Yucca House Monument faces fight over access

Only road slated for abandonment hearing

A National Park Service ranger leads a recent tour of Yucca House National Monument. Enlargephoto

Cortez Journal file photo

A National Park Service ranger leads a recent tour of Yucca House National Monument.

A landowner is requesting that the only public road to Yucca House National Monument be abandoned by Montezuma County.

The monument, which was established in 1919, is surrounded by the 1,285-acre Box Bar Ranch LLC, registered to Joe Keesee.

The only public access to Yucca House is via County Road 20.5, that takes off to the north from County Road B. The road travels through the ranch for a mile to the monument entrance.

“The request to vacate the road is because it is disturbing agricultural activities,” said LeeAnn Milligan, director of county planning.

Larry Pickens farms the land around the monument. He is listed as a Box Bar Ranch agent and applicant for the road abandonment.

According to the application, the road causes Pickens great hardship and financial loss. It further states that because the road is used by the general public, vehicles are traveling through his property, damaging irrigation equipment and crops. Pickens also states parked vehicles of visitors prevent him from traveling the road with farm equipment.

Yucca House is managed by Mesa Verde National Park. Historic public access has been along Road 20.5, said park superintendent Cliff Spencer.

“The property changed hands in 2005, and the new owners have taken this action,” Spencer said. “Our plan is to continue to provide public access while respecting the privacy of the landowner.”

The monument is relatively unknown. There are no signs directing tourists to the monument. Most visitors find out about it while visiting Mesa Verde, which offers tours of the 800-year-old pueblo.

There are potential alternative access points to the monument, but they have yet to be developed.

Spencer said a landowner to the south of the monument has filed an intent to donate property to the monument. If the deal goes through it could offer a new access point.

Also, the monument owns a sliver of land that connects to County Road B to the south. The connection was meant to eventually become an access point but there is no road in place. If a new road to the monument were to be developed there, Road B would need improvements to connect to it because it crosses arroyos and Navajo Wash.

County officials are researching Road 20.5 to see whether there are recorded easements along its length in property deeds.

The 35-acre Pueblo site at Yucca House includes 600 rooms, more than 100 kivas, several towers, multiple plazas, unexplained structures, and one great kiva. Increasing interest in the monument caused the park service to begin offering tours this summer and fall.

“It was a significant village along the Montezuma Valley, and a major transportation corridor to the Mancos and San Juan Rivers, and around to Mesa Verde,” said Jill Blumenthal, an interpretive ranger.

A public hearing on the request to abandon County Road 20.5 is scheduled for Sept. 8 at 1:30 p.m. in the commissioners hearing room.

jmimiaga@cortezjournal.com

A stabilized wall at Yucca House National Monument. Enlargephoto

Cortez Journal file photo

A stabilized wall at Yucca House National Monument.

Yucca House Monument is a good way to see a large, unexcavated archaeological site. Enlargephoto

Cortez Journal file photo

Yucca House Monument is a good way to see a large, unexcavated archaeological site.