It is very sad when an auto accident takes the lives of pedestrians — but downright tragic when that accident was preventable, long predicted, and entirely unnecessary. The loss of two lives on Highway 65 on Grand Mesa Saturday, Jan. 5, is one of those tragic accidents that never needed to happen.
And it will happen again — more lives will be lost — until the U.S. Forest Service, Mesa and Delta counties, and CDOT behave responsibly and reduce highway speeds at the trailhead and build a long-requested parking lot to serve the public at County Line on Grand Mesa.
For more than nine years private persons and the Grand Mesa Nordic Council have implored the USFS and other agencies to rebuild the County Line parking lot away from the highway. Many GMNC members have worked long hours with the agencies to get this parking lot project rolling. Nine years is a long time! In those nine years the non-profit, volunteer Nordic Council has developed and improved many miles of ski trails on the mesa; purchased grooming equipment; employed groomers and ski instructors; offered super-low-cost lessons and ski rentals to local children; organized and hosted a citizen ski race series each winter; and provided an outstanding recreation area for locals AT NO COST! Anybody can show up and ski or snowshoe at the trails on Grand Mesa, for free; and hundreds do so, each winter weekend. It is a choice ski area, and it is all thanks to volunteer local labor! (The Nordic Council is NOT publicly funded, but relies on memberships, grants, and bake sales.)
Late last summer I drove over the mesa and was aghast to see that the long-discussed parking lot expansion STILL was undone. Like many other skiers, I made a call to the Forest Service and talked to a recreation specialist. There was a lot of hemming and hawing. Finally I asked him, "Have you been up to that parking lot on a winter Sunday? Have you seen the overcrowding?" No response. "Someone is going to get killed!"
We are grieved and outraged at this unnecessary loss of two precious lives.