Caution needed at dangerous intersection

By Tamie Meck


Caution needed at dangerous intersection | Paonia, roads

Photo by Tamie Meck A truck passes the intersection of Crawford and Stewart Mesa roads near Paonia. The intersection is considered by many to be among the most dangerous in Delta County. Crosses on the left side of the photo memorialize the place where a

There is hardly a person in the North Fork area who hasn't been affected by a wreck at the intersection of Crawford and Stewart Mesa roads.

On May 18, Paonia resident Doug Griffis was involved in one. Griffis was traveling north on Crawford Road shortly after noon on his 2000 Harley-Davidson motorcycle, according to Trooper Nate Reid with the Colorado State Patrol. The driver of a 2010 Lincoln MKS traveling southbound failed to see him and initiated a left turn. Griffis hit the passenger side of the Lincoln, suffering serious injuries, said Trooper Reid.

Griffis' wife, Kim Venard, writing through Facebook messages, said he suffered a broken femur, a deeply bruised shoulder and a deep gash on his knee. While he faces months of recovery, she said he's lucky to be alive.

The family of Crawford residents Gill and Donna Saunders wasn't so lucky. They lost 27-year-old son Jacob when a pickup ran a stop sign on Dec. 17, 2013. Saunders, a Delta County native and girls' basketball coach, died at the scene, leaving his parents, four siblings and a young son behind.

Other longtime locals recall numerous wrecks over the years. In 1962, two 16-year-old Paonia sophomores, Jim Rozman and Richard Schroeder, were killed after a car traveling north on Crawford Road at a high rate of speed broadsided their vehicle. Saunders said his family now avoids the intersection altogether.

Jim Rozman's brother, Al Rozman of Paonia, said Schroeder was killed instantly. His brother survived and was taken to the Hotchkiss clinic before being airlifted to Grand Junction, where he passed away. Al Rozman said Jim told him at the clinic that they came to a complete stop before entering the intersection, but couldn't see the oncoming due to dense vegetation until it was too late. A page in the 1962 Eyre yearbook is dedicated to the two students.

A few years back Delta County cut the fences back and cleared vegetation, said Rozman. "I thought that was a big improvement."

Delta County commissioners are aware of the concerns, but don't have any immediate plans for changes, said commissioner Mark Roeber, who represents the North Fork area. "It's just about people being more careful and aware of what they're doing," said Roeber.

Doug Griffis said a roundabout would fix the intersection, although he knows that's not likely to happen. He wasn't the only patient at the Denver hospital where he was admitted who was there after being hit on a motorcycle, and he asks people to be more aware of motorcycles when they're driving, said Venard.

Following Saunders' death, rumble strips, raised markers that alert motorists of something up ahead by causing vehicles to vibrate, were installed in both directions of Stewart Mesa Road. Gill Saunders said more needs to be done.

Saunders, a former Crawford trustee, said he wants to see more done to make the intersection safe, including creating a four-way stop and reducing the speed limit. "Short of someone patrolling it, you're probably not going to change it much," he said. Saunders said a family friend also lost his wife and child at the intersection shortly before he and his family moved to Crawford 30 years ago. Realistically, said Saunders, whose father taught driver's education for 30 years, "If people that drive do so irresponsibly, then you're always going to have these wrecks."