Our view: A road to somewhere

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Routt County is considering vacating County Road 18C, and that decision has sparked a public outcry from those who use the roadway. As of Monday, 187 people have signed a petition to keep open the road that crosses the Yampa River just south of Lake Catamount near Pleasant Valley.

At issue:

Routt County officials are looking at vacating County Road 18C.

Our view:

Before making a public road private, the county needs to do its due diligence and weigh the costs and benefits of public ownership.

Editorial board: February through May 2017

  • Suzanne Schlicht, COO and publisher
  • Lisa Schlichtman, editor
  • Jim Patterson, evening editor
  • Tom Ross, reporter
  • Steve Ivancie, community representative
  • Paul Stettner, community representative
  • Contact the editorial board at 970-871-4221 or editor@SteamboatToday.com.

According to Jack Trautman, who is the president of Routt County Riders and who is helping to lead the lobby against vacation of the county road, Routt County Planning Commission members were told by the Planning Department that the road gets very little public use, and Trautman and others who use the road are claiming otherwise.

Many of those who oppose the county’s plan to vacate the road say they use the road often, as a popular out-and-back bike route starting in Steamboat and as a spot where birders go to catch glimpses of bald eagles hunting along the river. The Yampa Valley Land Trust, which holds a nearby access easement into the Catamount subdivision for the historic Rehder Ranch, is also opposing the road’s privatization. “The public must not lose access to this location of high public value,” wrote the Land Trust’s Susan Dorsey.

And based on the number of people who are speaking out on the issue, we’d agree with Trautman’s statement that C.R. 18C is not just a private driveway for Catamount and Green Creek Ranch residents — it’s a public road that shouldn’t be quietly vacated without more investigation and debate.

We also can understand why the county is considering vacating the remote road as a way to save money and resources, and with 849 miles of county roads to maintain, these are discussions that must take place.

According to Road and Bridge Director Janet Hruby, the cost to overlay and chipseal the 0.3-mile stretch of CR 18C is approximately $2,570 per year and the cost to replace the bridge over its 65-year life is $500,000 or $7,700 per year. Hruby also noted that the unpaved portion of the road will need to be improved if the county is to continue plowing the road.

In our estimation, the Planning Commission needs to closely weigh the cost of maintaining the road against its public use. To make a public road private, especially when that road provides the public with access to a bridge that overlooks the Yampa River, is not a decision that should be made lightly or without public input. Once the county gives up ownership of the road, it can’t get it back.

Preserving public access to remote areas of Routt County and protecting open space is something our community values. In fact, the late Elaine Gay, who owned the property that is now known as the Green Creek Ranch and is at the end of C.R. 18C, was an advocate for land preservation and played a pivotal role in keeping as much land as possible open to the public.

We think there is a balance that can be found. The initial proposal was to vacate 18C east of the Yampa River, and we think that’s a decision that’s a bit of a no-brainer. It’s when the proposal grew to include all of 18C that the issue became complicated, seeming to favor private landowners over the public’s use of the road.

The Planning Commission will be meeting at 6 p.m. April 20 to discuss the future of C.R. 18C, and we encourage citizens to attend that meeting and engage in a public discussion on the issue. And we encourage members of the commission and other county officials to listen and weigh all factors before making their decision on the road’s fate.

Comments

Jack Trautman 2 weeks, 2 days ago

Thanks to the Editorial Board for continuing the dialog on this important topic. If the County officials believe that County roads are only for transporting cars from point A to B at 45mph, and not valuing historic and scenic locations, views of one of the few wild rivers in our country, or other points of interest, then we have totally lost sight of the unique beauty of our County. Rather than trying to get this road and bridge off the County's asset sheet, I suggest they should have signs leading to this spot as a place of PUBLIC interest, not just for the few wealthy who take it over.

As to the ongoing costs, it totals $10,270 per year. With 23,509 residents in Routt County, that's 44 cents per resident per year to keep this a public treasure. More realistically, State funds are available for replacing and maintaining rural bridges. Typically, we pay 20%, the State pays 80%. So, the true annual cost is $4110, or 17 cents per year per resident. Come on, County officials, are you really willing to give up this unique historical and scenic County asset located on the Wild Yampa?

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Larry Desjardin 2 weeks, 1 day ago

With all the miles of roads the county has that serve few landowners, it seems strange they would vacate 1/4 mile of road that accesses the Yampa River, and is a favorite for cyclists and birders.

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Scott Wedel 2 weeks, 1 day ago

I suggest a simple rule - if people complain about vacating a road then it is too heavily used to be vacated.

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