2011 began with Chapman publishing what he envisions as the future of Bear Creek. Using Google Earth satellite technology, the vision lays out the possibilities of an expanded Telluride Ski Area, one that includes as many as five new lifts in Bear Creek, off the area’s backside. Chapman said in interviews at the time that Gold Hill Development Company, in which he is a partner, can do what it has the right to do as the owner of mining claims in Bear Creek. No plans for the claims have been ruled out, Chapman said, adding that GHDC principal partner Ron Curry is interested in opening a small silver mine on them.
Then, too, there is the possibility of building a ski hut, he said. Or even having a mine and a ski hut built together on the lands. Of course, the mine could turn out to be a bust, and devalue the mining parcels; without a thriving ski industry, the ski hut could go bust, as well. But then, perhaps one or both might succeed, and raise the value of the parcels. GHDC filed a complaint against Telski in January seeking the right to utilize, maintain, repair and improve the Gold Hill Road.
According to the GHDC complaint, the Gold Hill Road begins in the Town of Telluride and switchbacks southward until it intersects with the ski area’s See Forever Run, then continues south up the Gold Hill Ridge, then enters Bear Creek Basin, where it ends on the Little Bessie Lode. If the complaint is deemed valid by the court, then maintenance of the road, including winter plowing, could have serious ramifications for some of the ski area’s most popular intermediate runs. The GHDC claims to have the right to “cross, use, maintain, repair, and improve the Gold Hill Road” where it crosses Telski property, and that while both GHDC and Telski have rights to the use of Gold Hill Road, Telski’s rights are “junior and inferior” to GHDC’s.
Because Telski disputes GHDC’s claim, the complaint asks for a judicial determination and declaration of the two parties’ rights and obligations to the Gold Hill Road. Over the summer, public use of the popular Wasatch Trail became a flash point. The trail crosses GHDC’s mining claims in Bear Creek, and Chapman said armed guards were posted there to keep trespassers off.
The Telluride Mountain Club, on the other hand, believes the trail remains open for public use.
“We have been working very hard to spread the word that the trail is open,” TMC President Tor Anderson said. “Tom Chapman has been getting the perception out there that the trail is closed. We are urging people to get out and enjoy their public land. Respect private property rights, but enjoy public lands. The trail is open.”
With no result yet from the legal dispute between GHDC and Telski, GHDC Principal Ron Curry last month said he plans to build an environmentally friendly “pod” on the mining claims and is seeking a permit to do so through San Miguel County.
If history serves as an example, the fireworks in Bear Creek with Chapman and Co. aren’t over yet.