County focusing on historical roads

Routes would get uniquely designed signs

A mock-up of a sign proposed by the county for local roadways.

Montezuma County is beginning a campaign to sign historical roads that cross onto public lands.

Based on independent research, officials have identified 10 to 15 roads that qualify as historical because they predate the 1976 Federal Land and Management Policy Act ( FLMPA).

Signs are being designed that will have the original road name and an image of transportation methods such as stage coaches and wagons.

"Putting up these signs is in the spirit of these roads historically being used for transportation," said road supervisor Rob Englehart.

The list of roads is still being worked out, but it includes the Goodman Point Road, Country Road 10, Haycamp Road, Dolores-Norwood Road and Transfer Park Road.

"They will be installed before the roads cross onto public lands," said commissioner Larry Don Suckla. "Several counties are doing this to show historic right of way."

In the early 20th century, the routes were used for the Ackerman Stagecoach Line and Kelly's Freight stagecoach.

"The wagon trains and original roads that they relied on were a key aspect of local and regional trade," said commissioner Keenan Ertel.

The signs will be either 18 inches by 24 inches, or 24 inches by 30 inches and cost between $35 and $50 each. Commissioners discussed including the official road name on the signs and legal language on the penalties of theft of the signs.

Few pictures for use on the signs are available, and the county encourages the public to submit images of roads in the area being used by horses, mules, stagecoaches or old vehicles.

"The more we have to work with the better," said James Dietrich, community services director.

The Southwest Public Lands Coalition plans to assert county jurisdiction on roads within the BLM's Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, a 64,000-acre swath of federal land.

Group member Dennis Atwater will present evidence during Monday's commissioner meeting indicating county jurisdiction on roads within the monument.

"Our research shows that 90 percent of roads in the monument are county jurisdiction and were in use before 1976," he said.

SPLC says the BLM can't legally close a road outside their jurisdiction. Atwater said a number of closures in the monument violate this premise.

Activists cite Revised Statute 2477 as the authority for keeping roads on federal land open. The 1866 statute states "the right of way for the construction of highways across public lands not otherwise reserved for public purposes is hereby granted." The law was repealed in 1976.

SPLC plans to propose putting up road signs on monument roads that show the MC symbol for the county and an RS2477 reference.

"A lot of those roads on the monument are clearly county roads by law and have a 60-foot right of way," Atwater said. "It is important for the traveling public to know they are on a historical road and not get cited."

A mock-up of a sign proposed by the county for local roadways. Enlargephoto

Courtesy Montezuma County

A mock-up of a sign proposed by the county for local roadways.