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Old 07-20-2008, 07:15 PM   #1
Osprey! OP
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Private Road... or NOT (Colorado)

Anybody know what the rules are regarding private roads in Colorado? I took a short ride today and ran into a bunch of supposedly private roads. One I knew can't be private (it's the only access to forest roads NF-220, etc) and might have been put up by an overzealous homeowner trying to keep traffic down from the trails behind his house.

This is the fake private road (near Raymond, CO) :


The following I assume are real (though how can I tell?):

Road to Noland, Stone Canyon Drive


Dakota Ride Road, near Rabbit Mountain Open Space:


and another
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Old 07-20-2008, 08:45 PM   #2
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Don't know about any of those specific roads, but I can tell you that we have the same problem in Wyoming. Landowners routinely post signs along public roads that are clearly calculated to suggest (without saying so) that the roads are private. The problem is so bad that a bunch of public land user groups got together a few years back to try and lobby the legislature to criminalize the practice. Sadly, nothing came of it.

It would sure be nice if there were some easy way to determine whether a particular road is public. The most informative signs I've seen are the ones that say: "Entering Private Land, Please Stay on the Road." They tell the story well, without pretending the road is private. Old Flowers Road above Fort Collins is a good example of the positive way to handle the problem. For Example "Road passes through private land, next X miles. Please stay on the road"
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Old 07-20-2008, 09:09 PM   #3
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Take em down?
I mean, if they're illegally put up, noone would mind if they would dissapear right?
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Old 07-20-2008, 09:24 PM   #4
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Yeah, but I can't tell what's a legit sign and what's not legit. How can you tell?
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Old 07-20-2008, 09:45 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Opie
Yeah, but I can't tell what's a legit sign and what's not legit. How can you tell?
Unfortunately, there's no easy way to tell. In Wyoming, you can check the commissioners' records at the local courthouse to find out the surveyed route of all the county roads, and get copies of the easements (or orders) establishing the road. Even then, you can get into issues regarding whether the county road has been abandoned, and reverted to private.

The forest service roads are not so easy, because the forest service is so bad about either maintaining their roads, or keeping records regarding which ones are public and private. It is not uncommom for private inholders in the forest who block a road through their property, which was built and maintained by the public long before their property was private. The Forest Service (or the public) is left to file suit to enjoin the blockage, and they usually conclude it is not worth the money to bring suit.

I just finished working on a lawsuit where this precise issue was involved, and the forest service won the suit, but they had allowed the road to remain blocked for over a decade. If they hadn't convinced the U.S. Attorney to bring suit to establish a trail along the old railroad bed passing through the same property, they would never have sued just to reopen the road.

There are several theories under which the forest service, the local county commission or the public can sue to enjoin a landowner from blocking a public road. (prescriptive easements, R.S. 2477, implied easement, simple lack of right) Sadly, the amount of historical research necessary to prevail in those suits means that few ever get brought, due to the cost. The private landowners know this, so they routinely just block the roads, and dare anyone to do anything about it.

The worst abuse I've seen in Wyoming is where a private landowner (with buddies on the county commission) will grant an easement for a county road, get the county to pay to build the road, then convince the commissioners to abandon the road later. The landowner, in the process, just got the taxpayers to build him a nice long driveway, thank you very much. I can point to a couple of these in my county.
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Old 07-20-2008, 09:56 PM   #6
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I'm starting to think I should just ignore the flippin' signs. Let 'em catch me and charge me with trespassing. Sheesh.

And the sign said anybody caught trespassing would be shot on sight
So I jumped on the fence and yelled at the house, Hey! what gives you the right
To put up a fence to keep me out or to keep mother nature in
If God was here, he'd tell you to your face, man you're some kinda sinner

Oh, sign, sign, everywhere a sign

Blockin' out the scenery, breakin' my mind
Do this, don't do that, can't you read the sign


-Signs (Five Man Electrical Band)
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Old 07-20-2008, 10:00 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Opie
I'm starting to think I should just ignore the flippin' signs. Let 'em catch me and charge me with trespassing.
Or shoot at you and bury you in the woods. If they were ballsy enough to make / buy the sign and to post it, I wouldn't feel too safe passing it.

I feel your pain. We have forest service roads here in California that are denoted on the 'official' USFS maps. When you get there, they are behind locked gates on private land (not pipe-gates, ranch-style chain-link with no-tresspassing signs).

I was 15 miles into the mountains one day and counting on one of those as an exit. I ended up on the inside of one of those gates. Luckily, there was a cut in the fence, next to the gate, and I was able to get out.
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Old 07-20-2008, 10:21 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Donkey Hotey
Or shoot at you and bury you in the woods. If they were ballsy enough to make / buy the sign and to post it, I wouldn't feel too safe passing it.

I feel your pain. We have forest service roads here in California that are denoted on the 'official' USFS maps. When you get there, they are behind locked gates on private land (not pipe-gates, ranch-style chain-link with no-tresspassing signs).

I was 15 miles into the mountains one day and counting on one of those as an exit. I ended up on the inside of one of those gates. Luckily, there was a cut in the fence, next to the gate, and I was able to get out.
Noone is going to shoot at you man, seriously.
I mean maybe, but its 2008, and its not the appalachians.
The least they would do is give you a warning shot anyway

I would just ignore the sign, especially if its on an actual road. If its a 4x4 trail or someones driveway it should be fairly obvious. If you have a map or something listing the road as a public road i doubt trespassing woudl stick to you anyway.
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Old 07-20-2008, 10:36 PM   #9
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Inane, I am sorry, but you are very wrong. In California of all places, this very situation arose where a landowner literally started shooting at riders on a public roadway. Cops showed up and went home. It pays to know folks.

If you are going to ride on those roads, bring firepower. Otherwise, I would avoid it unless you are willing to die for your viewpoint.


Sorry to say-but many of those folks that live in the hills believe that they are the judge, jury and executioner.
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Old 07-20-2008, 10:40 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Opie
I'm starting to think I should just ignore the flippin' signs. Let 'em catch me and charge me with trespassing. Sheesh.
I wouldn't recommend it. Some private owners get pretty testy. One of our local inmates found herself on a private road that was not posted in any way, and is shown on some maps as public. She came to a dead end in someone's yard, and turned around to go back to the main road. Not watching her mirrors, she suddenly found a truck blasting up beside her on the road, and about the same time she saw it beside her, the truck swerved suddenly into her, and forced her off the road (and into a pile beside it). Thankfully, she was not hurt badly, but she reported the incident to the local Sheriff anyway. When the deputy went to talk to the perp (who, interestingly was also female) the perp/landowner thought she was entirely justified in attacking a trespassing motorcyclist by ramming the bike!

In an odd twist of fate, the county is in the process of posting road names on every road in the county, and noting on the sign whether the road is private. A week after this incident, the signage crew reached this area. Today there is a sign on the road, noting that it is private. A week earlier, had the sign been there (or any sign suggesting it was private) our friend would not have bothered exploring it, and would not have got run down.

I have to admit, I have some sympathy for landowners who stop the public from using roads across their private land. I myself own land that is an inholding (surrounded by BLM public land). There is a former county road passing through my land, which was abandoned almost sixty years ago when the county paved the road, and moved it a mile north, so the new road no longer crosses my land. My land remained unfenced from the surrounding public land for those sixty years, and we only decided to fence it recently, when we gave up the grazing lease on the surrounding BLM land. (It was fine when our own cattle were hanging out in the creekbottom, but now we want to restore the riparian system, and we don't want someone elses cattle either grazing on our land, or tearing up the riparian area. We can't control how many cattle are allowed into the area now, or during what season they are there, so we have to build fences to keep them out of our private land.)

Then, of course, the question arose: do we fence across the ancient public road where it crosses onto our land? The question is made all the more important because the road crosses the creek, without any bridge. (The steel culvert that was in place when the road was abandoned sixty years ago has long since rusted away, so vehicles now drive through the creek, resulting in ruts, muck, and silt downstream.

The area is remote, and because there is a good paved road nearby, almost nobody comes across our land on the old road anymore. The county, having a nice new road nearby, has no interest in installing a culvert to keep vehicles out of the creek. In their opinon, this is no longer a county road. They haven't done any maintenance for sixty years, and it is now no more than a two-track acorss the prairie.

But a few antelope hunters still cruise through in the fall. No doubt, they will be pissed if we build a fence to keep them from crossing the creek. They will probably cut the fence year after year, until they finally give up, if they feel they have some right to drive through our land. The only creek crossing on the south is also on our land, on an abandoned railroad grade, which we must also fence to keep cattle off our land. We also must keep the public off the old railroad grade, because it is an enormous liability risk, raised some 80 feet off the creek bottom, with no guard rails, and very steep sides. Of course, we could put a gate in the fence, and post signs indicating that the land on the other side is private, and so is the road (which it is, and we have no intention of ever using it again.) We would like to reclaim the old road, and the creek crossing, and we have every legal right to do so. No doubt, though, if we do, we are going to piss off some antelope hunter who has been driving through there for years, and now has to go around to the new highway to cross the creek.

It would be an interesting case if we close the road, and someone sues us claiming a prescriptive easement. (A prescriptive easement is an unwritten easement, arising out of continued use of the road for a certain period of time, under a claim that the user had some right to use the road.) The guy who sues us would have to have evidence of the continued use, and would of course point to the most obvious: look at those well-used rutted tracks across the creek! We would of course claim that the rutted tracks across the creek are the very thing that makes it so important that we stop the trespassers, to prevent further damage.

Who knows how such a case would turn out, but it would cost the guy at least $20K in attorneys fees to get to the point where a judge makes a decision.

We still haven't decided what we will do.
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Old 07-20-2008, 10:59 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MeterPig
Inane, I am sorry, but you are very wrong. In California of all places, this very situation arose where a landowner literally started shooting at riders on a public roadway. Cops showed up and went home. It pays to know folks.

If you are going to ride on those roads, bring firepower. Otherwise, I would avoid it unless you are willing to die for your viewpoint.


Sorry to say-but many of those folks that live in the hills believe that they are the judge, jury and executioner.
I live in the hills, i know the people who own land up here, who own those kind of 'private' roads. I *am* that country bumpkin you're referring to, seriously, noones going to shoot at you. If you roll up into someones front yard they might come out on the porch and yell at you, but i can assure you noone is going to be pointing a loaded gun at a stranger anywhere i can think of.
Noone is going to shoot at you, seriously. Thats like saying dont ride on roads in LA cause some gang banger is going to start taking pot shots at you. Of course theres always the odd incident where some nut bag does start shooting, but that happens in every walk of life and theres no rule to avoiding places because people are going to shoot at you (ok maybe an active war zone).
I dont think you're doing it right if part of your riding gear for the day is a loaded gun, that might be how you roll thats fine and dandy, but i dont think a valid reason is because you roll up someones driveway on accident in broad daylight on a dirt bike in the middle of dirtbike country.

Edit partial PUI:
Its 2008, its colorado, its summer time, its broad daylight. If you seriously think people are going to be discharging lethal rounds at you for basically no reason, and that a reasonable reaction to this fear is to tote a loaded gun in public land, than i dont think i'd be too far off to say you're nuttier than a fruitcake (i do mean that in a joking manner tho dont take too much offense pig :))
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Old 07-20-2008, 11:02 PM   #12
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In case anyone is interested in a visual of the stream crossing, Roostre and I made my private steam crossing a part of the Wyoming route for the ADV Relay when PUI Bird passed through Wyoming in June. These videos will give you a sense for the current condition of the stream crossing and the ruts created by the few people who still use it.

Cowboy's mighty KLR making a splash:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qsjJ9lMe_3w

And Roostre's Ulysses, having little trouble with the stream itself, but a bit of trouble with the incline out of the creekbed, on slick street tires:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=afPWX...eature=related
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Old 07-20-2008, 11:05 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by Cowboy
In case anyone is interested in a visual of the stream crossing, Roostre and I made my private steam crossing a part of the Wyoming route for the ADV Relay when PUI Bird passed through Wyoming in June. These videos will give you a sense for the current condition of the stream crossing and the ruts created by the few people who still use it.

Cowboy's mighty KLR making a splash:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qsjJ9lMe_3w

And Roostre's Ulysses, having little trouble with the stream itself, but a bit of trouble with the incline out of the creekbed, on slick street tires:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=afPWX...eature=related
Is it possible to put up some sort of steel grating up and over the creek to prevent mud and silt, or is it more the general land usage that you'reunsettled about?
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Old 07-20-2008, 11:18 PM   #14
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I'd be very careful what "private roads" you cruise, even if they're marked public on the map. Remote meth labs, pot farms, militia camps, urban gangs on vacation (yeah, that's funny but I've seen 'em at Caribou) or me on a bad day are all possibly waiting for you down that road. There are too many disrespectfull buttheads (re: Orange Mafia post, theft posts, etc) riding around for landowners to give a damn that you're "just innocent/ignorant". On a hot summer Saturday, I might just let off a round or two before trying to argue with another flatlander. And who knows? You may be a not so innocent snooper; guy I know had his rifle, chain saw, and xr600 stolen by guys outside of Taos the he'd seen doing recon early in the week.
Best Advice: Know your Territory, or recon on foot.
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Old 07-20-2008, 11:55 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Inane Cathode
Is it possible to put up some sort of steel grating up and over the creek to prevent mud and silt, or is it more the general land usage that you're unsettled about?
The creek floods big time in the spring, which is part of the reason the county quit maintaining it. That creek, as tame as it may look in the videos, runs four feet deep and 100 feet wide when the snow melts upstream in the Wind River mountains. Any culvert or cattle-guard-like grating over the creek would wash away, or get undermined every spring. I'm unwilling to spend much money on improvements or maintenance for the benefit of trespassers whose presence on my land creates liability problems. Remember that I don't intend to ever use that old road in the future. I want to reclaim it, and get rid of the scar, not just in the creek bottom, but up the hillside above the creek.

I'm also concerned about theft and vandalism, as I'm planning to build a cabin on the land near the creek crossing.

Cowboy screwed with this post 07-21-2008 at 12:01 AM
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