As a result of an earlier meeting of the Crestone/Baca Planning Commission in October, there will be a meeting on Wednesday, November 7 at 9am in the POA Hall to invite the public to determine whether or not there is community support for continuing to have public access to the KTTG Stupa and Cottonwood Creek Trail. The proposals being presented provide various trail and parking options at the south end of the Baca Grande subdivision.  Some of the main issues are: There is no permanent public easement to connect public roads with the Cottonwood Trail. The Forest Service has indicated that it would participate in the construction of a trailhead, restoration of the trail, and future maintenance if there was a legal access. An easement needs to be created, and the question is how. In addition, KTTG needs to find a good primary access to the stupa road.

In 2008 the Saguache County Commissioners held a public hearing after individuals raised concerns regarding historic public access of Cottonwood and Spanish Creek trails. The commissioners determined they had “no legal authority” to declare the two trails in question—where private property must be crossed—as public access trails.

Based on the results of the hearing, a study process by members of the community, mainly representatives in the area began. Represented were Kharma Tegsum Tashi Gomang (KTTG), owners of nearby property, the Colorado Mountain Club, Manitou Habitat Conservation Program, The Baca Grande Property Owners Assn, Baca Grande Water and Sanitation District, San Luis Valley Ecosystem Council, Crestone Baca Land Trust and the US Forest Service. This group, facilitated by Christian Dillo, on behalf of Manitou, became The Cottonwood Study Group and explored possible options to provide continued access while respecting private property rights against trespass.

One long term option is being presented by the spiritual center  KTTG, which owns the land with the stupa and retreat cabins south of Cottonwood Creek. Their proposal suggests the purchase of two lots just north of the current access and the creation of a new road which would lead to the existing stupa parking area and allow for the same access to their private Stupa Road along the mountain.

Another option discussed by the Cottonwood Study Group would be to extend the trailhead access down through the Baca Grande greenbelt along the south side of Cottonwood Creek and create a new parking area in the county right-of-way along Camino Baca Grande.

The Cottonwood Study Group is not the only one looking at access concerns.

This summer, a group of citizens represented by spokesperson Eric Karlstrom presented the Saguache County Commissioners with a request to comply with the requirements of Saguache County Resolution 96-G-7 which includes in its definition of public ways: “all roads over private lands that have been used adversely without interruption for 20 consecutive years”.  This request was presented after the Greenways, owners of a Baca lot, earlier this year closed a utility easement, that has been used as a road off of Tranquil Way, by placing boulders across the access. This easement went across their private land and people used it to get to the Cottonwood Creek Trailhead and the Stupa Road.  The citizens are requesting that the county commissioners tell the Greenways to remove the boulders and require them to follow the process outlined in the resolution and in statute.

The Saguache County Commissioners recently referred these proposals to the Crestone/Baca Planning Commission as part of a comprehensive review.

The public is invited to come to the Crestone/Baca Planning Commission meeting on Nov. 7 at 9 am and learn more about these issues and options to provide access for hikers, mountain climbers and for those going to the stupa so that travel, secure public access, and parking solutions for the area may be achieved .

See additional information on this subject in the Saguache County News on page 5.