Follow Up


Jeffco county commissioners support proposal to close Lookout Mountain Road at night to vehicles

The proposal involves installing two gates that would close a 4.1-mile portion of the road to all vehicles overnight.
Posted: 2:18 PM, Feb 27, 2024
Updated: 2024-02-29 11:07:18-05
Lookout Mountain Road graphic TFU.jpg

JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. — With the support of the Jefferson County Board of Commissioners (BOC), a proposal to close part of Lookout Mountain Road to vehicles overnight is moving forward.

The Jeffco BOC met on Tuesday morning to discuss various topics, including a plan to install gates and close a 4.1-mile stretch of Lookout Mountain Road to vehicles overnight with the hopes it would reduce people participating in illegal and destructive activities after park hours, which has included vandalism, drug use, littering, firing guns and more.

Jeffco Open Space (JCOS) Director Tom Hoby began his presentation around 11:20 a.m. Tuesday by asking for the commissioners' consent to implement the strategy, which he acknowledged was shepherded from the very beginning by Mary Ann Bonnell, director of JCOS visitor services & natural resources. She was also in attendance.

Lookout Mountain Road_by Aaron Cox
Photo by Aaron Cox

During the presentation, Hoby said one of the main steps moving forward was for the project to gain approval from the Board of Commissioners.

At the end of the meeting, all three Jeffco commissioners were in agreement that the plan should progress, and gave JCSO consent to proceed.

Later Tuesday afternoon, Bonnell explained the next steps, which will happen concurrently:

  • Discussions with Jefferson County Planning and Zoning for location and extent approval, which is a 30-day process, to make sure they understand the proposal.
  • Work to design the gates, which are electric. While JCOS uses gates in other parks, each one needs its own design. This is a JCOS project.
  • Construct a turnaround at the gate so vehicles can safely go back the way they came. This will include widening the area, which is a Jeffco Road and Bridge responsibility.
  • Coordinate with Denver Mountain Parks, local fire agencies, law enforcement, and transportation and engineering crews on some "nitty gritty" items, such as change signage. Bonnell said she is leading this charge.
  • Continue community outreach to keep residents informed about the project's status
  • Communicate with Xcel Energy to hook power up to the gates

Bonnell said the planning team will check in with stakeholders and residents as they move forward. The design, once complete, will live on the JCOS website, where the public can provide feedback. Keeping everybody in the loop is an important part of the process, she stressed.
"Even though we have the (commissioner) approval, this is a big enough project that we still need the same approach of checking in with everybody," she said.

This effort began gaining traction in the summer and fall of 2023.

By November 2023, 13 stakeholders — including law enforcement, fire rescue agencies, and Denver Mountain Parks — asked for community input on a proposal for a yearround overnight closure to all vehicles along a portion of the road. Crews would install two gates on either end, and the closure would follow park hours, beginning one hour after sunset and ending one hour before sunrise.

The gates would bookend a 4.1-mile stretch between the Lookout Mountain Park area and where Chimney Gulch Trail crosses Lookout Mountain Road.

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Pedestrians and bicyclists would still have access. Hoby said JCOS does not believe the "undesirable activity" is coming from those visitors, but rather from those in vehicles and motorcycles. He said keeping the road open to recreationists means that people can still enjoy sunrise on Lookout Mountain, which is a common place to watch the day break over the Denver metro area.

Emergency responders would have the ability to open the gates in specific cases, such as a closure of Interstate 70 or Highway 40, or an evacuation order.

When asked about impacts from daylight saving time, Bonnell said leaning this proposal on the park's hours was the logical choice, but they could look at "adaptive management."

The county said existing operational funds from Jeffco Open Space and Jeffco Road and Bridge will cover the cost of this project.

This nightly closure to vehicles is something that Bonnell has wanted since the 1980s, she said.

Getting to this point in the proposal has been "less of a fight and more like a daydream," she added.

Bonnell has spent hours picking up trash along Lookout Mountain Road and the surrounding trails. People often slowed to thank her, she said.

It became such a passion project for her that she thought about gates throughout the day. And they even followed her every night into her dreams. The comparison she saw between the daytime use — full of love and appreciation for the space — and the destructive nighttime use was enormous.

"They are firing firearms. They are consuming alcohol. They are leaving trash behind," she said. "We find needles. We find evidence of people using marijuana. We've got empty dispensary containers. We've got clothing. We've got trash. All things indicate that what's happening up there after night — after dark — is not safe and is not healthy for the mountain."

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Local News

Portion of Lookout Mountain Road could close to cars at night under new proposal

Claire Lavezzorio
9:27 AM, Jan 07, 2024

Tom Primozich, who has lived in Golden with his wife for 30 years, said the neighborhood can feel like a war zone at night.

"It's changed our quality of life," he told Denver7 on Wednesday. "I don't sleep well at night anymore. I lay awake worrying about when am I going to hear gunfire and when is it going to break my windows? Or go through the roof of my house? Or when my wife has to take the dog out — is she going to come back? Or is the dog going to come back? ... It's not a safe situation anymore."

As a car and motorcycle enthusiast himself, Primozich said there is a place and time to enjoy those hobbies — but it's not Lookout Mountain. And it's not in the middle of the night.

Jeffco county commissioners support proposal to close Lookout Mtn. Road at night

"I've come to my front door to look up Lookout Mountain after hearing gunfire and visually saw gunfire flash from the barrel of the gun, meaning that it was pointed at me or in this general direction," he said. "The bullets found is telling me that they're actually either shooting over the houses or at the houses."

The gates are an easy solution and are cost-effective, he said.

Today, the idea to install the gates is further along than ever before. Bonnell now daydreams about the first time they close the gates, and cleaning up the trash around the road to beautify the landscape. And it — mostly — staying that way.

"I'm hopeful we can do the right thing and protect this resource," she said.

During public meeting discussions in December 2023 and February 2024, community support for the proposal was "overwhelmingly positive," according to a Board of County Commissioners briefing paper on the issue.

About 200 people participated in the meetings.

Residents brought up specific concerns: bullet projectiles in their driveways, racing motorcycles, fences broken by suspected drunk drivers, hearing gunshots from Lookout Mountain during a barbecue, gunfire damage to local signs, windows blown out by gunfire. Many said they could no longer allow their children to play outside after sunset.

Lookout Mountain Road_by Frances Fowke
Photo by Frances Fowke

"Just this week, our neighbors found bullets within 100 feet of homes and this activity only increases as the weather gets better in the summer. Along with our neighbors, we call in gunshots pretty much every summer weekend," one resident wrote in an email for public comment.

Other public comments provided an inside look from the nearby neighborhoods:

  • "We feel like we live in a war zone and our quality of life has diminished to being terrible, unable to sleep at night waking up to gunfire with adrenaline, 911 calls and fear when this will end up deadly."
  • "As avid bikers it is not uncommon to see the aftermath of night activities on the mountain with broken glass, bottles of alcohol, drug paraphernalia and bullet shell casings."
  • "Some people who live next to Lookout Mountain Road are afraid to sleep in their bedrooms at night because their windows face the mountain."
  • "Neighbors are literally collecting baggies full of bullets as evidence and would be happy to show you how this is a growing problem."

Hoby said on Tuesday morning that JCOS is working with the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office to install a gunshot detection system on Lookout Mountain — something that, paired with the gates, should curtail some of the illegal activity, he said.

Concerns were brought up, including some residents who said they felt the process was not moving fast enough and hoped the gates would be in place before summer. The community has asked for a final plan by June 1 and while JCOS is working to have it complete by then, it's a tight deadline given what still needs to be done, Bonnell said.

Lookout Mountain Road_Kimbo Explores Photography
By Kimbo Explores Photography

Another worry was for the communities around the gates — and if they would become the new destination for the problems, the briefing paper read. The county acknowledged this and said in addition to signage at the gates, the sheriff's office, Golden Police Department and park rangers would enhance their patrols in the area.

Golden City Manager Vargo and Golden Chief of Police Harvey sent a letter to Hoby dated Feb. 13, 2024, adding their concerns for residents' safety. They explained significant noise pollution and speeding on the road, as well as reports of gunshots fired from the top of Lookout Mountain.

"We have done considerable public outreach and there is nearly unilateral support for the addition of nighttime vehicle access gates and for this installation to be accomplished as quickly as possible," the letter read.

Other stakeholders followed suit with similar letters, including from Denver Mountain Parks Director Shannon Dennison, Foothills Fire & Rescue Fire Chief Rod Cameron, and Golden Fire Department Deputy Chief of Operations Sean Jones.

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