Rocky Mountain National Park updates Grand County about upcoming projects |

Rocky Mountain National Park updates Grand County about upcoming projects

Tonya Bina
Sky-Hi Daily News

Rocky Mountain National Park plans to bury the “unsightly” power lines from the Grand Lake entrance to Timber Creek campground, according to an annual Park update presented to Grand County commissioners on Monday during a visit with Park personnel Mike Lewelling, Larry Gamble, Mark McCutcheon and Superintendent Vaughn Baker.

The work is expected to cause brief delays, although most of it will be performed along the shoulder of Trail Ridge Road.

Trail Ridge Road is scheduled to open on Friday, May 23, this year.

In 2009, the Park also plans to resurface Trail Ridge Road from the west boundary of the Park to the Colorado River trailhead. Renovation of the Park entrance near Grand Lake, including a new “fast-pace” lane, is also scheduled for next year, Baker said.

In other Park news, the Rocky Mountain National Park Wilderness legislation is “stuck” in Congress, according to Baker.

The wilderness bill and others with similar aims have been on the threshold of being passed since as early as 1974. The legislation is partly on hold this time due to a lawsuit involving a 2003 Grand River Ditch breach that caused 105 cubic feet-per-second of water to spill into the park for several hours, uprooting trees and damaging habitat.

Construction of the Grand River Ditch took place in the 1890s, prior to the establishment of the Park, and is one of Colorado’s oldest transmountain water diversions at an elevation of 10,250 feet in the northwest corner of the Park along the Never Summer Range.

Due to the extent of damages from the breach, the National Park Service pursued a claim centered on injuries to park resources.

Barring a possible settlement, the Grand River Ditch trial begins May 5 in U.S. Federal Court in Denver, Baker announced.

Baker also touched on another pending lawsuit. Wild Earth Guardians filed suit against the Park on March 25 in Denver federal court, claiming that the Park has a responsibility to reintroduce gray wolves as a viable and natural solution to the growing elk population in its management plan, and that culling animals in the park is the same as hunting.

“We concluded in the plan, we’re just too small,” Baker said, referring to wolf territory and the size of the Park itself with its proximity to the city of Estes Park. In comparison, Yellowstone National Park is “10 times as large,” he said. And, that park has more of a horizontal territory, whereas Rocky Mountain National Park is more vertical, he said.

Meanwhile, the Park is undergoing elk research, including live tests for chronic wasting disease and injections of a multi-year birth control on a number of females.

In an update on beetle-kill tree management, the Park is spraying Carbaryl on high value trees, capped at 5,000 total including either side of the Park. Since the Park does encounter issues with spraying, foresters said, it has in place a notification plan to alert visitors and neighbors about times and places of spraying.

Brooks on the ‘ban’ wagon

On the subject of tree spraying, citizen Lenny Brooks of Grand Lake, the man seeking a government ban on the use of Carbaryl pesticides and phosphate fertilizers in Grand County, returned to the commissioner boardroom Monday during the county’s regular meeting.

During his previous visit, Brooks petitioned for the creation of a county environmental enforcement officer position and/or environmentally focused incentives for citizens, such as tax credits for xeriscaping. He also seeks a ban on chemicals widely used in the county, such as beetle-kill pesticides and fertilizers deemed detrimental to watersheds.

Brooks asked why Grand County, with all its attention to water quality issues, has not tested water sources for such chemicals, many of which if introduced to bodies of water and rivers threaten fish by killing off aquatic insects.

With tenacity and more research, Brooks was awarded a shred of hope when Commissioner Nancy Stuart asked fellow commissioners and county staff why it wasn’t possible to test for the chemicals along with all other tests presently being conducted.

County Manager Lurline Underbrink Curran agreed to involve water experts on the Grand County payroll and to seek information about chemical testing from the Grand County Water Information Network.

Brooks was not given more of an answer or promise other than to be updated on what the county finds out. He was also commended for his passion.

In other county news:

-The Bureau of Land Management deferred Grand County parcels in March in the last go-around of statewide oil and gas lease sales, according to a letter from the BLM notifying county commissioners.

-County commissioners agreed to waive the fee for the County Fairgrounds extension hall for the West Grand junior and senior prom.

-Grand County, towns and the Headwaters Trails Alliance have begun discussions about maintenance and responsibility of trails created through the Headwaters program, the ultimate goal of which is to connect all Grand County towns with a multi-use trail system. Commissioner James Newberry suggested putting the topic on the next mayor managers and commissioners board meeting agenda, scheduled for 9 a.m., April 21, at the Fraser “Church of What’s Happening Now.”

– County Manager Underbrink Curran announced that Grand County is hosting a bid opening for the first phase of Granby Airport work, a $3 million project, at 2 p.m., May 21, in the commissioner boardroom. Commissioner Chairman Gary Bumgarner also signed a lease agreement Tuesday for the construction of a hangar at the airport.

– County Attorney Jack Dicola updated commissioners about the Elk Valley lawsuit. The county’s legal team contends that Fred Hess, owner of the Elk Valley subdivision near Red Dirt Hill who filed an injunction against the county for causing delays to his development, failed to pursue administrative remedies before jumping into a lawsuit. In other words, Hess never appealed decisions through any one of the county department appeals processes.

Building official Scott Penson said the building department has never been contacted for any final inspections, contrary to Hess’s claims.

– Commissioners OK’d the spending of conservation trust funds from all three districts to benefit both the Kremmling and Granby little leagues. Commissioners approved $3,000 for improvements to the Kremmling little league ball field and $2,100 for the Granby little league ball field.

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