Grand County Commissioners are continuing work on re-opening Rollins (Corona) Pass.
The commissioners, along with Gilpin County, sent a letter addressed to Boulder County Commissioners on Wednesday, Nov. 27, addressing concerns raised by Boulder interests in opening the road to vehicular traffic.
Rollins Pass is a historic mountain road linking Highway 40 near Winter Park to the town of Rollinsvile in Gilpin County. It occasionally passes through Boulder County. Much of the road remains open to high-clearance, four-wheel drive vehicles, except for portions on the east side of the road and areas near Needle’s Eye Tunnel. Boulder County closed the tunnel in 1990 after a falling rock injured a traveler and resulted in an $85,000 lawsuit.
Grand and Gilpin Counties have been working to improve and re-open the road for two-wheel drive traffic since the U.S. Congress and Bush Administration passed the James Peak Wilderness and Protection Act in 2002. The act allowed for an exception for Rollins Pass, and by the request of Grand, Gilpin or Boulder Counties, allowed for federal technical assistance and cooperation in repairing and reopening the road. But Boulder County took issue over both the road’s liability and potential impacts to adjoining wilderness.
Boulder County’s resistance has effectively blocked efforts to re-open the mountain pass. On Thursday, Dec. 12, Grand County and Boulder County commissioners will meet to further discuss their goals and concerns. Grand County’s board of commissioners sent the letter ahead of the meeting to address three of Boulder County’s main concerns.
Regarding liability, Grand County is recommending either a tunnel authority be formed or Grand and Gilpin Counties join to assume all risk.
To fund improvements for the tunnel and road, as well as ongoing maintenance, Grand County commissioners also suggest either a tunnel authority or partnership between Grand and Gilpin. The counties could also turn to grants for funding, the letter said.
And to address environmental preservation, Grand County commissioners recommend installing signs, working with the U.S. Forest Service on enforcement and patrols, utilizing environmental groups in designing the road, and placing barriers along the route to keep drivers from going off-road.
Leia Larsen can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19603.