Forest Service tickets Aspen-area snowmobilers
ASPEN ” U.S. Forest Service rangers ticketed two snowmobilers Sunday for riding in prohibited wilderness areas and busted two others earlier in the month.
The two sled drivers caught Sunday were near Independence Lake, along the upper Lost Man Loop, which is accessed from the Independence Pass road, according to Tim Lamb, forestry technician for the Aspen-Sopris Ranger District. The two earlier citations were issued along Richmond Ridge. All four snowmobile operators were given $500 tickets. The Forest Service policy is to withhold the names of the parties who are ticketed, Lamb said.
Motorized and mechanized uses are banned in congressionally designated wilderness areas. “It’s a noise and solitude issue,” Lamb said. Wilderness areas were set aside starting in 1964 as places for primitive adventure and solitude, and as refuges for humans as well as wildlife.
Aspen is surrounded by wilderness areas, including many alongside popular, legal access routes for snowmobiles. For example, snowmobiles are allowed on Highway 82 up Independence Pass, past the closure gate, but they are prohibited in wilderness areas a short distance off the road, both north and south. Wilderness is even closer to the county road along Richmond Ridge.
Snowmobilers might not see signs for wilderness and find wide, untouched snow-covered meadows too tempting to avoid. Some of the poaching is a result of ignorance, while in other cases, it is intentional. Whatever the reason, it is still a rider’s responsibility to know where the boundaries are located, Lamb said. Boundary signs are posted in problem areas and maps are posted at major trailheads.
Most snowmobilers comply, but forest rangers regularly see tracks into wilderness areas near Pearl Pass and Mount Sopris, as well as Independence Pass and Richmond Ridge.
“It’s kind of an ongoing problem. It has been for quite a while,” Lamb said. “About every time I go out I see tracks.”
The Forest Service hopes that by getting the word out about recent citations, they will get more compliance. A press release from the agency listed several places where snowmobilers can get off groomed routes and play in powder legally. Those include the Sunlight to Powderhorn trail system; Kobey Park near Lenado; and the Flat Tops trail system north of Glenwood Springs and Rifle.
Maps on winter recreation opportunities are available at the Forest Service offices in Aspen and Carbondale. Information is available by calling 925-3445 and 963-2266.
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A speeding car on Tuesday morning crashed into and destroyed part of the winter closure gate on Maroon Creek Road.