Because you Asked: Rules about roadside memorials
Last updated 8/18/2021 at 9:54am | View PDF
This paper's July 21 issue published a letter to the editor from Mary Koepp ("Trading gravesites for street corners") asking about a memorial on the street corner of Caballero Avenue and Fountain Mesa Road (pictured). Koepp observed that this memorial violates city restrictions about what can be placed on street corners, and asked whether there was a way to contact city officials about getting an exception to that restriction.
The memorial in question is actually outside city limits, as that particular street corner is in unincorporated El Paso County. However, since street corners are public right of ways, technically roadside memorials violate county and city codes limiting construction in right of ways, a subject covered in a July 14 article, "Because you asked...What's the Right of Way?"
This paper contacted county and city officials to see if there are exceptions for putting up roadside memorials in right of ways, and if there's a process for getting an exception. Kristy Martinez, planning supervisor for the city of Fountain, responded that "the [City] Code does not address roadside memorials. There are very few allowances of things that may be placed in the public right of way."
Natalie Sosa, the deputy public information officer for El Paso County, gave the following statement:
"At this time, due to potential safety concerns, El Paso County does not allow private memorials within the county's right-of-way. El Paso County respects its citizens and recognizes the importance of mourning the loss of a loved one after a traffic crash by placing a memorial near the crash site. To assist families in memorializing their loved ones, El Paso County is in the process of creating a formal program our citizens can use to honor and memorialize their loved ones without posing a hazard or interfering with roadway safety features. This formal program will assist families in honoring their loved ones while still maintaining the safety of our roadways."
Sosa stated the county will send out a media release and announce it on social media platforms once this formal program is ready.
Given the emotional nature of roadside memorials, it is possible that officials may "turn a blind eye" in some cases. For obvious reasons, officials would not make any official comment on that.
More surprising, this street corner is part of the area proposed as a roundabout location, (see "Update on Fountain Mesa roundabout proposal" in Aug. 4 issue). Plans for a roundabout in this area have circulated for years in response to roadside accidents, speeding and traffic enforcement issues. Depending on how roundabout plans continue, the memorial may be moved to a new location. Fountain Deputy City Manager Todd Evans has confirmed that an engineer with the Colorado Department of Transportation will be present at the upcoming city council meeting to discuss roundabout plans and answer any questions. In particular, the engineer will highlight that the project will be run by the county, not Fountain.
Do you have questions about oddities around the community that you want answered here? Can we help figure out something that's been bothering you? Email us at [email protected] or call 382-5611 to be featured in "Because You Asked."