Off-highway vehicle use to remain legal on Wildridge roads |

Off-highway vehicle use to remain legal on Wildridge roads

There may, however, be a change to the OHV speed limit in the subdivision

In May, the Avon Town Council legalized the use of off-highway vehicles on public roads in Wildridge, legitimizing a practice that has been a core part of the subdivision’s culture for many of its residents
Rocky Mountain Sport Riders/Courtesy photo

After a summer of officially allowing off-highway vehicles to travel the roads of Wildridge, Avon Town Council on Tuesday deemed the ordinance it passed in May a success.

The ordinance — which drew large volumes of public debate and discussion this spring — legalized the use of off-highway vehicles on public roads in Wildridge, legitimizing a practice that has been a core part of the subdivision’s culture for many of its residents. The ordinance was intended to allow Wildridge residents to drive their vehicles from their place of residence or vehicle storage in the neighborhood to U.S. Forest Service Road 717.1B or 779.

The town hoped that the ordinance would bring new education and awareness to off-highway vehicle riders, educating them on proper etiquette and rules for riding on public roads, therefore increasing the safety of the practice.

Per the ordinance passed by Avon Town Council in May, off-highway vehicles are permitted in Avon on the roads highlighted in yellow.
Courtesy map

However, at the time of its passing, Town Council agreed to review its effectiveness in the fall — ensuring it had the desired effect of increasing safety without any unintended consequences.

On Tuesday, Avon Chief of Police Greg Daly presented a report to council, which outlined complaints received about these vehicles as well as the police department’s enforcement in the subdivision over the summer months.

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Between June 24 (the date the ordinance went into effect) and Nov. 1, the Vail Public Safety Communications Center received 10 off-highway vehicle-related complaints. All of the complaints, Daly said, came from three households. The complaints centered on concerns over speeding and off-highway vehicle users parking their vehicles and unloading to ride.

In addition to the complaints, Daly said that the department increased its enforcement in the area by around 50%, reporting 99 documented direct patrols and radar patrols.

“Our officers have not seen any significant increase in the number of OHV riders that we have seen in the previous years,” Daly said. “There was a concern expressed at the time of the passing of the ordinance that it was going to attract a lot of non-Wildridge residents into the subdivision. That is not something that we have seen.”

Overall, Daly noted no significant increase of off-highway vehicle riders in the neighborhood or any significant number of violations of the ordinance.

Council members, particularly those that live in the Wildridge area, expressed that they felt the ordinance was successful and resulted in a “significant shift with respect to compliance,” as Scott Prince put it.

“People are noticeably observing that speed limit, and it has been a welcome change to see that,” Prince said. “This new ordinance that we passed did exactly what it was intended to do and that was actually to reduce speeds; it has worked.”

Several Wildridge residents attended Tuesday’s meeting to share their perceived successes of the ordinance.

“We live right next to Red and White and the Chief’s report is spot on. We’ve lived up there for 22 years and there’s been zero appreciable increase in traffic, it’s just not there,” resident Rick Smith said. “I know some people have a difference of opinion, but it’s working awesome.”

Several noted that the ordinance also created a sense of responsibility among OHV riders to educate about safety.

“Just wanted to compliment the council on implementing these rules, it was a huge improvement. I think it really did help us keep the peace in the neighborhood,” resident Charley Viola said. “Every time I was up there, I was able to talk to people on the trail, and make sure they’re aware of the privilege of being able to ride from your house to the trail. I think we saw people slow down in the neighborhood quite a bit, noticeably.”

There was one resident, Peter Warren, joining the meeting virtually, who spoke out against the ordinance, expressing concerns over the danger brought by the speed and traffic behavior of not just off-highway vehicles but all vehicles in the subdivision.

The one complaint that many of the ordinance’s advocates gave was that the off-highway vehicle speed limit — currently set at 15 mph, which is lower than the prevailing 25 mph speed limit for other vehicles — actually created some safety concerns.

“The speed limit is a challenge, I gotta say, at 15 mph, I’ve had people buzz me, I’ve had people pass me. You can’t really pull into the bike lane and let people by because we’re not supposed to be there. And 15 is pretty darn slow,” resident Craig Lathram said. “I recount a situation where I got passed by an e-biker going up the hill.”

Daly agreed with the assessment that the lower speed limit creates an additional hazard, noting that it can slow down traffic and create its “own unique issues.”

He added that he would be willing to go whatever way the council determined on the speed limit.

“Safety is the primary reason that we enacted this ordinance, so I guess next step is to really look at that speed limit and try to determine what the safest speed limit should be for these OHVs,” said Mayor Sarah Smith Hymes.

While many of these Forest Service roads will close soon for winter, with some possible tweaks to the ordinance, Wildridge residents are poised to get another summer of riding from their house and to the trail next year.

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