This fall, equestrians galloped to the newly opened Bureau of Land Management parcel south of Summit Lake.
Access to the 2,800 acres of rolling sage-brush hills, peppered with pinon-juniper forests, had been cut off from the general public because it is hemmed in by private land.
Legal public access was developed last year in partnership with the Montezuma County Commissioners.
The BLM installed a parking lot and entrance this summer on County Road N, west of the intersection of Road 35.6. The lot was designed to accommodate horse trailers.
The nonmotorized area is designated for horse travel and foot traffic only. Bikes are not allowed, and no trails will be developed.
The area has a seasonal wildlife closure from Dec. 1 to April 30, so it is closed to all users.
The BLM has heard from horseback riders for years that they wanted a place to ride without the disruption of mountain bikers.
Local equestrians are thrilled to finally gain access to the Summit BLM parcel, said local rider Tif Rodriguez, of Mesa Verde Back Country Horsemen, in an email to The Journal.
“I have been out there hiking and horseback riding many times. The parking lot is beautiful,” she said. “The area is amazing, with so much to explore. Being I've been trying to get access to this parcel of public lands for – well, I can't remember how many years – I am thrilled that it came to fruition.”
She sent thank-you letters to BLM staff and the commissioners for the long-term effort.
“After approaching the BLM to find out how to gain access, they let me know what needed to be done,” Rodriguez’s letter to the commissioners states. “We always seemed to hit a roadblock, from road access changes to six inches of private land we couldn't cross, to being told we were not going to be able to have access. We looked at other avenues, and Summit just seemed to be the best spot to gain access. Being it's the first of its kind in the area, it's something to be proud of. Thank you for your work assisting the BLM with gaining access.”
It took a multiyear effort by the Montezuma County and BLM led to gain public access.
In 2017, county commissioners changed the red-signed private roads adjacent to the Summit Ridge BLM lands to green-signed public roads. The maneuver was based on subdivision plat language that stated the roads were for public use.
A resident of the subdivision opposed to the green-signed roads and opening up the BLM access sued the county, but the lawsuit was dismissed.
Then a potential point of access off the newly green-signed Road N had to be scrapped after land surveys revealed the county road easement missed touching BLM land by mere inches.
The final solution came in 2020 when it was discovered by county staff that County Road N could be extended a short distance along a non-exclusive subdivision easement that abuts the BLM land.
Once a legal access point was found, BLM officials conducted a planning process and approved the parking lot and public entrance.