Conservation Fund buys 14er in the Mosquito Range above Alma, helping protect access to Decalibron Loop

Landowner John Reiber had closed Mount Democrat to avoid lawsuits. The sale opens access, but does not slow effort to reform the Colorado Recreational Use Statute to better protect “freaked out” landowners.

Sydney Schaus, a trail crew member from the Colorado Fourteener Initiative, works to repair erosion damage on the Decalibron Loop on July 12, 2022, near Alma.
Hugh Carey/The Colorado Sun

John Reiber, the owner of mining land spanning three 14ers in the Mosquito Range, has sold about 300 acres atop Mount Democrat to The Conservation Fund, ending a thorny access issue on the popular Decalibron Trail. 

But the deal does not include Reiber’s property across Mount Lincoln and he is still requiring that all hikers scan QR codes and sign liability waivers promising not to sue him if they are injured on his property. Reiber’s liability concerns have been a highlight of a statewide push to reform the Colorado Recreational Use Statute with other landowners across the state also closing access to their properties for fear of lawsuits from hikers, trail runners and anglers. 

Earlier this summer, as he launched the innovative scan-and-sign liability waivers, Reiber said he would close access to the Decalibron Loop if lawmakers next year did not amend the state statute to better protect landowners from lawsuits. 

The sale of Mount Democrat is a win for access. And it does not lessen the momentum of the push to reform the Colorado Recreational Use Statute, said Lloyd Athearn with the Colorado 14ers Initiative.

“There is still urgency here,” Athearn said. “People who own land where recreation occurs are freaked out. While this land purchase solves part of the problem at Decalibron Loop, it does not solve it statewide. We are still learning about all sorts of other recreation destinations where landowners are freaked out. And communities are just still understanding the ramifications of what would happen if recreational amenities that are fully or partially on private land are suddenly closed. I think legislators are realizing that, too.”

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