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The county has closed a four-mile section of Saxon Mountain Road above Georgetown because of safety concerns. The Board of County Commissioners approved a closure through Aug. 3, although officials …
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The county has closed a four-mile section of Saxon Mountain Road above Georgetown because of safety concerns.
The Board of County Commissioners approved a closure through Aug. 3, although officials said that it could be extended if necessary.
The road closure will be extend from the base in Georgetown until about four miles up, according to county staff. The Saxon Mountain summit and the communication towers atop it will still be accessible from alternate routes on the east side.
The commissioners asked for updates on the situation during its July 27 meeting.
During a July 20 meeting, Sheriff Rick Albers said that while he doesn't take road closures lightly, he felt that between the increase in amateur 4x4 drivers and deteriorating road conditions, it should be closed until it could be made safer.
Albers initially recommended a 90-day closure, but 4x4 community members objected, saying it would effectively end Saxon Mountain's 4x4 season several months early.
The commissioners seemed to agree that 90 days, even if it was rescinded early, was too lengthy at the outset.
Albers emphasized that he doesn't take road closures lightly, and that he didn't want to see this section of Saxon Mountain Road closed permanently.
However, he pointed out that Clear Creek emergency personnel responded to a rollover accident on Saxon Mountain Road in early July, and that there was a fatal accident on the road about 10 years ago.
“It'll never be a road, really; it'll always be a four-wheel drive road,” he continued. “But, it can be made safer for the new driver going up there.”
Road & Bridge Director Karl Schell said his department, which is already short-staffed, didn't have a formal plan yet on how to handle the safety issues.
During the meeting, members of local 4x4 groups offered to help, and the commissioners directed staff to work with them in evaluating how to improve the road conditions.
“I think we can have a much more informed conversation (in a few weeks) and come up with a strategy that people would feel more comfortable with,” Commissioner Sean Wood said, adding that he didn't want the project to be on the backburner for several months.
Albers and 4x4 community members said much of the deterioration has been there for a while, but Albers emphasized that amateur drivers don't know how to navigate those tricky spots. Plus, websites about local 4x4 routes describe the road as easy.
Branden Burden, who operates Native Jeeps and offers tours out of Idaho Springs, said he runs 20 tours a season down Saxon Mountain. While it can be intimidating, he said, “That's the thing that makes it great and special in the county.”
With a closure, he said he and his clients will have to choose other routes to descend from the top, which is doable but not ideal.
John Hegarty, an attorney representing Lawson Adventure Park, asked that the commissioners allow some time for the 4x4 groups to work with county staff on stabilizing the road, rather than closing it for the rest of the season.
J.D. Marshall, a 4x4 enthusiast who lives in Castle Rock but attended the July 20 meeting said there are five total rockslide areas along the road, and that some of these sections need work.
“There are definitely a few spots where it's a little tight … but it's nowhere near where I've seen some of the trails,” he said, arguing against a 90-day closure. “It just feels to me like a lot of this is public education and trail maintenance.”
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