Skiers and bulldozers try to share road |

Skiers and bulldozers try to share road

Gina GuarascioVail, CO Colorado
A cross country skier and her dog make their way up Coal Basin Road west of Redstone Tuesday. The road is being plowed by a private landowner by special forest service permit this window, raising some eyebrows about the future of the popular wintertime recreation area. (Jane Bachrach photo)

REDSTONE For about 40 years it was the main avenue for coal trucks, a very scenic avenue with icicles dangling over red rocks where workers from Mid-Continent Resources mines drove every day lugging tons of that “black gold.”Now, Coal Basin Road off of Highway 133 near Redstone is important for a very different reason, one that requires that motorized vehicles stay out.

Winter recreation in Redstone lures a few hearty tourists, but is mostly coveted by the tough, down-to-earth folks who live in this tiny berg in the middle of the White River National Forest. Then one of their favorite areas for snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, ice climbing and running with their dogs was threatened. It didn’t take long for the people of Redstone to react.”The big issue seems to be the plowing of the road,” said Redstone Community Association member Chuck Downey about his and other residents’ shock when they went to Coal Basin to ski in December and found their route was plowed.”The contractor, by plowing the road and running his heavy duty trucks over it, made the road unusable for winter recreation,” Downey said. “Why snowshoe when you can walk on dirt?”The U.S. Forest Service required John Morris, the owner of more than 200 acres in Coal Basin that are being developed, to make sure his snowplowing would not affect winter recreation. Morris and his contractors complied after hearing complaints. Now, the skiers and walkers and mushers get half the road, with snow on it, while the heavy, earth-moving trucks have a plowed road to drive on – temporarily.

Redstone resident Jeff Bier, who was the listing agent for Morris’ property, said he uses Coal Basin frequently and thinks the landowner has good intentions with the property. Nevertheless, he feels like he and other members of the public should be able to access the areas the plows open up.”There are some great trails up there. I think If they’re plowing the road and it’s a Forest Service road, then I think it should be open to the public. It’s too bad people can’t take responsibility for themselves,” Bier said. “I’m watching it closely, and am concerned about access.”Still there is still considerably less impact on the road than there was in the mining heyday, according to Bier, an ex-miner who’s lived in the area almost 40 years.”They had three shifts going, 16 hours a day trucks were running,” said Bier, who recalled Morris’ property as home to the coal wash plant and administrative offices. “When the mine was in operation for about 40 years there was no access. I see it as a plus that there is access; it was fairly inaccessible, and it’s such a beautiful area.”

Another long-time Redstone resident, Sue McEvoy, said she remembers coal trucks going down the road every three minutes. And that was going on for about 40 years.McEvoy said plowing the road for one year to provide Morris with access to his property for major earthwork is appropriate.”Coal Basin Road is Redstone’s primary winter recreation area. On any given day you’ll have cross country skiers, snowshoers, there’s ice climbing up there, mushers like to train out there. It really is a popular recreation area,” said McEvoy, who added that the popularity of the public area only increased after Ute Meadows, a cross country ski area near Marble, closed last year. “Now you only have half a road.”

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