Blackmer vacation on table

Commissioners expected to grant easements for nonmotorized use

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Blackmer Drive, which connects the Fairview neighborhood with Emerald Mountain, has long been a favorite of bikers, hikers and skiers.

Soon, those nonmechanized users will have the roadway to themselves.

Today, county commissioners are expected to vacate the county road designation for Blackmer Drive and grant easements for nonmotorized public use on the drive. Motorized vehicles will be allowed only for certain uses, such as maintaining the radio towers at the top or transporting people with physical disabilities.

The county's approval would bring a four-year process to vacate the road to an end.

"We're excited to finally get this done," said Caryn Fox, director of County Planning.

Even with the approval, most hikers, bikers and skiers won't feel like much has changed, said Chris Wilson, director of the city's parks, open space and recreational services. The gate closing the road to most motorized uses has been shut year-round for about the past five years.

"For most people, they aren't going to notice the difference," Wilson said. "For those of us who have been involved with the project, all the 'i's have been dotted, all the 't's have been crossed, and it's all final and official."

Lyman Orton, who owns property on Emerald Mountain that the road crosses, petitioned the county to vacate the road a few years ago. The county held a public meeting Feb. 22, 2000, about the vacation of the road, and approved the vacation of the road subject to several conditions.

The conditions included that:

n Affected landowners sign an access easement to allow non-motorized public use.

n The city of Steamboat Springs maintain the trail.

n Direct access be allowed for the physically challenged and school groups.

n Vehicles be allowed for several other purposes such as maintaining trail connections on State Land Board property.

Meeting those conditions has taken about four years, Fox said, as various landowners and other officials had to sign the easement agreements.

Blackmer Drive, which also is known as County Road 47, began as an access road to a quarry, where stones were collected to use for downtown building. It was named for Dr. Blackmer, who lived off the road.

A 1.25-mile county road running straight up the hill was dedicated in 1908. Then, a meandering 1.55-mile public road was established to drive loaded quarry vehicles downhill. The meandering road has been heavily used by bikers, hikers and skiers for the past decade.

Both roads likely will be vacated today.

Wilson called finalizing the road vacation "the culmination of a lot of work, a lot of negotiation between private landowners, the city of Steamboat Springs and the county."

"I do believe that both the Fairview neighborhood and the city of Steamboat Springs and everyone who uses the Blackmer Drive Trail are excited that we brought about the conclusion of this project," Wilson said.

County commissioners will discuss and could sign the resolution vacating the road at 2 p.m. today in the Commissioners Hearing Room of the Courthouse annex.

-- To reach Susan Bacon, call 871-4203

or e-mail sbacon@steamboatpilot.com

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