Crestone Eagle, January 2005:
Restriction or new opportunity?
National Park Access on County/Baca roads cause stir
by Lisa Cyriacks
Approximately 65 people attended a recent public meeting
to discuss Access issues for the National Park. The topic
of concern: people seeking access, on foot or in vehicle,
to the National Park utilizing county roads through the Baca
With the formal creation of the Great Sand Dunes National
Park, public access to park lands south of the subdivision
became a reality. Vehicle access will continue to be prohibited
until completion of the Management Plan, but the public will
be able to cross the Park boundary on foot or horseback. Steve
Chaney, National Park Service, identified only three ways
for the public to gain legal access to the new addition of
park land: 1) across Forest Service lands above the subdivision,
2) from the Visitor Center located at the south end of the
Park (both of which cover difficult terrain), or 3) through
the Baca Grande subdivision, utilizing subdivision roads and
climbing over the boundary fence.
At the very least for the next six years, until the Baca
Wildlife Refuge completes its management plan and restrictions
on the Lexxam Road are lifted, the subdivision is faced with
the impact of people utilizing subdivision roads to cross
the Park boundary where they can. Chaney re-iterated his earlier
offer of creating a parking area on park-owned land near Alpine
Park in an effort to reduce parking problems within the subdivision.
It is clear that regardless of access decisions made by federal
agencies, the subdivision and/or Saguache County will have
responsibility for enforcement related to access issues within
the subdivision boundary.
Locally, the stakeholders have been identified: residents
of the Baca Grande, the spiritual centers on two sides of
the subdivision, residents of the Town of Crestone, needs
for access from other county residents, needs for access by
the Forest Service and the National Park, US Fish and Wildlife’s
charge to conserve, protect, and enhance biodiversity.
A comment from the audience identified how the lack of a
formal community decision-making process hampers our ability
to respond. The POA could seek consensus among its members,
but is that sufficient to legally ensure the protection residents
seek? If a referendum of the voters is sought, how is the
pool of voters identified? School district boundary? Water
Other issues at hand that should be included in a formal
1) The year 2008 would mark the beginning of planning for
the Wildlife Refuge with 2010 being the earliest completion
date, although the gathering of baseline data for the plan
could begin in 2006. In the meantime, there will be no public
access on the Refuge until a management plan is in place,
leaving the subdivision roads as the only vehicular access
to the park boundary. The risk is potential conversion of
a short-term solution (using subdivision roads) into a long-term
2) Abandonment of last few feet of roads that meet directly
the boundary by the County, surrendering them to greenbelt
and control of the Property Owners Association.
3) Vacating the subdivision roads from public access, i.e.
4) Opportunity to design the type of experience visitors
will have—perhaps by channeling all vehicles to the
South Crestone trailhead and designing a foot trail through
or adjacent to the subdivision to provide access to Cottonwood
Creek and points further south.
5) Traffic impact, including exhaust.
6) Economic advantages—tourism private enterprise providing
parking, shuttle service.
7) Community engagement: Who is involved? What is their authority?
Another meeting is being planned for Saturday, January 15
at 2pm at the POA Hall. The community is encouraged to participate.