Man Claims Masonville Woman has Stranded 400+ Colorado Flood Survivors Behind a Locked Gate
Yesterday there was a letter posted to reddit and Facebook claiming that a woman in Masonville had locked the gate on her private road, preventing 400+ residents from escaping the flooded town of Drake, Colorado. Drake has a population of 1,010 people and is an unincorporated town in the Big Thompson Canyon between Loveland and Estes Park.
According to reports, the road closed off was one of only two roads not washed away by flood waters. However 9 News reports that the claim in untrue, saying that landowner Marilyn Dion will let residents from Drake come down the road but will not let them go back up. You can watch their video on the story below.
Andy Hitch, who wrote the letter below, says that 9 News only used a small portion of the interview and did not share all of the facts. He continues to say that the woman is being uncooperative with local residents and maintains that:
the story I wrote on facebook was and still is accurate."
We talked with Hitch this morning and he went into further depth about the situation, saying:
I never meant to cause a stir but wanted to help residents on Storm Mountain establish a supply chain for food, medication and other essential needs."
He told us that the Storm Mountain area is mostly fine with the exception of the Town of Drake, because the homes there are so far above the river. He added that most residents do have power and working utilities in their homes at this point. However many residents are now choosing to stay up on the mountain because they know getting back up to their homes, which were mostly untouched by the disaster, will be difficult. Hitch says residents that did evacuate down the road are now upset that they can't get home and were not initially told that would be the case. Essentially a locked gate is preventing residents from returning to their homes that are completely livable; hence why those living on Storm Mountain are upset. They will be forced to evacuate once supplies run out because of the situation with the gate.
Hitch went on to say that there is another road across Bobcat Ridge that residents could use to get out of the area with an SUV, know as "Powerline Road" by locals. There are problems there as well though because of more gates and land ownership issues according to Hitch.
We also talked with Captain John Manago of the Larimer County Sheriff's office this morning, for more clarification. He said that officials have talked to Marilyn Dion and that she has been cooperating with first responders, but because of issues in the past, she doesn't want people going back up the road. Captain Manago told us:
That’s her property, and she has the right to do what she wants to do,”
He also said the condition of the road is of concern because it is very treacherous. When we talked with Andy Hitch, he confirmed that was the case, but added that residents had teamed up fix the two track road and were doing so until they learned it would do them no good.
UPDATE 8:00 PM 9/17/2013: We believe a resolution to this problem is near. Sheriff Justin Smith posted this to facebook a short time ago; thank goodness!
Here is what the letter stated when it was posted to reddit and social media outlets:
I hope everyone is safe and dry. I'm on Storm Mountain in Drake all our road are gone. We are clearing an old forest road to see if we can get down. A man was able to do it but there is a lady in Masonville with a locked gate blocking the road and not letting anyone through. If you are in Masonville and you know who this might be we need a name or an address or something to get off this mountain. She did the same thing with the fire up here in 2000. This is from the man that made the trip up. It's long but please read. I need to get hay up here for my horses as my hay stash is under water.
There is a mountain community, 400+ strong, stranded. All roads off this mountain have been obliterated by the floodwaters. However, there is one way down. This 10-mile section of national forest is accessible by the residents on the mountain. However, at the very bottom of the road there is a woman who leases land from the government. She is the “gate keeper” and has decided to keep it locked. In her words: “those people choose to live up there, they can figure out some other way on and off that mountain”. She knows there is no other way, but she doesn’t care. She pulled the same thing in 2000 when there was a huge forest fire. People at the bottom actually had to break the gate down so residents, literally racing down the hill with fire on their tale, could flee the danger. I found another way up on a dirt bike, on a trail that hasn’t existed for many decades. I covered impossible ground and blasted through white water floods to make my way up where I knew friends and family were in need of things. My only way out however, ended up being the access road where the crazy woman controls the gate. On a road that normally only takes me 20 minutes to travel, took me over 2 hours. I wrecked many times, got stuck countless times, crossed many floods, and in general, got pretty banged up. Once I reached her gate, she didn’t want to let me leave. Two hours of living hell on a dirt bike, covered in mud, soaking wet, tired, and banged up, she wanted to send me right back where I came from. I had to lie and tell her I was coming off the mountain to get back to my children in the valley. I told her there were at least 40 men with shovels getting ready to work the destruction on that road tomorrow so they could get down in massive 4x4 vehicles to get supplies. She proceeded to tell me that she “might” let them pass, but there is “no way she is letting them back in”. I told her they have families and homes to get back too; they just need supplies the helicopters would not deliver. Things like dog and cat food, gas for their generators and prescriptions just to name a few. She said “I don’t care, that’s not my problem”. I proceeded to get very upset and told her that in a crisis like this, we need to help each other out. Those people are stranded. You may not agree with their life style, but that is their home. They need things, they need our help. Why would it bother you so much to have a few vehicles come through to get supplies to bring back to people in need”? She replied again, “I don’t care, that’s their problem. If they are stuck up there for a year, that’s just tuff”. I had a few choice words for her and bolted through the gate back to my home down the road a couple miles.
On the way down, I ran into the blockade by a washed out bridge and spoke with the Deputy Sherriff and national guardsmen there. We spoke about the men working that road to get off the mountain and the crazy woman who says she will not let them back in to be with their families. The cop agreed she is out of control, but stated she had the legal right to do what she is doing. We both agreed that it’s not right however. Therefore, tomorrow 9/16, many family men will work all day shoveling and moving rock on one of the most traitorous back roads anyone has ever seen. They will work through with bloody hands while destroying their vehicles because they have no other choice. They will do all this just to find a locked gate at the bottom and a crazy woman that won’t let them return to their families. She told me she would fight anyone “tooth and nail” and hold her ground. In my opinion, this is a travesty in the highest regard, and a shameless act that deserves the attention of anyone with a shred human decency. It will take more communities to come together, pushing on local and federal officials to force this individual to do the right thing. Otherwise, there is no telling what she is capable of. Maybe we can break down the gate, but she might block it with tractors. Will she shoot someone? Will she have people arrested who are only trying to provide for their families during this disaster? This is no time for injustice. We need to help one another; we need to help these families.