Deb Hurley Brobst
One thing is true regarding the dispute over access to Bear Creek at Kittredge Park: It has divided the community with hurt feelings on both sides.
No new information was provided at a community meeting May 4 on where the line is between property owned by Taralyn Romero south of Bear Creek and Kittredge Park north of the creek. Romero says she owns the shoreline on the north side, and she has erected signs and a wire to prevent the public from using the creek access that has been a recreational mainstay at the park.
However, Kittredge residents at the meeting hosted by Jeffco Open Space, which owns the park, expressed their frustration that it appeared nothing had been done since a meeting in September to resolve the issue. They also were frustrated that playing along the creek had suddenly become a contentious and toxic issue after more than three decades of unfettered access. Plus they believe they are being treated unfairly by the property owners, who have tried to keep people from trespassing on their property.
“I wanted to bring to the attention (of Jeffco Open Space) how severely the community feels hassled and harassed when they go to the park,” said Tina Kellogg of Kittredge. “I understand there are issues with the private property line. I really want the harassment at the park to stop. I never imagined this kind of explosive stuff happening at the park.”
Michael Eymer, Romero’s fiancé, said he and Romero had been unjustly accused of harassment.
“The whole reason the (wire) is there is because of the accusations of harassment,” Eymer said. “We are trying to have a civil conversation, and (the person we are talking to) interprets it differently.”
Attorney Brian Ray, who represents Romero, said while he thought the meeting was premature since a lot-line survey hadn’t been completed, the property owner was at the meeting to listen to community concerns.
“Even the county’s own maps support Ms. Romero’s position that she owns the area north of the creek,” Ray said. “We are confident the updated survey will confirm the existing property lines. Until we get the survey, we ask the town not to rush to judgment. We ask for your patience in determining where property lines are located. We are here to listen to your concerns recognizing community needs and landowners needs.”
Hillary Merritt, JCOS deputy director, told about 75 people at the meeting that the problem lies with conflicting property surveys that put the line between Romero’s property and the park in question. A survey that Romero is paying for should clear up the issue.
Tom Hoby, director of Jeffco Open Space, added the property owner had the right to keep others off her land even while ownership was in dispute.
Ken and Susan Dlin, who own property east of Romero that also borders the creek, continue to welcome the public to access the creek from their property.
“We welcome all the children on all parts of the property that is ours,” Susan Dlin told the group.
Ken Dlin asked Romero to take down the wire preventing people from accessing the creek and the no-trespassing signs as a good-faith gesture while the survey was being completed and a settlement negotiated.
Kittredge resident Michael Rock added: “To say it’s premature to have this meeting, it’s also premature to put up barriers. Hopefully as a community we can work together.”
Residents said that JCOS’ solution to send Kittredge residents to nearby O’Fallon Park was not as easy as it appeared because there is no safe way to walk to O’Fallon along Highway 74.
Hoby explained that JCOS was not acquiescing that Romero owned the property on the north side of Bear Creek, and if the survey determines that Romero owns the property on the north side of the creek, a solution would be to negotiate purchasing the property.
Another speaker, who works for the U.S. Forest Service, suggested that if the issue was Bear Creek moving over the last century, Great Outdoors Colorado might have grant money available to properly move the creek, ultimately putting the north bank on public property.
“I think the bottom line we hear is that folks would like to have access to the creek from the park,” Hoby said. “What does that look like and how do we get there is really the next step
He said Jeffco Open Space hoped to resolve the issue amicably in a way that provides the community with access to Bear Creek.
“We want … the public to access Bear Creek as they have for more than three decades,” Hoby said, “so they can enjoy the creek in a way that is responsible and be respectful to adjacent property owners.”
Kittredge resident Jerry Smith defended property-owners’ rights, noting that things have changed in Kittredge over the decades.
“There are probably more people who use the park by driving there than people who walk to it,” Smith said. “Everything is different, and we need to adjust to that. I encourage people to not create enemies but to find the right thing to do. If we want to stay a community in the future, we have to change as the community changes.”
Hoby urged everyone to be patient and wait for the process to move forward.
“Private property owners have rights, and public property owners have rights,” he said. “You all own Kittredge Park, and we get that need to stand up for those rights, but we also get that we need to work for the neighbors.”
Several Kittredge families gathered at the park on Sunday afternoon to spend family time and to talk about the park issue.
I was down there Sunday,” Kittredge resident Chris Kellogg said. “(That area of the park) didn’t feel like it was part of the community anymore. It hurts that this situation is happening. It hurts that this community is so divided over this.”