Frequent — and frequently fast-moving — users of a trail in southern Superior were dismayed this week when they discovered that a barbed-wire fence had been erected on a steep portion of the path.
And though they recognize the right of Level 3 Communications, as the property owner, to fence off the area, they expressed confusion as to why the barrier was put in place now, as well as concern that it was put up without warning in a potentially dangerous area often used by mountain bikers.
After hearing from trail users this week, the town hung a "private property" sign and some brightly colored streamers from the fence so cyclists can spot it at a distance.
Anthony Thornton has lived with his family in the Rock Creek neighborhood since 1999. He also has 10 years of experience as a competitive mountain biker and frequently rides the dirt, single-track trail just south of his neighborhood, near the intersection of Colo. 128 and Indiana Street.
"I think it's nice because it's just out our back door and I can knock out three or four loops in an hour," he said. "It's where I started teaching my kids how to mountain bike when they first started learning."
On Monday, Thornton said he received several text messages from friends alerting him that a barbed-wire fence had abruptly popped up on a hilly portion of the trail. Later that evening, he went to look for himself and said he was alarmed that the three strands of wire had been stretched across a steep portion of the trail without any warning or signs to alert users the trail now had a barrier.
He said that in his nearly 15 years of living in Superior, the trail, which is not maintained by the town, has never been fenced off in that area. On his typical route down the trail, Thornton said, he comes from the private property side, traveling at potentially high speeds downhill.
"When we come down that thing, we come down pretty fast," he said. "At dusk, you wouldn't even see it there. That barbed-wire fence is beyond unsafe the way it is set up. Someone is going to go barreling through that thing without knowing about it."
Town officials were made aware of the fence Monday, and even though it is owned by Level 3, Town Manager Matt Magley said Superior employees marked the fence to make it more visible.
Jon Paul McLeary, spokesman for Level 3, said the decision to put up the fence was made by the company's facilities managers because the company was "definitely concerned about liability and safety."
"We actually had a fence in that area, but it had just been damaged and thrown off to the side as people were going in and out and hiking around the area," McLeary said. "Our facilities people were concerned about steepness and injury, and they wanted to make sure that the area was at least secure."
McLeary emphasized Level 3 is not seeking to cut off the property from recreational users. He said three gates into the property were put in place at various points to ensure people could still access it for hiking and biking. All Level 3 asks, he said, is that people close the gates behind them.
Joel White is another avid mountain biker who said he frequently uses the trail, not only for the downhill ride, but also sometimes the steep, uphill workout. He agreed that the barbed-wire fence could be a liability at night and expressed some hope that an agreement could be worked out among users, Level 3 and possibly the town of Superior that would allow an unimpeded trail again.
"I wish we would have had some way of knowing there was an issue," said White, a member of the Boulder Mountain Bike Alliance and a volunteer for its stewardship-focused bike patrol. "If speed is a concern, I would certainly welcome the opportunity to help design some trails to keep speed in check but still allow access to the property."
Peggy Cai, a Rock Creek resident for seven years, said she frequently walked her dog on the trail and lamented losing that opportunity without a chance to talk to Level 3 about it.
"I understand it's private property and they have a right to do it, but it would have been nice to have some communication," she said. "I think a majority of residents are just curious why this happened out of the blue. ... Was there a solution we could have worked out?"