I was one of those pilots, so I will relate the incident in full, hopefully clarifying a few points.
It was so long ago that I can not say exactly when this was, but I recall that there were three of us in the vehicle that day, all pilots with our wings, and conditions looked promising. We arrived at the Junction Butte turnoff one day to find the access road closed with several barbed wire strands. There was no sign indicating a closure or access restriction. It looked to us like a temporary installation, such as might be made by a cattle grazer in advance of installing a proper gate, if a grazer was interested in controlling his herds, etc. As the road had always been open, and was a public access road (or so we thought), we discussed the situation and decided to untwist the barbed wire at a post and drive up. As far as I recall, we re-twisted the wires after passing through. We parked in the usual place, which was visible to anyone driving on HWY 9 or 40, etc. We were hang-waiting on top for a while when I looked over the south side and saw another vehicle racing up the road. The driver reached the top in record time and was almost rabid with rage. He was the person in daily charge of the deer pens that were (and maybe still are) along the access road. It is my understanding that the deer were part of a government (Fish and Game (?)) research project of some sort. There had been deer in the pens for years, but the person who just arrived stated that the project had recently decided that traffic disturbed their data collection in some way, so they had closed the road. We eventually calmed down the person we were speaking with to some extent, but he was still very angry. This daily manager had no authority to actually do anything to us, but asked that we accompany him to see his supervisor, a higher ranking Fish and Game (?) officer in Kremmling. We agreed, thinking that this was more or less a simple misunderstanding that we could clear up with rational discussion. We followed him to Kremmling and spoke with the supervisor, who accused us (apparently based on the daily managerâ€™s description of events) of cutting the barbed wires across the access road, and issued us a ticket for tresspassing (or something along those lines, I donâ€™t recall the exact charge. The ticket was issued to the owner of the vehicle that drove up). The supervisor was not interested in hearing our protests or objections, or anything about our side of the story. (There was no â€œnext dayâ€ event.) The driver of the vehicle eventually went to court to dispute the charges, but the judge upheld the charge based on the government employeeâ€™s statement that we had cut the wires. Not too long afterwards the sign went up specifically prohibiting hang gliding, which has stayed up until the present.
So, this is the story from someone who was there, and Iâ€™ll apologize for my part in the whole ordeal, and Iâ€™ll certainly thank Ken Grubbs for his interest and efforts to re-open the site. In retrospect I am sure that all of us who went up the hill that day would agree that we made the wrong decision. We should have turned around and the matter could have been pursued through bureaucratic or legal channels. I believe that the site would still have been closed to hang gliding, but whatever backlash has occurred would have probably been less severe. Still, in defense of our actions of that day, I continue to believe that going through the wire was not a grossly obvious wrong a choice to make at the time, as it looked to us like someone had the intention of installing a gate on an historically open road, and had just not finished the job on Friday afternoon, but would probably be back on Monday morning to do so. The situation did not look much different to us than a number of occasions when a barbed wire had suddenly appeared across a gate part way up the Williams road, which we would just untwist it and go through. There had been very few incidents between hang glider pilots and anyone else in the Williams valley up to that point, and though we recognized the possibility of upsetting someone enough to discuss the matter, we felt like the actual probability of doing so to be remote. However, it was not as we assumed, and erring on the side of discretion would have been the better decision, which is a lesson I have not forgotten. Our sport involves making many decisions, and we can not realistically fly if all decisions require 100% certainty of outcome. Still, we must somehow try to make the right decisions at the right timesâ€¦