Steamboat Springs The city is taking its case with Humble Ranch to the state’s highest court.
Steamboat Springs has filed a petition for review by the Colorado Supreme Court, continuing the legal proceedings in a dispute involving land conservation, wildlife preservation, private property rights and efforts that began more than a decade ago to increase public access on the south flank of Emerald Mountain.
Steamboat Springs attorney Tony Lettunich confirmed that the city has filed a petition asking the state Supreme Court to review a ruling made in district court and upheld by the Colorado Court of Appeals.
Humble Ventures LLC took the city to district court in July 2007, contesting the city’s ability to build a public cabin — and by extension, open certain trail segments to the public — on private property at Humble Ranch, off Routt County Road 14 south of Steamboat Springs. In January 2009, the court ruled that Humble Ranch was not obligated to build the cabin within any certain timeframe, nor could the city build it, which by extension means Humble Ranch is not required to open the trail segments for public use. Opening the trail segments is contingent on construction of the cabin.
The trail segments in question provide access to state Division of Wildlife trails on the south side of Emerald.
On March 11, the Colorado Court of Appeals upheld the district court decision. Three judges concurred on the agreement.
The city, through the Denver law firm Hall & Evans, filed its petition for review by the state Supreme Court in May.
Attorneys for Humble Ventures responded to the petition June 7. The city responded to Humble Ventures on Monday, completing the briefing process.
“It’s in the (state) Supreme Court’s hands,” Hall & Evans associate attorney Devi Yorty said. She previously has noted that the state Supreme Court accepts less than 10 percent of the cases for which it receives petitions.
Lettunich said the state Supreme Court has no timetable for deciding whether to take up the city’s case with Humble Ranch.
“We don’t have an answer yet, and I don’t know when that would be,” Lettunich said.
Also pending is the city’s petition for a rehearing of another March 11 ruling about whether the city must close its Humble Ranch trail easements to the public when the state Division of Wildlife closes access to the Emerald Mountain wildlife area. The appeals court ruled that the city has to follow state DOW closures, reversing an earlier district court ruling, but remanded the issue for further proceedings.
Documents provided by City Clerk Julie Franklin show that the city has spent more than $104,000 on litigation involving Humble Ranch since 2007. The city is maintaining employee furloughs and other budget cuts amid continuing impacts from the economic recession.
Ed and Cheri Trousil co-own Humble Ranch.
“We have litigated this case for 2 1/2 years,” Ed Trousil wrote in an April e-mail. “During the litigation, the city had every opportunity to produce any evidence it had concerning the use of the Humble Ranch property. Not once did the city produce any evidence that we broke any promises about the use of Humble Ranch.”
Those calling for more public access on Humble Ranch say building the cabin and opening trails to the public were key components of correlated efforts a decade ago by the Yampa River System Legacy Project and the Emerald Mountain Partnership.