Summit County settles public access dispute near Quandary Peak with land purchase
Summit County has reached a settlement with a private landowner that will allow continued public access on a disputed road near Quandary Peak.
Though the deal isn’t finalized, the county will buy about 1.7 acres of land owned by Greg McCallum north of Monte Cristo Mine Road.
The settlement saved both sides the hassle of spending time in court, said Thad Noll, county assistant manager. “We ended up with a very nice, easy solution.”
The Summit County Board of County Commissioners approved a division Tuesday, March 24, of McCallum’s 6-acre property to create the 1.7-acre parcel and a 4.3-acre parcel McCallum will retain.
The parcel separation was approved on two conditions: the county must rezone its new parcel as open space within 90 days and McCallum must pay property taxes on the full 6 acres for the 2014 year.
McCallum started a controversy a few years ago after he told hikers and skiers to stay off part of the road that cuts through his property.
He argued the road was private, though the county and the Forest Service deemed the road public. As the dispute escalated, McCallum erected “no trespassing” signs and a gate across the road.
Jeffrey Bergeron, a longtime Summit resident who frequently uses the road to access national forest, said McCallum even put up barbed-wire fencing in a hostile situation that divided McCallum from his neighbors and others who have used the road for generations.
The county sent McCallum a cease-and-desist letter ordering him to remove obstructions on the road by Dec. 24 or the county would have them removed. McCallum then filed an injunction preventing the county from taking further action.
County assistant manager Thad Noll said at this point in the settlement the gate has been taken down.
Bergeron said though he thought the county had “a pretty rock-solid legal case,” the settlement might have prevented the county from spending more money fighting McCallum in court.
Plus, in a best-case scenario, he said, the legal battle would’ve ended with public access on the road. With the settlement, however, the county has protected that access as well as nearly 2 acres of public land for recreational use, scenic views and wildlife habitat.
Bergeron applauded the county’s actions.
“This is government working for the people,” he said. “The county responded to not only the needs of the neighborhood but the will of the people that have been recreating up there for decades.”
The county plans to release more details about the settlement, including the purchase price, in the next few weeks.
McCallum bought the 6 acres and the single-family house built there in 1973 for $336,800 in 2011. His property value was appraised in 2014 at $336,647.
A couple months ago, the county also acquired about 28 acres of nearby mining claims owned by John M. Kramp, of New Mexico, for just under $200,000. That land will also be preserved as open space.
That purchase was separate from the McCallum property deal, but the road controversy likely spurred Kramp to sell, Noll said. “That’s a mining claim we had been looking to get for a long time.”
He said the county will add the former Kramp property to its list of suitable backcountry parcels to trade with national forest land at some point in the future.
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