Hot Sulphur Springs residents discuss loss of river access

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photo by Lucas Ackerman | Hot Sulphur Springs residents were surprised to find the prime flyfishing location was not publically owned. The property located along the Colorado River south of Pioneer Park was purchased in 2018 by Middlefork , LLC. Middlefork, LLC has also purchased property along the Muddy River in Kremmling. Fishermen in Hot Sulphur Springs still have access to the Colorado River along Pioneer Park.
photo by Lucas Ackerman | Hot Sulphur Springs residents were surprised to find the prime flyfishing location was not publically owned. The property located along the Colorado River south of Pioneer Park was purchased in 2018 by Middlefork , LLC. Middlefork, LLC has also purchased property along the Muddy River in Kremmling. Fishermen in Hot Sulphur Springs still have access to the Colorado River along Pioneer Park.

For years the Town of Hot Sulphur Springs believed they owned the property along the Colorado River south of Pioneer Park, and residents and visitors used the property to access the river for recreation and fishing.

After the purchase of approximately 170 acres for $1,292,850, the new owner of the property, David Glarner of Middlefork, LLC, established ownership with no trespassing signs and a cable across the river in the fall of 2018.

The Town responded by removing the signs and the barrier across the river. Questions of ownership were then raised.

Earlier, Glarner had paid to have the property surveyed, and a copy of the surveyor’s work was provided to the Town. Glarner did indeed own both sides of the river.

“This is a typical Grand County real estate problem,” said Hot Sulphur Springs Mayor Bob McVay, “so much of it has been mis-mapped or mislabeled over the years.”

McVay explains, “After exhaustive searches of titles we found out Hot Sulphur Springs did not own that… it is private property.” Glarner was in his rights to post no trespassing signs, but could not block the river.
“You cannot restrict the river in any way. It is still legal to float the river as long as you don’t get out on any side,” adds McVay.

Legally, property owners cannot put a barrier across the river. Rafters can use the river, enjoy the river if they do not touch land, and their rafts do not touch the bottom of the riverbed.

Those predominantly affected by restricted access are fly fisherman who used the area from County Road 20.

After the purchase of his property, Glarner was concerned about unauthorized access. His concerns heightened after a Sky Hi article printed in September 2018 reported Hot Sulphur’s Pioneer Park as a troubled area with, “Naked campers, litterers and transient assaults.”
“The Sky Hi News article increased the concern about liability because Pioneer Park is adjacent and just upstream from Middlefork’s property. That’s when Middlefork put up the no trespassing signs,” explained Noriyuki. “It [Middlefork, LLC] is just trying to protect itself from liability.”

To end the question of ownership, Middlefork, LLC brought suit to quiet title to the property. This affected others in Hot Sulphur Springs. As a result of the quiet title action, it was disclosed other property owners were using what was now Middlefork property to access their neighboring properties. These two property owners are now asserting adverse possession or prescriptive easement rights.

“Middlefork really would like to settle with the two property owners, and has tried to encourage discussion,” said Noriyuki on behalf of her client.

Noriyuki describes Glarner as very nice noting he is a family man with four children. Glarner is a developer in Missouri, but he has no apparent plans to develop his Hot Sulphur Springs property. As an avid fisherman, he has also purchased approximately 200 acres north of Kremmling along the Muddy River.

On Monday, January 14, the Town hosted a public question and answer session and nearly 30 individuals attended to ask questions and brainstorm solutions.

One suggestion from Lyle Sidener of Colorado Parks and Wildlife, was to seek public access or an easement. “There is public money involved for these types of projects,” he explained and added outside of the meeting, “We (CPW) were disappointed along with everyone else when we found out that what we thought was public access was indeed private property. We would like to see some sort of agreement with the new landowner that might be able to continue that historic access. We are willing to work with the Town of Hot Sulphur Springs and the landowner to see if we can help facilitate such an agreement. Middle Park is blessed with an abundance of public access, but we certainly don’t want to lose any that we’ve had historically.”

“Hopefully, this helped to get everyone on the same page,” said McVay of the public meeting, “We wanted to cut the rumor mill down.”
McVay ended on a positive note saying fisherman still have access to premium fishing along Pioneer Park in Hot Sulphur Springs and that the Town does own part of the island.

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