green Lake Road above Lake Irwin have agreed to ask for a time-out in the case. The hope is that a mediated agreement can be reached before the case dives deeper into the time and costs of federal court.

According to deputy Gunnison County attorney Matthew Hoyt, a conference call was held Tuesday, May 21 between attorneys and others involved in the matter. They all agreed to file a motion in federal district court to put a hold on the case in order to have time to conduct a mediation in June that could result in a potential settlement.

The issue basically revolves around the Green Lake Road and who has control over it. Property owner J.W. Smith erected a gate across the road to prohibit people and vehicles from crossing his land. He said the numbers had gotten out of control and people were leaving the road and trespassing on his property. The Lake Irwin Coalition filed suit, claiming the road in question was a public road owned by the U.S. Forest Service. Eventually the Forest Service, Gunnison County and several nearby property owners were brought into the suit as well.

“The county’s hope is that we can come to a negotiated compromise that avoids further litigation and opens the road in some fashion for the public,” explained Hoyt.

The county’s position is that it should be a public road and it has been a Forest Service road for decades.

“We recognize that a compromise means everyone will probably have to come off their positions a bit,” said Hoyt. “It probably won’t result in unfettered, unrestricted access for the public but it also means it probably won’t be closed absolutely to the public forever.”

Last year the county had tried to broker a deal where a recreational easement would be allowed on the road and through Smith’s property. The concept was to allow hikers and bikers but not any sort of motorized vehicle on the road to Green Lake. That solution was not accepted by all of the parties.

“Right now it appears everyone is on board with putting a pause on the litigation,” said Hoyt. “We [the county] want to negotiate in good faith and hope everyone else does as well, to come to a compromise that provides some sort of access to the public. The details obviously would have to be worked out in the mediation.”

Hoyt said whether the pause occurs is up to the court. He hopes to hear from the court before June 11, when a scheduling conference was on the docket for the parties.

“The bottom line is that it appears there is an opportunity to find common ground and we hope all parties are willing to work toward a common solution,” concluded Hoyt.

LIC president David Gottorff told the News during a profanity-laced tirade that the LIC would not comment on the matter to the Crested Butte News—ever.

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