Forest Service rangers to enforce Pitkin County’s ATV ban around Aspen

Signs like this one targeting ATV riders were installed last week on roads on the backside of Aspen Mountain and on Smuggler Mountain Road. They will go up next week on Taylor Pass and Pearl Pass roads as Pitkin County begins enforcing a ban on ATVs on all Pitkin County roads.
Courtesy Pitkin County

Pitkin County commissioners banned all-terrain vehicles on all county roads last spring and this summer they mean business.

The county is partnering with the U.S. Forest Service to have seasonal rangers patrol areas including the backside of Aspen Mountain to make sure people are observing the ban, said Brian Pettet, the county’s public works director, and Karen Schroyer, district ranger for the Aspen-Sopris Ranger District.

“I think it’s the best way for us to get out there and enforce the regulations,” Schroyer said Thursday. “It’s a perfect partnership for both of us.”

County commissioners asked the public last spring whether they should open some or all county roads to off-highway vehicles like the popular and increasingly ubiquitous Razrs. More than 60 percent of county residents said they wanted severely limited or no ATV use.

That prompted the commission to allow a pre-existing ban on the vehicles to stand. The only roads in Pitkin County approved for ATVs are certain designated roads in the White River National Forest, delineated on the forest’s website, that are mainly located in the Kobe Park area above Lenado.

The next step was to figure out how to enforce the ban because the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office doesn’t have the manpower to take on the job.

That plan came into focus over the winter and spring, when Pitkin County decided to pay $24,510 for the contracted services of seasonal Forest Service rangers, Pettet said. The Forest Service is contributing about $2,000 in training and will rotate several seasonal rangers on the enforcement ban patrols until mid to late October, Schroyer said.

They will first educate ATVers they run across, then issue a warning for a second contact and, finally, a $250 ticket, Pettet said. They will patrol roads including Little Annie, Richmond Hill, Midnight Mine, Summer Road, Express Creek, Pearl Pass and Taylor Pass, he said.

County workers put up warning signs on the backside of Aspen Mountain last week and will add similar signs on the Taylor and Pearl pass roads next week, Pettet said.

Another popular spot, Smuggler Mountain Road, also is off-limits to ATVs because it is a county road all the way to Warren Lakes, Pettet said. Signs forbidding ATVs went up on Smuggler last week as well, he said.

The rangers are on the job and will patrol the roads 40 hours a week until the fall, Schroyer said.

That doesn’t mean everyone has gotten the message, however.

Jim Paussa, a Snowmass Village resident, said Thursday he was riding up Summer Road a week ago before the rains last weekend when a pack of Razr drivers tore past him at top speed, covering him with dust and dirt.

“It was like, ‘Welcome to the New West,’” Paussa said. “These people are so self-centered they don’t have a clue. They think they can drive all over the national forest lands out West.”

Paussa said a crew of Aspen Skiing Co. workers came past him as well, but were courteous and slowed down so as not to stir up the fine, talcum powder-like dust on Summer Road.

“It was a quite a difference,” he said.

At least one Aspen business, Aspen Bike Tours and Rentals, is continuing to rent ATVs, though their ATV trips will entail transporting people to the Redstone area, co-owner Ed Garland said Thursday.

Motorcycles that are licensed and have the requisite safety features to drive on normal roads can use Pitkin County backcountry roads, Pettet said. ATVs cannot be made legal for roads, so none of them can use county roads, he said.

The Forest Service partnership is similar to another arrangement started about two years ago where a contracted ranger supervises the float situation at the North Star Nature Preserve east of Aspen. Prior that partnership, the area was suffering from symptoms of overuse including problems with parking, noise and trash associated with people floating the popular flat section of the Roaring Fork River.

Editor’s note: This report was updated to reflect the fine is $250 for a third-time offense.