Hikers of Gold Hill Road on the Upper Bear Creek Basin in San Miguel County won’t have to worry about not being able to access those trails near Telluride.
That’s because the Colorado Supreme Court last week denied a review of a Court of Appeals decision that upheld a San Miguel District Court’s ruling to keep access through the area open to the public.
The case, which dates back several years, stems from an attempt by the Gold Hill Development Co., and one of its owners, Thomas Chapman, to block access across two mining claims.
Grand Junction attorney Earl Rhodes, who represented San Miguel County in the case, said the high court decision puts an end to the whole matter.
“My view is that this is the end of the road for Mr. Chapman,” Rhodes said.
“He has lost and there is now an award against him for costs. There is now a published decision by the Colorado Court of Appeals that provides guidance to the state of Colorado and affirms the right of the public to use trails in the high country.”
The area is a popular one for serious backcountry hikers and has been highlighted in numerous outdoors publications.
As a result of the decision, the company now owes the county and other defendants in the case $67,000 in court costs.
The case began when Chapman’s company sued Telluride Ski & Golf LLC and TSG Asset Holdings over the use of mining claims in the area.
Later, the county got involved in the case and even spent $186,000 in parks and open space money to finance the case.
“It is a relief that the litigation is over and the trail remains open to the public,” said San Miguel County Commissioner Amy Levek. “This really is a big win for public access and the recreational uses so valued by those who live and visit here.
“Kudos to the county staff and others who did some amazing historical research to show that the county and public had legal access to the Gold Hill Development Co. parcel,” she added. “While I respect property rights, there are times when government needs to stand firm and not be bullied. We’re grateful that the court system agreed.”