Avon seeks to legitimize use of off-highway vehicles on public roads
Town will begin drafting an ordinance that will allow off-highway vehicles to use public roads to access Forest Service Roads through Wildridge
The town of Avon took its first steps to addressing the issue of off-highway vehicle use in Wildridge. The town will be drafting an ordinance that will allow off-highway vehicles to drive on Avon town streets, particularly in the Wildridge community. Avon does not yet have a date that it will put the ordinance before residents.
The exact language and scope of the ordinance has yet to be determined, but the Town Council is eager to begin legitimizing something that has been a gray area for many years.
The ordinance will address the ability of residents and visitors to use public roads to access Forest Service Road 779 and 771.1b through Wildridge. This will not address motorized vehicle use on the Forest Service Roads themselves. The designation of off-highway vehicles includes motorized vehicles such as off-road dirt bikes, snowmobiles, all-terrain vehicles and RZR side-by-sides.
In a presentation given to the Town Council on Tuesday, Avon Chief of Police Greg Daly said that for the last 15 to 16 years, the police department has taken a passive view in relation to off-road vehicles in the community.
“I would say that we have not been proactively stopping people if we observe people on an OHV in the Wildridge subdivision, as long as they have been driving within the speed limit, obeying the rules of the road,” Daly said.
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This gray area surrounding the use of these vehicles on public roads is due to two things. For one, there is a state statute that prohibits the use of these off-highway vehicles on public roads or highways, unless a town has authorized otherwise.
There also exists a long-standing Wildridge covenant from 1982, which expresses prohibition of these vehicles on any roadways and any plot of land in the community. However, there has been no enforcement of this covenant or others in the community for decades as enforcement of these covenants can only be achieved via private litigation.
“The Wildridge HOA became dormant before some of the council was born. Had that HOA not gone dormant, that HOA would have changed and progressed. When I look at the HOA covenants, I can’t even go there because those are stale documents that should have evolved with the community,” said Amy Phillips, Avon’s Mayor Pro Tem. “Those are not Wildridge roads, those are the town of Avon streets and they are public access for everyone in the town of Avon.”
The towns of Eagle and Gypsum have adopted similar ordinances in recent years that Avon may use as a blueprint.
In the summer of 2019, Gypsum passed an ordinance that allowed limited travel of off-highway vehicles on town streets and roads for the purpose of getting to and from nearby recreation trails and amenities. The town has designated specific routes and trailheads for off-highway vehicle travel as well as a number of rules drivers must follow.
The town of Eagle has a similar ordinance, which designates town roads and streets as limited off-highway vehicle routes when they are traveling directly to recreation sites from the rider’s home or place of storage. It also imposes a number of rules for drivers.
In taking these community ordinances into consideration, Avon will have to determine whether they will permit off-highway vehicles just on certain routes — primarily on the Wildridge roads — or extend the ordinance to other roads on the valley floor.
Wildridge residents speak out
The town of Avon has received numerous letters and public comments related to this issue, primarily from Wildridge residents on both sides of the debate.
Most advocates for creating an ordinance cited that being able to access these trailheads from their homes in Wildridge was the reason they moved to the community. However, many critics of an ordinance cited peace and tranquility — something that theses vehicles are disrupting — as the reason for moving to Wildridge.
Allowing for education
Advocates for the ordinance also noted that many complaints about the use of the off-highway vehicles on public roads — dangerous driving and noise — could be solved through education, which could only be administered if the practice was legitimized.
“By legitimizing the travel, it allows groups like Rocky Mountain Sport Riders, to do proper education and provide assistance on how to get to these trails in the most efficient way and also give them education on the proper way to ride through there,” said Robert Tadlock, speaking for Rocky Mountain Sport Riders. “Operating in a gray area is hard for everybody, it’s hard for clubs to give proper education and training and it’s hard for people that live there to know, ’Am I breaking the law or am I not?’”
This notion of education is something that fits with the Avon Police Department’s general philosophy regarding traffic enforcement.
“We see traffic enforcement as one of core priorities as Avon police officers. With that said, we are a community police force, so we try and resolve as much issues as we can through education,” Daly asid. “We are seeking behavioral change, we are not necessarily trying to punish people.”