Ranchers struggle with speeding, hit and runs along Jacks Cabin Cutoff

Allen Ranch fence damaged last week

By Katherine Nettles

As many a hurried traveler heading to Taylor Canyon or over Cottonwood Pass might attest, the convenience of cutting off a few miles between the North Valley and Almont along Highway 135 by using County Road 813, known as Jacks Cabin Cutoff, can be a welcome convenience during the summer. But some drivers are taking the dirt road too fast and recklessly, and last week a local ranching family paid the price in what has become an increasing issue. 

In an apparent hit-and-run accident, a vehicle struck a fence on Allen Ranch property alongside the roadway, damaged the cattle fencing and left a substantial amount of debris in their wake. 

Helen Allen contacted the News about the incident, which happened on August 9.

“Dear County Road 813 Travelers,

You probably know our road better as the Jacks Cabin Cutoff. During the summer the traffic on this county road rivals that of Highway 135, and very often the speeding on it does too. The speed limit on this road is 25 mph for several reasons, the most obvious of all are its tight corners. Someone learned that lesson today, and they left behind about 50 feet of mangled fence and a few pieces of their vehicle including a chunk of their front bumper,” she wrote. 

“Sadly this is a regular occurrence for our ranch on the Jacks Cabin Cutoff, the second this summer. It’ll take hundreds of dollars in material and labor to fix this fence. Luckily the cows in this pasture didn’t escape. So everyone; please drive slowly and safely. And if you crash into someone’s fence please do the right thing and tell them,” concluded Allen.

Gunnison County public works director Martin Schmidt said the summer road should be respected and driven with care.

“I absolutely share the Allen’s concerns about speed along the roads. People should slow down and take in the magnificent views. We have curve signage and speed limit signs along the road and sight lines are not an issue on this road. In my opinion, the driver was careless and disregarded their responsibility to safely operate their vehicle.”

Schmidt said that while CR 813 is not a through road in the winter, Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) data from 2008 through 2019 has shown it gets approximately 500 to 700 vehicles per day when open in the summer and fall. CDOT reports that Highway 135 gets between 3,900 and 6,700 vehicles per day. 

“In this situation, where accidents cause damage to private parties the issues are dealt with by the injured parties,” confirmed Schmidt. “It’s a shame if the Allens weren’t contacted when the accident occurred. That would have been the correct course of action. We plan on continuing to provide maintenance that includes signage, striping, and surface treatments to make the road are safe for responsible users.”

Gunnison County sheriff Adam Murdie said his deputies patrol the area, but had not heard any reports of this incident. They were aware of another incident a couple weeks ago involving a black car that went off the road there and was left abandoned. The Colorado State Patrol covers accidents that occur in the area, and Murdie said his office notified the state patrol.

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