Horse Gulch Blog

Watchdogging for the greater Durango area

20 Jul 2018

Bike shop owner interferes with popular general public trail-to-forest access on Falls Creek Road

Posted by Adam Howell


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

The owner of Mountain Bike Specialists has tried blockading all of the general public from crossing a popular public trail known as Falls Creek Road.

This gate was put up by Ed Zink.

This gate was put up by Ed Zink.

Falls Creek Road is an unmaintained road that’s used as a trail connecting County Road 203 to National Forest lands and County Road 205.

Ed Zink said that he installed two new gates with signage that reads, “Trail Closed Extreme Fire Risk,” across each end of his lands where Falls Creek Road crosses over them.

The 416 Fire never burned trees on his land, Zink said.

At the same time, the Forest Service land that the Falls Creek Road crosses over next to the Zink’s land is currently open to public traffic, according to an Area Closure map provided by the Forest Service.

“No governmental entity has stepped up to manage the road. So we assume it must not be a public road even though you think it is,” said Zink. “If it were truly a public road open to the general public who do you think should be responsible for it?” said Zink.

While public officials with the County have avoided maintaining the road or calling it a County Road, they do call it a public road. Also, a district court judge in 1979 declared Falls Creek Road a public roadway through adverse possession while adjudicating a civil case involving Zink’s dad.

District Court Judge Frederic Emigh found that Falls Creek Road was a public roadway through uninterrupted use or objection on part of the owners of such lands for twenty consecutive years, citing C.R.S. 1973 43-2-201 (1) (c). The Forest Service bought the Falls Creek Archeological Area lands in the early 1990’s, according to Ed and Patti Zink.

IMG_3091[1]More importantly, Judge Emigh ordered defendants in that case to stop interfering with, harassing, or stopping members of the general public from access to, across, and along the roadway commonly known as Falls Creek Road.

Additionally, Judge Emigh ordered the defendants to remove the fence constructed on the property adjacent to their property, and to open access to said Falls Creek Road to members of the general public.

Does this sound familiar?

This same scenario is happening today, except it’s Ed Zink who is closing the road this time by interfering with access by the general public.

Durango Herald and Zink mislead public on road access

Despite the clearly articulated order from Judge Emigh to stop interfering with the general public from access to, across, or along the roadway commonly known as Falls Creek Road, both Ed Zink and The Durango Herald have irresponsibly convoluted the facts of this story.

This gate with closure signage was installed by Ed Zink on Falls Creek Road at the border with National Forest lands.

This gate with closure signage was installed by Ed Zink on Falls Creek Road at the border with National Forest lands.

In a Nov. 26, 2017 story in The Durango Herald, reporter Jonathan Romeo stated that there is no clear answer as to whether or not people can get to the Falls Creek trail system from the access road on County Road 203.

This first claim by The Durango Herald is false.

Start with a definition of general public by Merriam Webster dictionary that states: “all the people of an area, country, etc. The park is open to the general public.”

We know that Judge Emigh’s order specifies that access to Falls Creek Road by the general public should not be stopped or interfered with. Of course, accessing the road is the equivalent of using the road.

This gate is on the Bronson’s property at the base of Falls Creek Road off of County Road 203. It is easy to walk around and does not attempt to interfere with access by the general public.

This gate is on the Bronson’s property at the base of Falls Creek Road off of County Road 203.

Yet the Durango Herald story  says, “Indeed, the judge’s ruling does not specify the use of Falls Creek Road, and Zink said it is likely a lawsuit would have to resolve that.”

This second claim by The Durango Herald is a little vague, and could mislead the general public into thinking that they do not have the legal right to use or access Falls Creek Road.

Meanwhile, The Durango Herald quoted Zink, who faulted the Order’s use of the nebulous word ‘public,’ even though Zink conveniently left out the term ‘general public,’ which Emigh used repeatedly in his Order.

Law enforcement response

La Plata County Sheriff’s Sergeant Zach Farnam said that members of the general public who stay within a 30-foot easement on Falls Creek Road will not be cited for trespassing while on the road across Ed And Patti Zink’s land.

While the signage about the fire hazard that’s posted on the two new gates on the Zink’s land is realistic, Farnam said that the interference with public access to the road needs to stop.

IMG_3089[1]“More or less, we are going to recommend to them that they are probably going to need to take those gates down,” said Farnam.

Language about general public access in Judge Emigh’s court order in 1979 persuaded County officials to side with allowing public access to the Falls Creek Road, as long as people stay within that easement corridor.

“Utimately that’s what our county attorney, why we recommended to the Zinks that that needs to remain for at least some sort of limited access,” said Farnam. “Obviously you’re not going to drive a truck up it, but you know there needs to be something, because we can’t define exactly what a judge in 1979 meant. But at least in some way, shape or form, there needs to be an access.”

Ed Zink refused to say what he would do to anyone caught using Falls Creek Road across his property, or those caught removing the gates that he installed.



Falls Creek Road, Public Easement-page-001

Subscribe to Comments

2 Responses to “Bike shop owner interferes with popular general public trail-to-forest access on Falls Creek Road”

  1. Keep up the good work, HGBlog!

     

    CWA

  2. Will do! Thanks good buddy!

     

    Adam Howell

Leave a Reply

Message: