Aspen dirt biker lobbies for place to ride |

Aspen dirt biker lobbies for place to ride

Janet Urquhart
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN, Colorado – Aspen-area dirt bikers, unhappy they’ve been booted off their longtime playground on Smuggler Mountain, plan to voice their dissatisfaction to the Pitkin County Open Space and Trails Board next month.

And one Aspen native and veteran dirt biker is pitching an alternate site in the event the Smuggler property remains closed to motorized uses.

Larry Mayer took up the cause after he was recently issued a citation for riding his dirt bike in an off-road area of Smuggler. He not only plans to fight the citation, and the $100 fine, he is working to rally the dirt-biking community to fight for a place to ride off-road.

“I know a lot of the guys – they’re pissed off,” he said.

The area on Smuggler formerly used by the dirt-biking set was located on land owned by the late Wilk Wilkinson before it was acquired jointly by the city of Aspen and the county as open space. The management plan for the area relegates motorized traffic to Smuggler Mountain Road, which is popular with hikers, dogs and mountain bikers.

“There are so many hikers, it’s impossible to have fun dirt biking up Smuggler anymore,” Mayer said. “We don’t want to bother hikers. We don’t want to bother anybody. We just want to ride.”

Wilkinson had welcomed the riders, according to Mayer, who said he helped build the track up there decades ago. Dirt bikers would ride up the road to the bench above the viewing platform, then enter a section of Wilkinson’s property that was little more than mine tailings – an ideal place to ride without bothering others, Mayer said.

Mayer has been riding the Smuggler area since he was a youngster – for some 40 years.

Local dirt bikers used to be able to ride and race at the speedway in Woody Creek – a track they helped build, according to Mayer. Then they were locked out of that spot, but allowed to build a track at the county landfill. Mayer was in high school, in the ’70s, when dirt bikers were told they’d no longer have access to the landfill, he said.

“This town used to go off with dirt biking. Now it’s, ‘Oh no, we want golf courses,'” Mayer said. “They can’t find one acre for us to dirt bike on?”

Mayer approached county commissioners last week with a suggestion: Let the dirt bikers build a track on the land between Owl Creek Road, next to Buttermilk, and the south end of the airport.

If dirt bikers could ride there just one night a week, and hold one race a year, it would be better than nothing, Mayer reasoned. And dirt-bike noise shouldn’t be a problem, since jet engines are firing up at that end of the runway at regular intervals.

Commissioners directed Mayer to contact airport officials about restrictions that could prohibit use of the county-owned property.

It is part of the runway protection zone, said Jim Elwood, airport director, who wants to speak with Mayer personally before he determines whether dirt biking could be allowed there. “My initial reaction: It would be problematic,” Elwood said.

The county open space and trails board will meet at 1 p.m. July 9 in the Plaza One building next to the courthouse.

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