The Colorado State Patrol has asked a group of local residents protesting U.S. Forest Service management decisions to move their display from the intersection of Colorado Highways 145 and 184.
Officers contacted protester Doug Maxwell on Thursday morning and told him to move from the spot where he has been located for the past six weeks. Maxwell also was told to dismantle a large sign structure he had constructed at the site.
There were issues with signage, and we were asked by the (Colorado Department of Transportation) to request the protestors move, said Sgt. Matt Ozanic of the state patrol. CDOT has requested that they cant make a permanent sign up there at that intersection. There were no other issues besides the sign.
Maxwell has been protesting management changes on public lands in the region including road closures and the elimination of motorized cross-country travel and game retrieval. Changes are currently being implemented in the Mancos-Cortez management area, and a management plan is being revised for the Boggy-Glade area.
The sign in question was recently added to Maxwells display and featured a roughly 3-by-5-foot banner supported by wooden posts. Though Maxwell stated he removed the sign each night, the sign violated transportation department regulations, according to Kyle Lester, transportation department maintenance superintendent for Region 5 out of Durango.
You cannot construct any sort of structure on CDOT property, Lester said. The protester built a structure on 4-by-4 and 6-by-6 posts. And we asked him to take that down, and he complied.
Maxwell also was asked to move from the parking area near the intersection of the two highways due to improvement plans slated for the area.
CDOT said they needed to do some construction work where I was sitting, Maxwell said.
According to Lester, the transportation department intends to reestablish a drainage ditch that has been blocked due to heavy vehicle use in the area. Officials hope to reseed the area to establish vegetation. Once the work is completed, the parking area will open again for emergency parking only.
No citations were issued to Maxwell during the interaction with the state patrol, and the protest display was moved to a pull-off on Highway 184 directly across from the Dolores Public Lands Office.
I think it worked out really well, Ozanic said. They found a common place where everyone was OK with the display, a place where it is legal for them to protest.
Maxwell said the interaction with law enforcement was cordial, though he did say he felt harassed.
They were very pleasant and said as long as I kept the signs mobile Im fine, Maxwell said. They are watching me, though. They arent happy.
This is not the first run-in local residents upset over public lands management have had with law enforcement. Louie Edwards, a friend of Maxwells, was issued a citation by Ozanic after a Feb. 4 protest march against forest service road closures was conducted without a permit.
The reason that citation was issued was a permitting issue, Ozanic said. Anytime there are more than 50 people gathering on a public roadway a permit is required.
Edwards said he found out about the permit requirement on Feb. 3, the day before the scheduled march, and did not have time to apply for the proper paperwork.
We thought we had all that worked out according to what I was told, Edwards said. I was told to get a permit could take up to 60 days, and we didnt have that time.
Though the state patrol had the authority to shut down the march, Ozanic said officers allowed the protest to continue due to the large number of participants. State troopers monitored safety during the march and stopped traffic until protesters were off the highway.
We did have the authority to end the march but the reason we didnt was because there were so many people involved, Ozanik said. We knew it was going to happen and we allowed it to happen in the safest way possible.
A court date is scheduled for April 4, and Edwards said he will dispute the citation.
I am going to fight the charges, Edwards said. The state patrol was there and led us down the road. That is tacit approval in my mind.
Ozanic said the state patrols involvement in the march was necessitated for safety reasons.
If a drunk driver had come around the curve and ran over people it would have been a very bad day, Ozanic said. We were focused on traffic safety and keeping everyone safe.
Reach Kimberly Benedict at [email protected]