Headwaters Trails Alliance sued over Granby Ranch trail | SkyHiNews.com

Headwaters Trails Alliance sued over Granby Ranch trail

Tonya Bina
Sky-Hi Daily News
Grand County CO Colorado

The Colorado Division of Wildlife is suing the Grand County trails arm, The Headwaters Trails Alliance, for its trail link through Granby Ranch.

Named in the action filed Oct. 19 is Granby Ranch, the underlying property owner that permitted the trail’s route through a conservation easement it negotiated with the Colorado Division of Wildlife.

“It is the DOW’s contention the trail was constructed without authorization as required by the conservation easement,” stated DOW spokesperson Randy Hampton.

Headwaters Trails, he said, received approval for a trail configuration, then “chose to alter that and build the trail.”

The trail was completed in September of last year.

At issue in the complaint is habitat for prairie falcons, a bird of prey with an average 40-inch wing span. At least one falcon nest is located within a quarter-mile of the trail, according to the DOW.

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The bird is not on the endangered species list, but the “number of nesting pairs in Colorado has declined, likely due to the loss of nest sites due to urbanization and human disturbance,” states the DOW’s Natural Diversity Information Source, which tracks animal species in Colorado. An estimated 900 prairie falcons winter in Colorado, and there are now 190 prairie falcon nest sites in the state.

Prairie falcons – predominantly found on the lower plains – are deemed “uncommon” in Grand County, according to the Diversity site.

“We have every desire to preserve the ecological values of the conservation easement,” said Kyle Harris, Granby Ranch Director of Development, “But it has to be reasonable.”

In agreement with the DOW, a seasonal closure of the trail takes place from Nov. 15 to April 15 to allow for elk winter foraging.

Landowner negotiations with the DOW over the falcon issue resulted in closing trails that branched from the main trail. Those trails came much closer to the nest area, Harris said.

“We agreed as the landowner to close the social trails,” he said.

But not long after, he said, they were served with an injunction.

“Granby Ranch believes it has the legal right to have (the trail) where it currently exists,” Harris said. “It’s unfortunate that the CDOW has chosen to take such an aggressive stance against this trail, which is over a quarter-mile away from the nest at its closest point.”

Relocating the trail is cost-prohibitive, he said, due to poor soil conditions through a natural drainage.

The stretch of trail in question, about a mile in length, serves as a critical link for a continuous Fraser to Granby trail system. The trail leads from the SolVista ponds to a gazebo at hilltop.

From the pond at SolVista, the trail crosses U.S. Highway 40 at the stoplight. From there, the trail is planned to continue to Kaibab Park into downtown Granby.

With the goal of connecting Grand County’s towns with a trail system, the next goal of the Headwaters Trails Alliance is to implement a trail that links Granby to Grand Lake.

Board representatives of the Headwaters Trails Alliance contacted for this story on Monday either could not be reached or declined to comment on the pending litigation. The organization’s case is being represented by the Grand County attorney.

At Tuesday’s Grand County Commissioners meeting, County Attorney Jack DiCola said the trail cost $40,000-$50,000 to build, and according to DOW correspondence the attorney has obtained for defense, “it appears (the DOW) knew where the trail was going to be,” he said.

– Tonya Bina can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19603 or e-mail tbina@skyhidailynews.com.

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