EAGLE COUNTY — Coming to terms with the full ramifications of the White River National Forest’s new travel management plan hasn’t been easy, say members of Rocky Mountain Sport Riders, a local motorized user group.
“Not many people realize the plan means there’s now zero miles of trail now open to ATVs,” said Kyle Hagberry with Rocky Mountain Sport Riders. “There’s also zero miles dedicated to single-track motorized use.”
The plan, which was unveiled in 2011 and is still being implemented at this time, says trails in the White River National Forest in Eagle County are now only available to licensed motorized vehicles, like Jeeps and street-legal dirt bikes. If the vehicle doesn’t have a license plate, it’s no longer allowed. ATVs, RZRs, kids dirt bikes and dirt bikes that aren’t street legal are not able to get license plates, so those vehicles are no longer welcome on popular Eagle County trails like Berry Creek, Muddy Pass, June Creek and Red and White.
Rocky Mountain Sport Riders are doing what they can to see that by next summer, this will no longer be the case.
“It’s one thing to have adults with driver licenses and a license plates on their vehicles, but to have the next generation of young kids be able to come and ride their mini bikes that are not plated is pretty important,” said Spencer Ball, Rocky Mountain Sport Riders Club president. “They’re closing off the ability for me to bring my godson out here to practice on his mini bike. We’re breaking the law by bringing him to Berry Creek and letting him practice. We’re not talking about tough, technical routes, we’re talking about coming out on a dirt road and practicing on your mini bike. It’s now illegal.”
However, on June 30, on the Red & White trail between Avon and Edwards, an official authorization was handed down from Forest Service District Ranger David Neely which said unlicensed vehicles would be allowed for that day only, as long as those motorized vehicles were used to conduct volunteer trail restoration work activities.
The Rocky Mountain Sport Riders were out in force, helping close off an area Neely calls the Red Hill Climb, and also enjoying the opportunity to legally ride the trails like June Creek and Red & White, which access that point.
Avon resident Bob Monaghan, a first-year Rocky Mountain Sport Riders member, used his RZR vehicle to meet up with the group and help till the earth near the Red Hill Climb for reseeding.
“I live in Wildridge, and the reason I bought this RZR is I had this amazing access up there,” he said on Saturday. “I don’t want it taken away, so I’m out here helping the Forest Service and trying to put a good name to riders like us. Hopefully they change the rules.”
Speaking from the Red and White trail on Saturday, White River National Forest OHV crew member Katie Davies said there’s a chance that by next summer, those rules could indeed be changed.
“This area is under review to re-designate who’s allowed to drive,” she said. “Berry Creek, June Creek, Red and White and Muddy Pass could all be re-designated to allow unlicensed vehicles.”
Davies said in the meantime, their goal is not to become traffic cops out there.
“Our first goal is not to ticket people; we would rather educate people on the rules of the new travel management plan,” she said. “If we see the same person doing the same thing over and over again then we may issue a warning and eventually a citation, but that’s not our goal.”
Davies said aside from the current plan review to get the aforementioned “roads” open, Rocky Mountain Sport Riders’ help in closing down unsustainable “user-made” trails, like Red Hill Climb, will help get singletrack open, as well.
“When an additional study happens to see what singletrack could be opened, if unsustainable areas like (the Red Hill Climb) are closed it will only help that effort,” she said.
An open comment period on the issue is slated for the “near future,” said Sara Baughman with the Forest Service, where the public will be allowed to voice their opinion on the use of unlicensed motorized vehicles in the White River National Forest.
“We really want to hear what people think,” she said.
Baughman recommends that anyone interested in the issue get on the project’s “scoping list” by calling 970-827-5715.
“If you’re on the list then you’ll know as soon as comments are being accepted,” she said.