New rules eyed for off-road vehicles in Pitkin County |

New rules eyed for off-road vehicles in Pitkin County

John Colson
Aspen CO, Colorado

ASPEN, Colorado ” For years Pitkin County, Colorado has ignored illegal off-highway vehicle use of county roads, especially those surrounding the White River National Forest or connecting with forest roads.

That may be about to change, but not in a way that will restrict OHV use of the county roads system.

Instead, the U.S. Forest Service wants to ensure that it is not encouraging illegal activities when, say, a backcountry all-terrain vehicle rider emerges from the woods and rides down a county road to get back to his truck and trailer, or to get back home.

The discussion grew out of talks between county commissioners and White River National Forest officials over the past two months, as the latter finishes up its work on a new travel management plan.

District Ranger Irene Davidson told county commissioners she wanted to make sure that access to forest roads did not conflict with county regulations concerning the kinds of vehicles that can be used on county roads.

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As a result, the county commissioners on Tuesday will consider a new set of regulations that will legalize OHV use on certain county roads, according to G.R. Fielding of the county engineering department. The work session starts at 2 p.m. and will be held in the Plaza One meeting room of the Pitkin County Courthouse.

Fielding has submitted a list of nine roads in the upper Castle Creek and Fryingpan River valleys that are proposed as formalized OHV routes.

The list includes Richmond Ridge Road, Little Annie Road, Midnight Mine Road, Pearl Pass Road and Express Creek Road in the Castle Creek area; the upper Frying Pan/Hagerman Pass and Hunter Valley roads; and Lincoln Creek Road off Independence Pass.

According to Fielding’s memo, “The Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office has agreed that these roads would be the most suitable for OHV traffic.”

The designation of OHV, according to a statute quoted by Fielding, means “any self-propelled vehicle which is designed to travel on wheels or tracks in contact with the ground, which is designed primarily for use off of the public highways, and which is generally and commonly used to transport persons for recreational purposes.”

The statute does not cover snowmobiles, which, according to director of operations Tom Grady of the sheriff’s department, are permitted on “any public road in the state, other than the interstates.”

As for those county roads not included in the list, Fielding predicted the rules are likely to remain the same ” meaning ORV use on county roads is generally illegal, but the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office does not enforce the regulation for lack of resources.

But, Fielding said, “whether or not enforcement is changed is up to the sheriff’s office.”

Grady said the sheriff’s office will not change its enforcement policies regarding OHV use of county roads anytime soon.

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