A road to popular ruins on two local national monuments has been closed while officials seek an alternative access point that avoids private property.
It was discovered in July that Bureau of Land Management Road 4531, which accesses Painted Hand Ruin on Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, briefly crosses two parcels of private property.
The road also accesses the trailhead for the nearby Cutthroat Castle ruin group of Hovenweep National Monument.
“Once we were informed the access crosses private lands, the road was posted as closed,” said Marietta Eaton, manager of Canyons of the Ancients.
An alternative route to the ruins that crosses BLM land is being studied, she said.
Cutthroat Castle ruin is temporarily closed to the public because of the access issue, but hikers can still access Painted Hand by walking cross-country on BLM land from County Road 10.
BLM Road 4531 spurs off Road 10 southwest of Pleasant View. But after a short distance, it crosses onto private land, then goes back onto public land and on to both ruins. The monument and BLM do not have a right-of-way agreement or easement through the private land.
The road has been the historic access point for the popular Painted Hand and Cutthroat ruins for decades. But when one parcel sold, the new landowner did not want the public to use the portion of the road crossing private property, Eaton said.
“We respect the wishes of the landowner and are working on an alternative route,” she said.
The new route being considered will spur off of Road 4531 to the south on BLM land for between a half mile to a mile. Initially, the new route may be a trail, but the long-term goal is to have it be a road.
The new access will go through the regular planning process under the National Environmental Policy Act and involve public input. The planning process will begin in 2019, with a decision expected by 2020.
Eaton said keeping passable road access to Painted Hand is important because it is one of the few ruins accessible by vehicle on the monument, allowing convenient access to a significant ancient pueblo known for its unique rock art.
A notice posted by Hovenweep Superintendent Jeannine McElveen at the road closure states the Cutthroat ruin is temporarily closed to the public because of the access issue.