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Letters to the editor

Jim Gonzales

The traveling public that travels through Dowd Junction must be made aware of the danger that exists there. I have for the past several years tried to get CDOT to fix and maintain the deer fence in the area. I have pointed out large holes that have existed for over three years and have gotten the same response. “We don’t have the man power or the money.” Everyone who I have spoken with at CDOT tells me that they take wildlife issues seriously. But they do nothing to address the deer fence at Dowd Junction. I spoke with Jim Pickins at the Eagle office in the fall and early winter and told him about all the deficiencies that I saw in the fence. I was given the same old song and dance about manpower and money. He told me that his priorities were “pot holes and guardrails.” I asked if I could quote him. He said yes. Shouldn’t wildlife on the most dangerous stretch of 1-70 be a priority? I threatened to go public and ask for volunteers to fix the fence ourselves. He told me that it takes a special permit and that we could be ticketed for parking on the interstate. I once again told him that if an animal was killed there or that someone was hurt or killed that I would make sure that the person knew that CDOT failed to maintain the fence. I told him that it was only a matter of time before it happened. It did. Two beautiful bull elk was killed about 50 yards from the underpass. I am still trying to find out who was involved and if there were any human injuries. The two elk being killed was totally preventable. CDOT says they care about the wildlife in the area. I beg to differ. There has been zero maintenance of the fence for several years. There are least 8 areas where wildlife can cross. Once they find themselves on the highway, it is a near death sentence for them and quite possibly for someone. That someone could be you or me or someone we care about. The traveling public has no idea that they are in danger of hitting an animal and sustaining injuries or even death. There are no wildlife crossing signs in the area. Down Junction has a very high rate of accidents. It does not need to be more dangerous because CDOT does not maintain the fence. The fence is a federally funded project and it is CDOT’s responsibility to maintain it. The fence was erected when the interstate was built over 30 years ago. It surely shows its age. In many places the fence has nearly fallen down. A large hole exists on the north side just past the Minturn exit sign. A rock slide compromised the fence. I have pointed it out now for three years. … I have also asked that the fence be extended to the West Vail exit on both sides of the interstate. I found out Jan. 10 that two bull elk were recently killed near the underpass. The tracks from the other side of the creek tell the story. When I spoke to Jim Pickins, he asked me if I could prove that the elk crossed the fence. The tracks in the snow tell the story, and yes I can prove it, and I will relay the information to the person who hit the bull elk. Think about it. You’re traveling through Dowd at the posted speed limit of 60 mph and you hit a bull elk, or maybe two or more, that weighs from 700 pounds to almost 1,000 pounds. Your vehicle will most certainly be damaged and your chances of being hurt or killed go up substantially. I am a lifelong resident of Eagle County and I am passionate about our wildlife. I am sick and tired of our wildlife getting shafted.I was given the name of the acting director. His name is Weldon Allen out of the Grand Junction office. I had a long conversation with him as I waited for a CDOT superintendent to meet me at the deer underpass. The superintendent never showed. Mr. Allen told me that he was unaware of the problems with the fence. He told me that the fence should have been fixed in the fall and that he was disappointed that it had not. I pointed out that there has been zero maintenance for several years. After the long conversation he told me that he would instruct the Eagle yard to hire a fence contractor to fix the fence. I have very little faith in that happening soon. In the meantime the elk can and will cross and your life is in danger. I am asking everyone who reads this letter to join me into putting pressure on CDOT to not only fix the holes in the fence but to extend it to the West Vail exit, and to completely rebuild it in the areas where it is falling down. Also to report any deficiencies that they see or animals that are killed through Dowd. You can start by calling CDOT to voice your concerns. Mr. Pickins’ number is 524-0627. Mr. Allen’s number is (970) 248-7363. Please call me at 904-6007. Together we can make the traveling through Dowd safer for all of us and save our precious wildlife, as well. E-mail me at hce74@comcast.net with your comments and I will forward them to Mr. Allen. I will also send you an e-mail and go into more detail as to CDOT’s failure to fix and maintain the fence. I will also e-mail you pictures of the dead elk and the holes in the fence. I also shot video of the area and will give it to anyone who wants a copy. Be warned it is graphic and shows dead elk. We should not settle for a quick fix but for a complete redo of the fence with proper signage. … Please get involved. The life you save may be your own.Jim Gonzales MinturnVail, Colorado


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