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Two 14ers on the DeCaLiBron Loop to reopen Friday; hikers must sign electronic waiver

The two peaks have been closed since March due to landowner liability concerns
Summit of Mount Democrat, June 2020
Posted at 3:20 PM, Jul 27, 2023
and last updated 2023-07-27 17:20:38-04

Mount Lincoln and Mount Democrat, part of the popular DeCaLiBron loop near Alma, will reopen Friday with new rules, according to an announcement from the Fix CRUS Coalition Thursday.

The peaks were closed due to liability concerns that stemmed from a bicyclist crash in 2008 in a different part of the state — the U.S. Air Force Academy in El Paso County. That year, bicyclist James Nelson filed a liability lawsuit after he and his wife were riding on an unofficial Air Force Academy trail and he hit a sinkhole, fell off his bike and was seriously injured. The family was awarded $7.3 million in damages, claiming there were no warning signs and that the Air Force knew about the damaged section of trail. Skip ahead about a decade and the federal court upheld the decision following an appeal.

In response to that 2019 decision, private landowner John Reiber, who has mining claims on Mount Lincoln and Mount Democrat — both part of the DeCaLiBron loop, in addition to Mount Bross and Mount Cameron — decided to close access to the popular hiking trail. While it did reopen to hikers, the concerns continued. The owner of the private property closed access again in March 2023.

But that's about to change.

Starting Friday, hikers can legally access the trail again if they sign an electronic waiver to gain access to Mount Democrat, Mount Cameron, and Mount Lincoln. Anybody who accesses the trail without signing the waiver will be trespassing. The summit of Mount Bross remains closed, though there is a bypass trail to complete the loop.

The Fix CRUS Coalition — a group of 36 nonprofits, businesses, and local governments that is working to make more private lands accessible for public recreation by changing the Colorado Recreational Use Statute (CRUS) — made the announcement on Thursday morning. The coalition is pushing to amend the statute and provide stronger liability protections to safeguard access to private land.

"This news is the result of collaboration between the U.S. Forest Service, Town of Alma, and landowner John Reiber," the coalition wrote in a press release. "They worked tirelessly to establish a cooperative liability waiver system for the peaks."

Reiber said this reopening is the result of "a lot of collaboration, hard work, and financial investment," however he called it a "stopgate measure."

Anneliese Steel, Chair of the Fix CRUS Coalition, emphasized that this is a temporary solution to a larger issue.

Most of Colorado's 14,000-plus-foot peaks are on public land owned by the U.S. Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management and are open to everyone to use. But at least eight are either partially or completely privately owned, including Mount Democrat, Mount Lincoln, and Mount Lindsey.

mt lindsey

Local News

Mount Lindsey trail closed to public over liability concerns

Meghan Lopez - Denver7
6:30 PM, Sep 09, 2021

After the court's upholding in 2019, the owner of Mount Lindsey, a 14,048-foot mountain in the Sangre de Cristo mountain range, also closed the mountain to the public. It has not reopened.

"This highlights the ongoing need to amend the Colorado Recreational Use Statute (CRUS) to strengthen landowners liability protection for granting free public access," the coalition said.

The Colorado Fourteeners Initiative (CFI) doubled down on that sentiment.

"Hats off to John Reiber for launching this temporary fix using the electronic waiver to reopen Mounts Democrat and Lincoln," said CFI Executive Director Lloyd Athearn. "However, as owners of another 14er summit (Shavano), CFI knows that the long-term solution to landowner liability for everyone will come through fixing CRUS in the 2024 Colorado legislative session.”

The Denver Post report advocates tried to accomplish that in the 2023 legislative session, but were unsuccessful.

Anybody planning on accessing DeCaLiBron must sign the waiver available here ahead of time. Cell service is usually poor in the area, so it's recommended to sign the waiver ahead of time.