Hefley says his ‘bias’ is to reopen Gold Camp
Congressman Joel Hefley, whose district includes mountainous Gold Camp Road, would like to see its closed segment re-
opened to motor vehicles - although he will not stand in the way if the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) proposes otherwise.
“My bias would probably be to open it, based on the experience my family had of being able to use it,” Hefley said, after being asked for his views on the issue by the Westside Pioneer. “When we had guests out there and we wanted a close way for them to experience the mountains and some of the history and beauty of Colorado, why, that was a wonderful road to take them on.
“There are an awful lot of people who are too old or infirm. They're not going to go up there and hike it, bike it, so they can't experience it. So I guess my bias would be to open the road. I don't live there, I don't live in the neighborhood, so it's not really my decision, but that's my bias.”
The Republican congressman said he helped procure federal funding for the USFS planning study that is considering options for Gold Camp Road. An 8.5-mile segment of the road has been closed to cars since 1988 when a road tunnel collapsed. In the meantime, the segment has become a haven for hikers and bikers, many of whom are advocating that it never be reopened to cars.
“I wanted to see if we could seek a solution to it.” Hefley said, when asked why he got involved. “I know there are people that come down on both sides. People I represent in Victor and Cripple Creek very much want the road open again. They think it's very important to their economy. And a lot of people down here (in Colorado Springs) want it open.”
The USFS has held several public meetings this year, collecting ideas on the best plan for the road. A draft environmental impact statement (EIS) - defining Forest Service recommendations - is due out in December, which will lead to more public meetings before the final EIS, scheduled for June 2005.
The only Forest Service recommendation Hefley would oppose is one that denies all access - non-motorized as well as motorized. “I wouldn't want it shut it to everybody,” he said. “I love wilderness. I think we need wilderness areas. But I don't think we should keep people out. Otherwise, whatever decision the studies and so forth seem to validate, I'm prepared to go along with.”
He also said he does not favor paving the road, as some citizens have suggested. “My personal bias is not to pave the road,” he said. “I'd leave it an old railroad-bed type of road, not make it something that's going to be a major thoroughfare, a shortcut to Cripple Creek. If you own a bike or if it's open to cars, it ought to be a mountain experience, not just a means to an end, so you can get to a casino faster or something.”
So far, only the USFS planning process has been funded. However, Hefley expressed confidence that he could obtain implementation funding as well.
“If we can come to some kind of decision about what needs to be done, then we can go after the money to get it done,” Hefley said. “There are several avenues, both private and public. We need the Forest Service or somebody to make a decision on what's going to be done, then we move forward on that.
“It's an issue we've absolutely talked to death over the years. If we decide we're never going to open it, then let's stop worrying about it and turn it over to the bikers and hikers. But it makes sense to open the road, then we need to move on with it, I think, to pursue it, get the money, and get the tunnel fixed.”
Hefley has represented Colorado's Eastern Front Range in the U.S. House of Representatives since 1986. He represents Chaffee, El Paso, Fremont, Lake, Park and Teller counties.
He is seeking re-election this fall.
Westside Pioneer Article