Humble Ranch Education & Therapy Center, located on Routt County Road 14 a few miles outside of Steamboat Springs, provides therapy for adults and children with special needs. Trails on another part of the property are the subject of ongoing litigation.

File Photo

Humble Ranch Education & Therapy Center, located on Routt County Road 14 a few miles outside of Steamboat Springs, provides therapy for adults and children with special needs. Trails on another part of the property are the subject of ongoing litigation.

State Supreme Court denies city of Steamboat Springs' request

Humble Ranch ruling stands, brings end to part of lengthy litigation process

Advertisement

— The Colorado Supreme Court on Monday denied the city of Steamboat Springs’ request that it review a ruling involving public access on Humble Ranch.

The decision ends one aspect of a lengthy litigation process. The costly legal proceedings began in July 2007, when Humble Ventures LLC took the city to district court to contest 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, which lies 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, according to purchase contract documents.

The closed trails provide access to the south side of Emerald Mountain and the Cow Creek area, through Humble Ranch.

Humble Ranch owner Ed Trousil has said the trails’ closure is to protect wildlife habitat — the state Division of Wildlife closes the Emerald Mountain State Wildlife Area at the top of the Agate Creek Trail from Dec. 1 to June 30 because of elk concerns — and to prevent impacts on the Humble Ranch Education & Therapy Center.

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.

Former Hall & Evans associate attorney Devi Yorty has said that the state Supreme Court accepts less than 10 percent of the cases for which it receives petitions.

On Monday, Trousil said in a brief e-mail that he was pleased with the Colorado Supreme Court’s ruling.

The litigation has cost the city more than $100,000 in a time of budget cuts. City attorney Tony Lettunich defended that cost Monday.

“The Trousils filed the suit against the city, and we’re pretty much obligated to defend the public’s interest, so we had to take the case,” he said. “We got an answer and that’s it.”

Almost it, that is.

Still 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 it remanded the issue for further proceedings.

Lettunich said Monday there’s no definite timeline for when that case might return to district court.

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.

Ed and Cheri Trousil purchased the Humble Ranch property in May 1999. Former Steamboat Springs City Council President Kevin Bennett said in March that the Legacy Project gave the Trousils $950,000, among other considerations, to help them close on the purchase.

Trousil has said from the start that his position does not legally contradict that collaboration.

“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.”

The Agate Creek Trail, for hikers only and accessed with city easements via a mile walk up the private Elk Lane, is the sole public access remaining from efforts once heralded as a crowning jewel of the Legacy Project. Lettunich said Monday’s Supreme Court denial ends the hopes of mountain bikers seeking to use trails through the property.

— To reach Mike Lawrence, call 871-4233 or e-mail mlawrence@steamboatpilot.com

Comments

boater1 4 years, 2 months ago

congrats ed! you succeded in duping the city and all the tax payers out of a million dollars. what a fine neighbor you are. i hope the karmic payback comes back tenfold on you!

0

exduffer 4 years, 2 months ago

Maybe the city should look at hiring outside attorneys when large contracts like this are written.

0

stillinsteamboat 4 years, 2 months ago

Ofcourse Tony Lettunich defended the cost of litigation. We foot the bill for costly legal errors that should have never been made in the first place.

0

pitpoodle 4 years, 2 months ago

This would appear to be a good example of why it is important to keep this city lean. The more money they have, the less cautious they are when it comes to spending. Just think what they could do with SB property tax revenue. No thank you.

0

OnceLivedHere 4 years, 2 months ago

The Supremes get one right. Private property rights still exist in America. Its time for the libtards who have infested this once beautiful valley to realize that it's not a public commune. I can only hope that the rancher can recover the costs of this spurious litigation from the City as well.

0

Harvey Lyon 4 years, 2 months ago

Its just one more reason why I'm a sceptic when it comes to programs such as the YRLP, PDRs and other programs as such.

0

Scott Wedel 4 years, 2 months ago

Well, promises made at time of purchase were certainly not kept.

Though, those promises don't matter because the city screwed up the contract so that public access happened only after the cabin was built and there was no requirement that the cabin to be built.

This decision by the Colorado Supreme was absurdly easy because it simply upheld a written contract to mean what it says. That is why the Court of Appeals said that their decision should not be cited in any other cases because it simply upheld settled law. The Colorado Supreme Court rarely accepts such cases and doesn't even accept all cases which the Court of Appeals says established new precedents.

Why the City had any hopes that the case would be accepted is not obvious. It was an obvious waste of money and the people that decided to proceed with this case wasted public funds at the same time the city was laying people off.

0

Harvey Lyon 4 years, 2 months ago

Well clearlyHumble Ranch should top our "Bad Guys List" and receive all the negativity one can give without breaking the law. There are lots of ways to bring social pressures to bear without breaking the law.

Wonder what would happen if they were refused service by local restaurants or maintenance/contractor types.

0

Cooke 4 years, 2 months ago

oncelivedthere -- seems the Supreme Court did get it right by the letter of the law -- couldn't expect them to rule differently according to the strikingly poorly written contract. However, that certainly doesn't mean that these people (the Trousils) are not completely morally corrupt and deserve nothing but condemnation from this community. If the liberals which you denigrate stand for holding a man to his word...well I guess I wouldn't want to be a conservative. Hope you don't "stilllivehere".

0

Jeff_Kibler 4 years, 1 month ago

The $950,000 was provided by Great Outdoors Colorado. GOCO is funded by lottery proceeds, so no tax dollars were involved unless you consider the lottery a tax on the stupid.

0

chickadee 4 years, 1 month ago

Will someone please post directions on how to access Agate Creek trail? Is there a place where the public can park on or around the access point on Elk Lane? And can someone please clarify--can the public traverse Elk Lane to the start of the Agate Creek Trail even though Elk Lane is private? Will someone who hikes regularly on Agate Creek Trail post some info on this thread about whether that is a worthwhile place to go? Is the mile long hike up Elk Lane boring? I am just curious. I have heard about this "Agate Creek Trail" but I have no idea who uses it, how crowded it gets, how exactly to access it and whether it is even worth the effort. Is Agate Creek a trail for walking, running, snow shoe, or all three? Is it open to the public year round and does it traverse through or next to the "Humble" Ranch???

Anyone?

0

Brent Boyer 4 years, 1 month ago

chickadee: This previously published story (particularly the graphic on the lefthand side of the page) should answer some of your questions about access to the trail:

Brent

0

chickadee 4 years, 1 month ago

Thanks for the linkage, Brent. I recall that story. Such a nice picture accompanied it. Sorry that I was too lazy to look it up.

Still interested to know to what level the general public uses the agate creed trail. Do many people go there as a specific designation and park below Elk Ln, or is this a more territorial trail for those who live in the area? It is a good trail for snowshoeing?

There are some trails that I can think of that although they are technically public, those who do not live in the neighborhood of the trailhead are gonna get the side eye from territorial neighbors. Just sayin'.

0

housepoor 4 years, 1 month ago

I say lets run the yellow line up there, put it on every trail map in the city, maybe add a trail running race and a daily guided hike though yampakita. We paid for the access so lets use it.

0

Requires free registration

Posting comments requires a free account and verification.