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Please come/don’t come to Gunnison County

Article by Bill Perry

Cottonwood Pass – October 1994 – Colorado Central Magazine

Once again, Gunnison County is trying to profit from others’ efforts to get the western approach to Cottonwood Pass upgraded to a paved surface consistent with its major connecting roads.

Although Gunnison wants the federal funds allocated for the improvement of Cottonwood Pass, the county would prefer to spend that money on its own Taylor Canyon Road.

It was recently stated at a public hearing that Gunnison County’s economy now anticipates yet another federally funded golden egg from the Cottonwood Pass goose. This time it’s in excess of $30 million by 1997 to assist in “light reconstruction involving only slight revisions … to correct existing deficiencies” in the Taylor Canyon Road.

This will qualify the Taylor Canyon Road as the world’s most expensive cul-de-sac. Meanwhile the western approach to Cottonwood Pass will continue to be an over-utilized, under-maintained, dirty, bumpy, narrow, hazardous trail that is used by more than 50,000 vehicles and avoided by numerous others each summer.

Every time Gunnison officials attempt to explain the perceived public sentiment they say ordains their position, I get more confused.

— People want to preserve the pristine beauty and environment where there is already a dirt road.

— Gunnison, Crested Butte, et al fear they will lose business because traffic will bypass them, but these same locals also fear they will be overrun by increased traffic.

— They also express the belief that gravel roads, a real stretch when referring to Cottonwood Pass, are safer than upgraded paved roads. According to this theory, people will drive too fast and won’t stay in their own lane on a paved road. Even worse, exploiters and heavy trucking will utilize the paved road to devastate Taylor Park, the Canyon, and the rest of Gunnison County.

— As for the “abandonment of Monarch Pass” theory, it defies description or further comment.

These aren’t explanations! They’re bizarre excuses for not doing anything.

After hearing such reasoning, I’m surprised there’s public sentiment for improving the Taylor Canyon Road — when tearing up all the pavement in Gunnison County should make it the safest county in Colorado for motorists.

I am perturbed by Gunnison County’s embedded reluctance to pave its approach to the Pass. But I am appalled by its audacity in seeking to further its economy with $30 million in federal funds for improvements to the Taylor Canyon Road while thumbing its nose at the very citizens whose funds it is seeking.

IF GUNNISON THINKS IMPROVING the Canyon Road, at the expense of the Pass Road, is so necessary, let it pay for the improvements. Gunnison could even make it self-paying.

That’s it! Have Gunnison issue revenue bonds! Improve the road. Charge a toll for each vehicle using it!

If Gunnison’s average usage figures are to be believed, they could pay off the bonds in a year by charging $60 per vehicle to access the Taylor Canyon Road. Then perhaps after a year of paying 60 bucks for a one-way ride on the world’s most expensive cul-de-sac, perceived public sentiment in Gunnison County might swing towards an improved and paved Cottonwood Pass Road that would allow easier access into Taylor Park.

In the end, regardless of what they do with the Canyon Road, Gunnison should put a sign at that point on Cottonwood Pass where Gunnison County ends, and Chaffee County and thereby the pavement begins.

To most of us it would read “ENTERING CHAFFEE COUNTY”.


Bill Perry, a financial consultant in Buena Vista, has long been interested in improving Cottonwood Pass; his interest started in the 1950s, when he was on a crew which upgraded the old wagon trace into a road of sorts.