RIDGWAY - Hoping to generate a little noise” in the news media, Ridgway mountain biker Rodney Fitzhugh came before the town council at its July 11 meeting last week to sound the alarm on renegade bike trails being built on federal and state lands. The unauthorized trails threaten the legitimate process of trail building and approval now underway, Fitzhugh said. In fact, he told council, the BLM Uncompahgre Field Office threatened to shut down the process for permitting new trails in its Travel Management Plan if the illegal trails, north of town and east of the Ridgway State Park, were not deconstructed.
Representing Ridgway Area Trails and Colorado Plateau Mountain Bike Trail Association, Fitzhugh reported, a work crew consisting of BLM and local volunteers had managed to “decommission 3-4 miles of renegade trails” sufficiently to satisfy the federal agency. For now.
Fitzhugh said the BLM asked for help from RAT and COPMOBA in getting the word out.
Additional illegal trails have been built inside the state park, Fitzhugh reported, but the Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife is taking a slightly different approach. “About a third of the land we want to build trails on is state or Bureau of Reclamation land,” he said. “Their review process is nearly complete, and they’re handling [the illegal trails] a little differently. Their approach is to get the official trails approved and built, and that should relieve the pressure on the illegal ones.”
Acknowledging the years of work that have gone into fostering good relationships and the planning of these trails, as well as the value to area cyclists, Mayor John Clark promised to get something up on the town’s website.
RIPARIAN HEALTH PROJECT COMING TO ROLLANS PARK
The Uncompahgre Watershed Partnership, with the Ouray County Weed Department and the Ridgway State Park, is planning a major riparian health push in August, according to UWP Coordinator Agnieszka Przeszlowska.
Przeszlowska outlined an ambitious schedule of plantings for Rollans Park in Ridgway next month for members of Ridgway Town Council, with the planting of cottonwood seedlings along both banks of the river downstream of the pedestrian bridge August 6-10, and the planting of willows, on the left and right banks, Aug. 13-15, and stabilization and seeding of the riverbanks with native grasses, and conducting tamarisk removal in Ridgway State Park over the same three days, as well.
“This is pretty ambitious for a two-week project,” said County Weed Manager Ron Mabry. “So we’re going to need a lot of volunteers.”
Mayor Clark spoke for the entire council when he said, “This is a great project. We’re in 100 percent support.”
Town Manager Jen Coates expressed her gratitude to UWP and suggested the town waive its $50 fee for the work permit.
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MEDICAL MARIJUANA LICENSING APPROVED
It took a warning from Town Attorney John Kappa, and a sudden reversal by two councilors, but Ridgway Town Council finally passed its promised medical marijuana licensing and regulation ordinance at its July 11 meeting.
Council agreed a month ago to lower the number of medical marijuana licenses from a proposed maximum of five for each type of business to three. But when the topic came up again last week, councilors Jason Gunning and Tim Kavanaugh thought even the reduced numbers were too high. “I’d prefer zero,” said Gunning, who teaches at the Ridgway Secondary School. “Why not reduce the number and raise it if we need to later on? We don’t even have three gas stations in Ridgway.”
Councilor Rick Weaver answered: “But we do have three liquor stores. We’ve been through this argument with them.”
Gunning: “How many people consume liquor compared to the number of people who use medical marijuana?”
Mayor John Clark: “That’s not apples to apples, Jason. Some communities don’t have any limits. You drive through Salida, it’s pretty impressive. I think I’m OK with three. But remember, I don’t vote unless there is a tie.”
Attorney Kappa recommended the council “adopt the ordinance as is,” and reminded them that it would take four votes to pass. There were only five members present. Councilor Eric Johnson was absent, and retired councilor Rich Durnan was already in Cambodia with the Peace Corps.
“What happens if we don’t pass this tonight?” Gunning asked Kappa.
Then, Kappa responded, since overarching state regulations went into effect July 1, “There is no limit” to the number of license applications Ridgway would have to entertain.
Kavanaugh voiced a sudden change of heart. “I think it’s more important to pass something than to quibble over [whether we allow] two or three.”
“Me too,” said a contrite Gunning.
“I think that’s very helpful of you,” said a relieved Mayor Clark.
As of last week, the town had received no applications for medical marijuana businesses.
COUNCIL APPOINTS NERLIN TO VACANT SEAT
With the seat vacated by Peace Corps volunteer Rich Durnan sitting empty, and Councilor Eric Johnson absent, Ridgway Town Council barely mustered a quorum at last week’s regular monthly meeting. At the end of business Wednesday night, Mayor John Clark introduced Bo James Nerlin, who had been sitting quietly in the audience, to fill the vacancy.
Nerlin is a graduate of Telluride High School, an attorney with J. David Reed, P.C. in Montrose, and a three-year resident of Ridgway.
“He comes with good qualifications and recommendations,” Clark said. “I’m excited to have Bo join us.”
Councilor Ellen Hunter moved to accept Nerlin’s nomination. Councilor Rick Weaver seconded, joking, “Just as long as I get to keep the seat I’m in now [Durnan’s old seat]. I’ve been on the outside seat for too long.” Nerlin laughed and accepted the rookie’s far outside chair.
Town Clerk Pam Kraft said, “A clarification: The appointment is just until the next town election in April 2013.”
Clark further clarified: “He’ll be sworn in next month. Welcome aboard.”