Driveway would damage public lands

I was extremely dismayed recently to learn that the 530 acres popularly known as the Falls Creek Recreational Area, or Hidden Valley, is the subject of a private proposal to the U.S. Forest Service, which owns the land. The proposal is for a private landowner to build a private approximately 0.5-mile road/driveway and utility corridor through its northern meadow. The Forest Service is seriously considering it. The road would course from County Road 205 through the meadow, down through the forest east toward County Road 203.

The USFS purchased the land in 1992 after a years-long complicated and masterful effort by dedicated local residents, conservancy groups, Native American tribes, congressmen, county officials, outdoors enthusiasts and our USFS. The preservation of Hidden Valley by virtue of the cooperation of so many varied groups was termed a “miracle,” and it likely would be impossible to repeat in these troubled times. Yet we enjoy the foresight of all those individuals and groups today.

The clear intent when the Forest Service purchased the land (for well more than $1 million) was stated repeatedly by all involved: to preserve and steward this historical land, based upon its uncommon beauty, significant and unique archaeological sites, its remarkable wildlife, wetlands and superb nonmotorized recreational value.

A corridor dug into the countryside certainly would scar this area. It would cause irreparable harm to its inherent beauty, to the wildlife and to the wetlands. Constructing such a road is absolutely contrary to the intent of the Forest Service’s long self-pronounced responsibility to preserve this land. It would open the area to potential significant abuse of the archaeological sites, negatively impacting wildlife and wetlands, with certain damage to the trail system (it would cross and potentially obliterate some existing trails). Such a road would degrade the natural aesthetics and the public utility of the area, in the service of private development.

Please let the local USFS and our elected officials know if you believe the Forest Service must deny the proposal to construct a road and utility corridor that would cut across Falls Creek Archaeological Area.

Gary Ruggera

Durango

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