Trout Lake

Trout Lake residents appealed to the Board of County Commissioners Wednesday for help with impacts caused by increased visitation of the area, such as speeding, parking and dust. (Courtesy photo)

Trout Lake, located south of Telluride on Highway 145, just before Lizard Head Pass, is jewel of a recreational spot. There are 120 homes lakeside or along the roads there, most of which are occupied in the summer only. And, according to residents, it has been an impactful summer this Covid-colored year. At Wednesday’s San Miguel County Board of County Commissioners’ (BOCC) meeting, residents appealed to the county for help with speeding along county roads, overflowing parking areas resulting in spillover parking along the roadway, and dust kicked up by what they observe to be increased traffic.

Trout Lake residents Edwin Schlapfer and Greg Stob not only appeared before the BOCC via Zoom, but each submitted letters for the record, outlining their concerns.

Stob, who is the president of the Lizard Head Land Company, which owns most of the land adjacent to the county road, told commissioners Lance Waring, Kris Holstrom and Hilary Cooper that he’d like to see the speed limit on the county’s portion of the road be reduced from 20 mph to 15 or 10 mph. In a letter to the board, Stob wrote, “(We have) families carrying fishing poles, SUP boards, kids on bikes, the Galloping Goose trail, people taking pictures, from before the sun comes up to well into the night might of worked in 1970 but not in 2020.” 

But, according the county road and bridge road superintendent, Ryan Righetti, lowering the speed limit would be a more complicated process than simply switching out signs.

“Speed limits are set by state statute, but there is a process to change a speed limit,” Righetti explained.

That process, he said, would require either a traffic investigation or a survey to instigate a change.

Stob also stated that more No Parking signage was needed as signs have disappeared over the years. Full parking lots at the boat ramp and elsewhere have done little to dissuade recreationists from parking by the road and walking to the shoreline, a situation that Stob said causes visitors to walk across private property. 

Schlapfer’s concerns focused on not only speeding, but the amount of dust kicked up as a result.

“The current situation, as it exists, presents a real and present danger to the health and safety of the people, both young and old, who recreate and live here,” he wrote to the BOCC. “The level of use on North Trout Lake Road has steadily increased to well over seven fold in the last 16 years. The dust created by this traffic has become a real health issue. The amount of excessive speeding has also increased. After speaking with neighbors over the years and the greater community, I am asking the county to swiftly begin working on this problem so we have a solution ready for implementation in the spring of next year.”

And the dust, he said, had become hazardous.

“When you have that much dust in the air for extended periods of time where people live and play we have a serious health issue,” he said.

Among Schlapfer’s suggestions were increased signage, an eventual paving of the road and the implementation of speed dips. Righetti and Sheriff Bill Masters responded at Wednesday’s meeting.

The effectiveness of speed bumps (or dips), Righetti wrote in his memo to the commissioners, has been shown to be questionable.  

“These requests are consistent in nature with the desired intent that the bumps will control or prevent motorists from excessive speed,” he wrote. “ … the purpose for wanting to approve this measure is generally summed up in one response, ‘the intent is that it will be successful in reducing the excessive speed of traffic’ or drivers exceeding the posted, or legal speed limit. However, the general response from most public agencies and departments is to deny the placement or construction of speed bumps for various reasons.” 

Among those reasons are costs (which are often passed on the neighborhoods requesting them), the reduction of response time for emergency vehicles, and the potential for loss of control and/or vehicle damage.

Masters addressed the requests for increased enforcement in what has become an increasingly popular part of the county.

“This is basically a recreation site begging to be managed,” Masters said Wednesday. “And it’s going to get worse each summer.” He cited the explosion in popularity of stand-up paddleboarding as one reason for increased traffic at Trout Lake.

Sending a deputy to Trout Lake, while effective, would prove difficult on a consistent basis — especially the busier weekends — as his department is “down a lot of deputies.” On Sundays, he said, he has a sole deputy patrolling the county’s 1,280 square miles. And, Trout Lake’s concerns are hardly the only complaints he hears about poor behavior on county roads.

“We get complaints about speeding on every county road,” Masters said. The increased amount of traffic that has been evident this summer “is a problem for our community.”

Masters suggested considering traffic calming devices such as planters in the middle of the road, or possibly a dummy in a patrol vehicle.  

The commissioners were sympathetic and directed residents to schedule a site walk with Waring and county staff to discuss possible solutions.

“Our roads are getting hammered,” said Holstrom, who said she has seen similar impacts on Hastings Mesa.