Motorized trail users scolded in Avon as discussion over access continues
Forest Service Road 779 has been debated for years in Avon following the closure of the road to winter users as a result of the White River National Forest Travel Management Plan.
Implemented from 2011 to 2015, the plan was part of a national effort by the U.S. Forest Service to “identify the minimum road system needed for travel and for administration, utilization, and protection of National Forest System lands.”
The change didn’t go over well with snowmobilers in Avon, who saw the higher access point closed, and were forced to head down to June Creek road, instead, which is at a lower elevation, has less snow and more rocks. Most snowmobilers have moved on from Wildridge altogether as an access point, opting instead for Muddy Pass through Wolcott or Red Sandstone through Vail.
The Avon Town Council maintains some voice in the matter, however, due to a memorandum of understanding between the town and the Forest Service. The town of Avon owns the land abutting the Forest Service property, which it has committed to maintaining as open space. In an effort to make clear the town’s position on the 779 access point, a few questions about the trail were put to Wildridge residents on a recent community survey.
One question, which was phrased “Do you support discontinuing motorized vehicular use of Road #779 and limiting use to passive recreation,” saw 32% of respondents opposed or very opposed, 24% neutral, and 44% supportive or very supportive.
Councilmembers said the town would not be formalizing a stance on the matter based on the Wildridge survey.
“I think we need to look really comprehensively at this issue, I know we have public comment about it, we’ve got the federal government involved, funding, etcetera,” said Councilmember Tamra Underwood.
Councilmember Amy Phillips brought up the uncomfortable point of seeing your neighbor riding around on a four-wheeler with no license plate.
“I do think that that’s a safety issue that we need to address,” Phillips said.
Phillips also said the values between users of the 779 trail vary from person to person.
“It has been talked more often than not about making sure we keep the road open, but that doesn’t mean that the Wildridge neighborhood needs to put up with illegal vehicles driving around at too high of speeds,” Phillips said.
Councilmember Chico Thuon said that recent police presence in Wildridge would not be necessary if users engaged in more “self-policing.”
“I think that’s a huge part that’s lacking,” Thuon said.
‘Small group of people’
Police Chief Greg Daly, on Wednesday, said recently he has directed a regular patrol to the June Creek trailhead in Wildridge.
“We’re trying to have some presence up there in the evenings to educate our off-road users when they come off the dirt to be attentive to the neighborhoods,” Daly said. “We are just trying to encourage good driving behavior when people are coming off the trail.”
Daly said he sent a community response officer on a two-week patrol in July and August, and again in recent weeks.
“She has been up there to be present and be a deterrent to bad behavior,” Daly said.
Daly said he received two reports of bad behavior from off-road users earlier in the summer.
“The vast majority of people are well-behaved, and are respectful when they come off the trail,” Daly said. “Unfortunately there’s a smaller group of people that decided to speed or do other non-suitable traffic behavior.”
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