Junction Butte Revisited 2011

For all pilots not familiar with Junction Butte, it is (was) a beautiful flying site immediately SE of Kremmling that was very popular in the 70’s and first half of the 80’s. It has a great launch, a southside access road and a greay LZ next to the Colorado River. It is a VERY soarable site and was known for being flyable when Williams Peak was too north. In the late 1980’s the site became a DOW State Wildlife Area and flying access was terminated.

I have wanted to reopen Junction Butte to flying for some time now and have mapped its layout and access to begin discussions with the DOW in Hot Sulpher Springs. I was originally encouraged because part of the launch was owned by the BLM and I thought that we could access BLM via the road (on DOW property) as a last resort. Unfortunately in doing research prior to discussions with the DOW I reviewed all the rules/regulations pertaining to State Wildlife Area and found the following that bear on our access to Junction Butte.

"JUNCTION BUTTE SWA - Grand Co.
RESTRICTIONS:
a. Camping, Hang Gliding prohibited.
b. Vehicles prohibited except ay after Labor Day through last day of regular big game season.

Also in the brochure on rules/regs for “Colorado State Wildlife Areas” in the “Recreation Guidelines Section”, under Prohibited Activities" rule #20. “to launch or land aircraft.”

I suspect that the mention of Hang Gliding in the restrictions for Junction Butte was due to a specific incident in the early 1990’s, but the statewide ban on aircraft launches pretty much takes the cake. I am currently researching the feasibilty of using the BLM access to potentially open the road, but I’m not very optimistic about that approach.

I would appreciate any input on this especially public lands (BLM) access issues.

KLG 5/25/2011

Hang Gliders were specifically prohibited at Junction Butte in the late 80’s, almost from the instant it was closed. I remember the incident in the early 90’s though.

Yes, i think most of us remember that incident.

Just curious but what was the incident :question:

A few hang glider pilots ignored the closure and flew junction butte. They went back the next day and got themselves arrested, pissed off the local land administrators, did no one any help at all.

by John W “pissed off the local land administrators, did no one any help at all.”

This is a gross understatement. This one incident has had far reaching consequences for all pilots across the US since it occurred and I have no doubt it will continue and proliferate even more in the future. Apparently one of those pissed off local land administrators wrote the book, boilerplate, list of things to be forbidden in all new rules, or was a close friend of the guy that did.

Shouldn’t a gone back the next day, I guess.

Two wrongs don’t make a right.

Who among us has not done something incredibly stupid? This is no excuse but the incident does not justify the bureaucrats actions either.

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 manager’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 don’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 “next day” event.) The driver of the vehicle eventually went to court to dispute the charges, but the judge upheld the charge based on the government employee’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 I’ll apologize for my part in the whole ordeal, and I’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 times…

thanks for telling the story

Good to know the back story. Unfortunately events unfold like this too often. Over-reactions by both parties often lead to a long-long event-recovery time. And that event recovery often requires 10x the effort to prove ourselves good neighbors and citizens. Ultimately though, guards change, new generations come on-line and we get the opportunity to re-introduce ourselves.

It took us years to get Green Mountain re-opened. It’s been close to three decades and we’re all welcome back. Never discount the fragility of our access to any site.

Max,

Great write-up.

Fred

Thanks Max for the nice write up.

A prolific statement. Nice write-up Max.

That’s for “The Real Story”.

I loved being able to fly Junction when we’d drive to Williams Fri. night and camp through Sun.before there was an Internet for weather forecasts. If it was looking too N for Williams, we’d head to Junction, that’s where these pics are from.

Nice photos Dave! The blue/white glider in the bottom photo looks like a P-Moose Zipper. One of the Fokker brothers or Wells (I forget the last name)?

John

Maybe, but it looks like a Cirrus 5 to me.

Both in that picture are cirrus 5 , T^he other guy that John was trying to remember was Well Baum

Bumper Cars!

Pilots given written warnings yesterday for flying aircraft from SWA.

Let’s discuss.

There are numerous references to Aircraft being prohibited in regulations governing Colorado State Lands. It seems the basis for those references is this document: http://cpw.state.co.us/Documents/RulesRegs/Regulations/ChP01.pdf

Included in a list of things prohibited on state lands:

AIRCRAFT
15. To land or take off with any type of aircraft on any Parks and Outdoor Recreation lands
and waters, except as specifically authorized by these regulations or in case of
emergency. “Aircraft” means any device or equipment that is used or intended to be used
for manned flight or to otherwise hold humans aloft for any period of time, including
powerless flight, and specifically includes, but is not limited to, airplanes, helicopters,
gliders, hot air balloons, hang gliders, parachutes, parasails, kite boards, kite tubes, zip
lines and other similar devices or equipment.

It’s a broad prohibition and doesn’t seem to have been created due to the infraction at JB many years ago.

I’ve known for many years that we were prohibited from flying/landing at Chatfield - seems like the same governance is in place across all state lands.