New access to BLM land attracts horses and hikers – Le Journal

Riders are granted new access to BLM lands south of Summit Lake off of the N route. It is currently closed for wildlife until April 30. (Courtesy photo)

The Summit plot has a winter closure from December 1 to April 30

This fall, the riders galloped to the newly opened Bureau of Land Management plot south of Summit Lake.

Access to the 2,800 acres of rolling, bushy hills, dotted with pine and juniper forests, had been cut off from the general public as it was landlocked by private land.

Legal public access was developed last year in partnership with the Montezuma County Commissioners.

The BLM installed a parking lot and driveway this summer on County Road N, west of the intersection with Highway 35.6. The land was designed to accommodate horse trailers.

When there is no seasonal closure for wildlife from December 1 to April 30, access to the Summit BLM plot is restricted to horses and walking. (Courtesy photo)

The non-motorized zone is reserved for trips on horseback and pedestrian traffic. Bicycles are not allowed and no path will be set up.

The area has a seasonal wildlife closure from December 1 to April 30, so it is closed to all users.

The BLM has heard from riders for years that they want a place to ride without disturbing mountain bikers.

Local riders are excited to finally have access to the Summit BLM plot, said local rider Tif Rodriguez, of Mesa Verde Back Country Horsemen, in an email to The newspaper.

“I have hiked and horsebacked several times. The parking lot is wonderful, ”she said. “The area is amazing, with so much to explore. Considering that I’ve been trying to gain access to this parcel of public land for – well, I can’t remember how many years – I’m delighted that this has come to fruition.

She sent letters of thanks to BLM staff and commissioners for the long-term effort.

“After contacting the BLM to find out how to access it, they let me know what needed to be done,” Rodriguez’s letter to the commissioners reads. “We always seemed to run into a roadblock, road access changes to six inches of private land that we couldn’t cross, to the announcement that we weren’t going to be able to access it. We looked at other avenues and Summit seemed like the best place to get there. Being the first of its kind in the region, this is something to be proud of. Thank you for your work in helping the BLM access it.

It took a multi-year effort on the part of Montezuma County and led BLM to gain public access.

In 2017, County Commissioners changed the private red sign roads adjacent to Summit Ridge BLM lands to public green sign roads. The maneuver was based on the language of the subdivision platform which indicated that the roads were for public use.

A resident of the subdivision opposed to green roads and the opening of BLM access sued the county, but the lawsuit was dismissed.

Next, a potential access point from the new green road N had to be scrapped after surveys revealed that the county road easement had not touched the BLM land by a few inches.

A rider and her horse enjoy spending time on the Summit Ridge BLM plot this fall. (Courtesy photo)

The final solution came in 2020 when county staff discovered that County Road N could be extended a short distance along a non-exclusive subdivision easement that abuts BLM land.

Once a legal access point was found, BLM officials conducted a planning process and approved the parking lot and public entrance.

Views from the Summit BLM plot to the southeast of Dolores. (Courtesy photo)

jmimiaga@the-journal.com

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