The Decalibron 14ers Are Closing Again

Information on current and past 14er closures, usually due to private property issues.
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amderr22
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The Decalibron 14ers Are Closing Again

Post by amderr22 »

The Decalibron 14ers Are Closing Again Indefinitely...

This is sad to report, but not a shock after this week's developments.

From the Colorado Sun: https://coloradosun.com/2023/03/03/land ... -democrat/
“I have been advised by my own attorneys on several occasions that I am rolling the dice by leaving these peaks open,” said John Reiber, who has spent years working with the Town of Alma, the Forest Service, and Colorado hiking groups to keep trails on his land on Mount Democrat and Mount Lincoln open for the roughly 33,000 visitors hiking the DeCaliBron Loop every year. “Now I do plan to close the 14ers for access. Without any regulatory support … I just can no longer take on the level of risk in case someone gets hurt and wants to sue me.”
The Decalibron 14ers are closing again to public access - this time indefinitely. This includes Mount Democrat, Lincoln, and Bross. While Mount Cameron is on USFS land, it can only be reached by passing through closed private land - leaving it effectively closed as well. I reached out to the owners and they confirmed this info is accurate. The closure is a result of the defeat of SB 103 yesterday; a full article about the situation is being published by the Colorado Sun on March 3.

SB 103, a bipartisan bill, would've strengthened liability protections for landowners who allow public access to their land for outdoor recreation, but it died in the Senate Judiciary Committee on a 3-2 vote. This closure is a sad development, but I don't blame the owners for taking action based on the legal advice they've received, especially after the way the state ignored their concerns and their good faith efforts to find a compromise that would protect access.

The coalition of organizations supporting SB 103 remains committed to restoring and protecting public access to the Decalibron and Mount Lindsey, and will likely re-introduce the bill in the future.

In the meantime, please respect the closure to avoid accidentally undermining this collaborative effort (no pun intended). If you're angry or upset - as I am - I recommend emailing the three Colorado state senators who voted against SB 103 to share how you feel. They are Senator Roberts, Senator Rodriguez, and Senator Gonzalez.

Link to Article Sneak Peek: https://mailchi.mp/coloradosun/outsider-471964
Background Info: https://www.denverpost.com/2023/03/02/c ... liability/
Last edited by amderr22 on Fri Mar 03, 2023 8:38 am, edited 4 times in total.
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Re: The Decalibron 14ers Are Closing Again

Post by cottonmountaineering »

i have mixed feelings about this, on one hand its a bummer our society is so litigious that it has come to this, on the other i think if coloradans really want access to these places, the state should try to buy out the landowners. the bill seems like a crummy middle ground that doesnt solve the actual problem. most of the landowners on the high altitude peaks are sitting on 150 year old mining claims just sitting on the land hoping to be bought out.

https://legiscan.com/CO/text/SB103/2023

Bill linked if anyone wants to read
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Re: The Decalibron 14ers Are Closing Again

Post by amderr22 »

cottonmountaineering wrote: Thu Mar 02, 2023 8:39 pm i have mixed feelings about this, on one hand its a bummer our society is so litigious that it has come to this, on the other i think if coloradans really want access to these places, the state should try to buy out the landowners. the bill seems like a crummy middle ground that doesnt solve the actual problem

https://legiscan.com/CO/text/SB103/2023

Bill linked if anyone wants to read
The main landowner concern comes down a single word that creates a big exemption in the state's liability protection: If owners "WILLFULLY" or maliciously fail to warn or guard against a dangerous condition, they lose liability protection. In a court case several years ago, a bicyclist hit a washed-out section of trail and got injured, proved that the Air Force Academy knew about it but didn't close the trail, and won $7 million. The CMC, CFI, and landowners wanted to strike that word from the law - "willfully" - in addition to some less controversial changes, like stipulating that risks inherent to outdoor recreation are also not grounds for action (falling, lightning, hypothermia, etc.).

The removal of willful from the act would have essentially closed that loophole, and 14er landowners and their attorneys agreed that the changes were enough for them to feel protected and restore or maintain open access.

It really was a nice, long-term solution.

These Taking Points from the Colorado Mountain Club goes into detail about the bill's provisions and why they support it: https://advocacyassets.congressplus.net ... Points.pdf
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Re: The Decalibron 14ers Are Closing Again

Post by cottonmountaineering »

amderr22 wrote: Thu Mar 02, 2023 8:52 pm
cottonmountaineering wrote: Thu Mar 02, 2023 8:39 pm i have mixed feelings about this, on one hand its a bummer our society is so litigious that it has come to this, on the other i think if coloradans really want access to these places, the state should try to buy out the landowners. the bill seems like a crummy middle ground that doesnt solve the actual problem

https://legiscan.com/CO/text/SB103/2023

Bill linked if anyone wants to read
The main landowner concern comes down a single word that creates a big exemption in the state's liability protection: If owners "WILLFULLY" or maliciously fail to warn or guard against a dangerous condition, they lose liability protection. In a court case several years ago, a bicyclist hit a washed-out section of trail and got injured, proved that the Air Force Academy knew about it but didn't close the trail, and won $7 million. The CMC, CFI, and landowners wanted to strike that word from the law - "willfully" - in addition to some less controversial changes, like stipulating that risks inherent to outdoor recreation are also not grounds for action (falling, lightning, hypothermia, etc.).

The removal of willful from the act would have essentially closed that loophole, and 14er landowners and their attorneys agreed that the changes were enough for them to feel protected and restore or maintain open access.

It really was a nice, long-term solution.

These Taking Points from the Colorado Mountain Club goes into detail about the bill's provisions and why they support it: https://advocacyassets.congressplus.net ... Points.pdf
thanks for your detailed and thoughtful reply. do you have any insight on why the landowners want to keep the land, if its not used for any purpose by them?
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Re: The Decalibron 14ers Are Closing Again

Post by amderr22 »

cottonmountaineering wrote: Thu Mar 02, 2023 8:55 pm
thanks for your detailed and thoughtful reply. do you have any insight on why the landowners want to keep the land, if its not used for any purpose by them?
Yeah, in a nutshell, there are three barriers to the state buying the land.

First, the owners aren't really in a rush to sell. Some of the lands has been passed down through several generations in their family and represent decades of their family's toil and sweat - and the owners truly feel like they are caretakers of the land so it can be protected and passed on to the next generation. They have no desire to shut down access and enjoy sharing it with the public - but also want to hold on to it for their children and grandchildren. It's sentimental.

Second, the government and owners couldn't come to an agreement on what constitutes a fair price. There's gold in them there hills - literally. Mines on Mount Lincoln produced tons of gold and silver. But nobody really knows how much gold and silver there is - and whether or not it would ever be economically feasible to recover. Without an expensive and invasive mining survey to provide data on the mineral worth of the land, the government can legally only offer a relatively low price for it - low enough that the owners feel like accepting it would be like spitting on their father's and grandfather's legacy.

Third - if the government attempted to take the land using eminent domain, the process could last a decade - and the owners would likely close the peaks to access throughout the process, with stricter enforcement than in the past. There's also no certainty the state would win, as I couldn't find any legal precedents for using eminent domain actions to seize mountain summits. They'd likely succeed eventually, but there'd be a lot of opportunities for appeals since it would be legal uncharted waters.

Hence why a legislative fix seemed like the right way to go - one of the only compromises that everyone could get on board with.
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Re: The Decalibron 14ers Are Closing Again

Post by ekalina »

I don't see much hope for us on these access issues unfortunately. The state legislators are likely to continue caving to the special interests that don't want any changes made to the law and are bankrolling people to make sure it doesn't happen. There aren't enough voters that care about this niche issue to matter. It would take at least ten minutes to even explain to the average citizen what the problem is, and then the finger wagging will start about how we shouldn't expect to access private land in the first place.

I think the only way is what cotton mountaineering suggested - a fundraiser is needed so we can buy out the landowners. I would gladly contribute. The 14ers should be in the public domain anyway. Sure, *maybe* there's precious metals on their land, maybe the land holds sentimental value. But both of those things have a price tag associated with them. If the state can't offer the right price, maybe another organization can with the help of crowdfunding, and then donate the land to the public.
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Re: The Decalibron 14ers Are Closing Again

Post by climbingcue »

ekalina wrote: Thu Mar 02, 2023 9:24 pm I don't see much hope for us on these access issues unfortunately. The state legislators are likely to continue caving to the special interests that don't want any changes made to the law and are bankrolling people to make sure it doesn't happen.
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Re: The Decalibron 14ers Are Closing Again

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Re: The Decalibron 14ers Are Closing Again

Post by BillMiddlebrook »

^Carry on

The bill failing in committee seemed inevitable from what I read, lack of Democrat support, and the small window of off-season time the public had to react. /
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Re: The Decalibron 14ers Are Closing Again

Post by Ptglhs »

How do they plan to enforce this? Kite lake campground is public. A good bit of the trail is also public. The private areas are high in the alpine. Are they just planning on putting no trespassing signs or actually employing the culebra Gestapo with drones, guns, and ATVs to threaten and kidnap trespassers?
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Re: The Decalibron 14ers Are Closing Again

Post by Ericsheffey »

Alex,

Thanks for sharing, and all the work you've put into this issue over the years. Do you know which parcels in particular would be "closed"? I'm looking at the private land overlay on Gaia trying to see what could be affected (admittedly with attention to the area below the Lincoln Amphitheater/Lincoln Falls since there's still another month or two of viable ice climbing there).

Is John tied to the parcels that are listed as owned by Earth Energy Resources, LLC? As far as I can tell, it seems Earth Energy Resources, Duke Resources, and several private landowners own parcels across that land (i.e. Parcels listed as owned by Leszek Zajac, etc). Are these other entities/owners closing their parts of the land as well?
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Re: The Decalibron 14ers Are Closing Again

Post by RichH »

Very disappointing that this bill failed. If you are a large landowner there is no possible way to post signs everywhere and prevent people from getting injured in rough areas. There should be absolutely no ability to sue the landowner for any accident on their land. If you are an amusement park and charge for entry, then I agree you should be responsible for providing a safe environment. Everyone here that wants to see private land remain open should directly contact the state senators who voted against this bill.
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