Friday, December 11, 2020

St. Mary's Glacier parking - who really owns what?

If you're an old timer like me, parking at St. Mary's Glacier these days is a thorny issue. The local HOA/landowners closed all street parking and put in very crowded $5/car parking lots, along with threatening tow-away signs. They did it, obviously, to try to manage the huge numbers of people who visit these days. And the porta-pottys are really needed.
But the hikers who don't clean up after their dogs and the the ones who break glass all over the place have really made the place ugly and stinky. All of which makes the enforced parking more awful.

Here's what I've been doing since the late 80's: I take a direct line to St. Marys (blue line on the map below) that I call "The Elevator" — 800ft horizontal by the map with 300 ft of elevation gain (36˚ average). The hike is gorgeous and quiet and smells like a forest.

The problem is that the no parking signs say that little scrap of road at the start of the elevator is closed OR ELSE. Older USGS topo maps and the current Forest Service topo maps say that road is on Forest Service land which would mean it can't be closed by the HOA. That would make it a typical dirty trick to prevent people from having access or using public land – essentially a way to appropriate and privatize a public asset. I've seen it many times before.

Here's the official Forest Service online map of that area:

So this all looks good for parking there until you pull up the Clear Creek County online ownership map:

Uh oh. WTH! The road's not Forest Service? So maybe the HOA can call the tow trucks...

In fact, a whole bunch of things look very odd indeed: the "roads" shown on the left side of the main development area are rugged, steep, high clearance, low range gear 4WD roads. And a whole bunch of these plots are basically rocky cliffs with no realistic way to ever develop them. And what's the deal with that Columbine mine plot up top there? The debris pile isn't even on the property. Really? What gives?

google maps satellite view:,-105.6418074,2560m/data=!3m1!1e3

Clear Creek County GIS mapping:

US Forest Service topo maps:

USGS Topo map, Empire CO Quad (which doesn't show ownership boundaries):