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Teller County to declare more roads public

Teller County to declare more roads public In a move that could further stir passions over public-land use and private-property rights, Teller County's board of commissioners is studying whether to declare up to 33 roads around the county as public rights-of-way under an obscure but controversial federal law.

The commissioners will be discussing the plan at their Thursday, May 13, meeting at 9:15 a.m. in the Teller County Centennial Building in Cripple Creek.

A federal law dating from 1866, known as RS 2477, allows local governments to claim rights-of-way across public lands, and in some cases private lands, where roads have historically existed.

Considered open to many different interpretations due to its vague language, the law has sparked a number of legal battles in recent years. Environmentalists say the law is used to make bogus right-of-way claims across wilderness areas. Many private landowners, meanwhile, have complained about local governments declaring roads across their land to be public.

The Colorado Legislature recently passed a resolution calling upon Congress to sort out the mess, and Congressman Mark Udall of Boulder has already proposed a law that would give local governments a four-year deadline to assert new claims under RS 2477.

Curt Logsdon, Teller County's transportation director, said Udall's proposal has sparked the county's desire to start figuring out which roads might be protected for public use under the statute.

"It's to make sure that citizens have access to public lands," Logsdon said.

The issue has also been brought to commissioners' attention by an ongoing battle between the county and Divide resident Darwin Floyd, who has fought attempts by the county to declare a road across his private property as a public right-of-way. The Independent first reported Floyd's situation last Nov. 13 (The story, Rules of the road, can be read online at www. csindy.com/csindy/2003-11-13/news.html. )

In a case set for trial next week, the district attorney's office for El Paso and Teller counties is prosecuting Floyd on criminal charges for blocking the road in question. Floyd, who says the county has no legitimate claim to the road, has threatened to sue the county for trespass, false and malicious prosecution, misconduct and violations of his constitutional rights.

-- Terje Langeland

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