Two privately owned Colorado 14ers are open to hikers thanks to a unique partnership. Will it last?
Colorado Fourteeners Initiative trail builder Sarah Barringer looked up from her trail work on the switchback heading to the ridge below Mount Bross. A man was taking a shortcut, causing the kind of erosion that she was repairing.
“Please stay on the trail,” Barringer said.
“Don’t tell me what to do,” the man answered. “It’s a free mountain.”
Actually, it’s not. The top of the 14,178-foot Mount Bross is owned by several people who are worried about liability and do not want hikers on the summit. Owners of the summits and trails leading to next-door 14ers Mount Democrat and Mount Lincoln share the same concerns, worried they could be sued if a hiker is injured in one of the many mine shafts and dilapidated mining structures on the mountains.
“I’ve had enough damage to the doors we try to keep secure on the mines. I’ve had gates cut. I don’t know if I’ve ever been up there without seeing people standing on top of Bross, walking right by the sign that says ‘Private property. No trespassing,’” said landowner John Reiber, whose father began assembling mining claims on the peaks in the Alma Mining District in the 1950s. “I definitely have concerns over the willingness of people to not follow the rules. I think from a safety standpoint, I’m not sure there is any way to really make folks stay on the trail. But we’re trying.”
Reiber in April 2021 closed the summits of Lincoln and Democrat to hikers. But a unique partnership uniting trail advocacy groups, the Town of Alma, the Forest Service and Reiber’s ownership group has forged a tenuous plan that allowed hikers to return to the peaks late last summer. With regular surveys, education campaigns and a bunch of signs warning hikers to stay on the trail and not enter dangerous structures, the effort has helped assuage owner concerns over safety and possibly being sued by hikers who are injured on the peaks or in the century-old mine shafts and shacks.
Read more from Jason Blevins, The Colorado Sun
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