Trustees divided on Ute Park use

MEEKER | In the decade-plus since the Town of Meeker purchased the property just west of town now known as Ute Park, defining the property’s use — park or pasture — has been an annual debate.

“We have this discussion every year about how the livestock and the people can co-exist,” said Town Manager Lisa Cook.

Rancher David Smith, and his father before him, acquired paid permits from the Town to graze cattle on the property during specific periods each year. Smith’s cows have been on the property in spring during calving, and again in the fall.

From the town’s perspective, there’s a liability concern that the property, which now has trails that connect to ERBM’s trail system over China Wall, could pose conflicts between hikers, cross country skiers, or pet owners that would leave the town vulnerable to a lawsuit.

While town rules ask that dogs be under “voice command” and rec district rules require leashes, the possibility of a dog/cow conflict exists.

The board is divided, with some trustees seeing the presence of cattle as a deterrent to public use and some seeing the cattle as a way to promote heritage culture and open space.

The property is designated for public purposes, according to Mayor Kent Borchard.

Multiple-use of the space has been beneficial; the town has weeded and irrigated, and Smith has supplied the water. That has improved conditions for neighboring properties and created ideal conditions for the sheepdog trials.

The board agreed to revisit the topic with direction from town attorney Melody Massih.