Access to Canyons of the Ancients National Monument has been reduced somewhat by the abandonment of a portion of County Road Y by the Montezuma County Commissioners.
After a public hearing Nov. 15, commissioners agreed to abandon the last 3.1 miles of Road Y, which had provided an access point through the monument from the northeast.
“There’s nobody living down there. It is not necessary for the county to maintain,” said Commissioner Gerald Koppenhafer.
The county road had crossed a private property inholding within the monument, southwest of Pleasant View.
Because of the county’s decision to abandon the road, that section no longer holds a green-road public access status on the county road map. It has now been changed to a red road, private status that does not provide a public right of way.
Access across the private property is restricted and is controlled with a locked gate.
Road Y north of the private land boundary will revert to BLM controlled road 4531A, which remains open to the public.
County Road Y still provides access to the monument by connecting to Road 9.2 (BLM Road 4531c) on Mockingbird Mesa.
The section of Road Y that was abandoned has been on the county road map since 1953, said County GIS Manager Doug Roth, and was realigned in the 1980s.
In February 2021, a dispute over Road Y crossing through private property arose between the county and landowner Ken Laymon of Cortez LLC.
He claimed the road was not public and installed a locked gate across it. The commissioners at the time argued that the locked gate across a green-signed road was illegal and requested that it be removed.
In 2021, Commissioners Jim Candelaria, Joel Stevenson and Kent Lindsay directed the county attorney and county Road Manager Rob Englehart to contact the landowner and request that he immediately open the gate and leave it open.
They also set a timeline of 30 days for the landowner to remove the gate.
In 2018, a party touring the monument by vehicle from the south was relying on the road to exit the area, Englehart said. They came across the locked gate at Road Y and were forced to turn around.
Layman told the county he was allowed to lock the gate based on a 2005 agreement with the Bureau of Land Management that allows BLM access only. The county claimed that agreement was void because the green-signed road was in place before 2005.
“The discussion was, did (the county) ever procure a right of way through the Cortez, LLC,” Roth said.
After a review of the case, the county decided to abandon the 3.1 section of Road Y, which then allowed the section across private property to become a red private road.
Road Y will continue to be a county road into Canyons of the Ancients just past Road 9.2 to provide recreational access, Roth said. He noted there are also other ways for the public to access those areas of the monument.
In a Nov. 2 email to the county, Canyons of the Ancients National Monument Manager Ray O’Neil stated that if the section of Road Y was vacated by the county, “the BLM would continue to manage BLM Road 4531A to the boundary of the private property.”
In a Nov. 4 email to the county, John Zimmerhackel, who owns property to the west of Laymon, said historically he has been able access his property via the road through Laymon’s land, and that arrangement is expected to continue. Zimmerhackel stated he will be on the list of people who have the gate lock combination.
During public comment, Zimmerhackel asked whether BLM Road 4532 south of the Layman’s property boundary would continue to be maintained but the answer was not known.
The Journal reached out to the monument manager on the matter, but has not received a response.