Baker's Peak residents ask for new road

Sheriff supports need for secondary access to remote mountain homes

The residents of the Baker's Peak community have asked the county to build a road so that they and emergency crews can have year-round access.

The homeowners say there is no consistent or quality road for access to their houses for themselves, emergency crews or delivery vehicles.

Baker's Peak is located in the far northwest corner of Moffat County, north of the western tip of the Routt National Forest.

"The only access we have left is from the west, off of Moffat County Road 70," Baker's Peak Association chairman Don Grooms said. "The northern entrance, which came off Moffat County Road 2, was closed by a landowner two years ago. Until then, that road had been used by people living in this area for 30 years. Now, our southern entrance has been shut off by landowners. The only access now is County Road 70, and this is for 105 people and 65 houses.

According to Grooms, the road is closed five months out of the year because of winter weather, making access to homes impossible.

Grooms and the other members of the Baker's Peak Association tried to negotiate with the state to build a road across state land, but the process was unsuccessful since the Association couldn't afford the $50,000 in improvements and construction the state demanded. The Association is asking the county to build access to their homes from Moffat County Road 38.

"All mountain subdivisions have to have two accesses according to law," Grooms said. "For medical emergencies fire, accidents, deliveries this access is needed, and it's something the county says should be available, so we're asking them to build us a road."

The Association is in litigation concerning the closed northern access, but that process could take several years.

"It's cheaper for the county to build this road and improve an existing one than it would be to plow County Road 70 during the winter," Grooms said. "I think it'd take about $20,000 to build the quarter-mile road to give us proper access.

The Association asked the commissioners to build the road Monday at their regular meeting.

"The County Commissioners gave us a fair listening, and they're now considering it. I'm hoping they'll decide in favor of this idea and act on it fairly soon," Grooms said.

Moffat County Sheriff Buddy Grinstead supports the idea of making sure there is dual access for remote and mountainous communities.

"The main thing is access, Grinstead said. "Whatever you're going in for, a medical emergency, a fire or law enforcement, its good to have that second road. It's a general safety issue. If you have a wildfire on one side of the mountain, it's important to have two ways to get in and out.

"This is a perfect opportunity for some private landowners to enter into a cooperative effort with the county to ensure this access."

Moffat County Commissioner Les Hampton feels reopening one of the previously accessible roads is the best option.

"Two roads have been recently closed, and we're going to make sure those were legally closed. If one or both of those decisions were not legal, we're going to try and get them open," Hampton said. "The locking off or closing down of roads used over a period of time is a matter of law. If both of these roads were closed-off legally, we'll have to look at the next option."

The reason for having two access routes for a community like this one is sound, and is reasonable that it would expected by residents, Hampton said.

"Getting the old routes open is the least costly way of handling this," he said. "There is a precedent on roads being open and used for several years, and then being closed off incorrectly, and then being reopened. We are looking to communicate with the landowners and have them opened up if that is the legal thing to do.

"Hopefully, the access will be gained through some cooperation. It's the best and least painful option for everyone."

Officials with the Road and Bridge Department were unavailable for comment and other officials wouldn't speculate as to how much it would cost to build a new road.

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