Avon moves one step closer to legalizing use of OHVs on Wildridge roads
The town is moving forward with an ordinance that would allow residents in Wildridge to drive their off-highway vehicles from their homes to the trailhead, legally
Debate and discussion surrounding the use of off-highway vehicles on Avon public roads in Wildridge continued at Tuesday night’s Town Council meeting.
At the meeting, the Town Council was presented with an ordinance that would legitimize the use of off-highway vehicles within the Wildridge subdivision. This topic was first breached, and the ordinance initiated, at the April 13 Town Council meeting.
Specifically, the ordinance designates all town roads and streets within Blocks 1 through 4 of the subdivision, beginning above the 2000 Block of Wildridge Road (south of the intersection of Wildridge Road and Old Trail Road). The ordinance also stipulates the following:
- All off-highway vehicles must adhere to a speed limit of 15 mph
- All off-highway vehicles must have mufflers and spark arrestors
- All off-highway vehicles must be registered through the Colorado State Division of Parks and Wildlife
- All off-highway vehicles must be insured
- Drivers of off-highway vehicles may not drive in a careless and imprudent manner
- All drivers over the age of 16 with a driver’s license may drive on these roads with an off-highway vehicle.
- Minors under the age of 16 may travel on an off-highway vehicle if supervised by an adult traveling with or beside the minor
This ordinance does not refer to the use of such vehicles on the Forest Service roads. However, Avon Mayor Sarah Smith Hymes did note that the use of Forest Service Road 779 will be a topic of discussion at one of the June Town Council meetings.
A barrage of comments
The town has received an enormous number of public comments regarding this topic. In the time between the April 13 Town Council meeting and Tuesday night’s Town Council meeting, it received nearly 118 comments, the majority (71 comments) of which support such an ordinance.
“We do so appreciate everyone’s input; it’s very helpful to each of us to receive these comments in advance of the council meeting,” said Avon Mayor Sarah Smith Hymes. “There were many well-written and well-reasoned comments submitted by both those for and against OHV use on Wildridge roads. One aspect that was both apparent and uniform is that the resident’s of Wildridge feel very strongly about their neighborhood, and that’s a good thing.”
This ordinance attempts to strike a balance between legalizing a practice that Wildridge residents have been doing for many decades while still ensuring the safety and well being of both the neighborhood and town residents.
Many residents against legalizing this practice came out Tuesday night citing possible unintended consequences largely centered around the notion that passing this ordinance could lead to more off-highway vehicle traffic in the area. Some of these consequences included an increase in commercial off-highway vehicle activity, increased danger of wildfires, an increased threat to pedestrians and more.
“In my opinion, there’s been rather naive assumptions built into this ordinance,” said Peter Copses, a resident in Wildridge. “If this was just to facilitate Wildridge residents from using the Forest Service road, I could see that. But that is, in my view, a naive assumption. I don’t know why we want to encourage more motorized vehicle use in the forest, when everyone is scared to death of fires.”
Proponents for the ordinance countered that this has been a standard practice for many Wildridge residents and that making it legal will only increase safety and education around the use of such vehicles. These residents cited neighboring towns Gypsum and Eagle, which have adopted similar ordinances, with no notable increase in off-highway vehicle activity or wildfires.
“The open question that none of us really can know definitively is whether or not this is going to increase this access point,” Smith Hymes said. “It has been acknowledged, in terms of practice for 40 years, that you can get on an OHV and ride to an access point in Wildridge and not be ticketed. I just don’t see that simply formalizing the behavior that has been going on for many years, and making it safer is going to make more people come up into Wildridge.”
Ultimately, the council voted — with only Councilmembers Tamra Underwood and Amy Phillips dissenting — to push the ordinance through to a second reading at the next Town Council meeting.
During the meeting, councilmembers did debate and question some of the practical applications and possible outcomes of the ordinance. This includes issues of enforcement and parking near trailheads as well as needed changes to the ordinance such as definitions around electronic vehicles, stipulating a trial period for the ordinance and deterring an increase in commercialization. These are issues that Andrea Bryan, assistant town attorney and attorney at Garfield & Hecht, P.C, and town staff will be researching and addressing at the second reading of the ordinance.
“I think allowing it and then coming back a year later and reviewing, we’ll be able to see what unintended consequences we didn’t capture within this ordinance,” said Councilmember Lindsay Hardy. “Summer is starting, let’s get this signed, sealed, out there and allow these residents to use these roads as they have been.”
Reporter Ali Longwell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.