Canyons of the Ancients National Monument is seeking public comment on a proposal to improve public access to the Painted Hand archaeological site.
Comments on the initial plan will be accepted until July 22. The Bureau of Land Management is preparing an environmental analysis for the proposed action.
For more information and to comment, go to https://go.usa.gov/xwNqx Or comments can be mailed to BLM Tres Rios Field Office, Attn: Painted Hand Project, 29211 Colorado Highway 184, Dolores, CO 81323
The ancient Painted Hand tower and distinct rock art — including painted hands — is a main attraction of the monument.
But a section of road accessing it was closed to the public in 2018 because it crosses private property.
The proposal is to reroute Road 4531 onto BLM-managed land, and improve the parking lot to hold up to 20 cars, with space for oversized vehicles.
Picnic tables and shade structures may be added, as well as a bathroom. There are no archaeological sites in the construction zone.
Construction would take a few months and could begin as early as fall. If approved, final completion will depend on available funding.
The .75 miles of new road would be two-lane, with a level, gravel surface.
“Providing legal access that is easier and safer is the goal,” said Tracy Perfors, BLM planning and environmental coordinator. “Now is the time to send in your questions, concerns and ideas.”
The previous road required a higher clearance vehicle.
Also as part of the plan, the short trail to the ruin would be adjusted from the current loop configuration to an out-and-back. A steep, scramble section of trail would be closed, under the proposal.
Exact visitation data is not collected at Painted Hand but use is considered “modest,” said BLM recreation planner Jeff Christenson.
Planners developed an online storyboard of the project with virtual mapping and information.
As one of several main monument sites, improving access to the remote Painted Hand is seen as a priority, monument officials said.
“In the big open landscapes of the BLM, knowing you are at a public site of interest is comforting to visitors,” Christenson said.
Access to the site is off County Road 10 southwest of Pleasant View. Rerouting the Road 4531 onto BLM land to Painted Hand will also improve access to the nearby Cutthroat Castle ruin group of Hovenweep National Monument.
The Painted Hand Pueblo was a small village with 20 rooms built in the 1200s. It is an important as an ancestral home to modern Native American tribes, including the Hopi, Pueblo of Laguna, and Pueblo of Acoma.
“When the ancients moved, the left the buildings for a purpose. These places are the ‘kiikiqo’ or footprints,” states Morgan Saufkie, Bear Clan, Hopi Tribe, in a monument brochure.
“The name for this area, including Mesa Verde and the Great Sage Plain, is ‘kaach-ta kaact’ meaning wide area of dwellings. All of our cultural beliefs originated here a long time ago before the final migration tool place,” states Ernest M. Vallo, Sr. Eagle Clan, Pueblo of Acoma.
“We come here to visit our ancestors. They are all around,” state Victor Sarracino, Water Clan; and Elaine Sarracino, Eagle Clan, Pueblo of Laguna. “We ask that you come with good thoughts. Don’t turn on your music full blast. Wear your turquoise; it protects you.”
Painted Hand Pueblo is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.