Off-highway-vehicle ordinance moves forward
Garfield County appears poised to join a growing number of Colorado counties in allowing off-highway vehicles on designated country roads.
Commissioners on Tuesday carried out the first reading of an ordinance that would do just that.
As Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario noted, the intent of the ordinance is for recreational purposes and not to authorize another means of transportation for everyday purposes.
Certain county roads, such as Four Mile Road, Catherine Store Road and others, would remain closed to off-highway vehicle use.
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Sheriffs across the state have worked for years on this issue, which finally came to a head earlier this year with the adoption of state legislation authorizing local jurisdictions to require off-highway vehicle operators to have a driver’s license and/or liability insurance.
Vallario, who has been involved in the discussions locally throughout the process, said he supports the ordinance, which would require off-highway vehicle operators on county roads to be at least 16 years old and have a valid driver’s license, as well as liability insurance that meets the state’s minimum requirements.
“I think it’s a well-done ordinance, and I have no issues on it whatsoever,” Vallario said.
Similarly, no objections were raised Tuesday by members of the public, county staff or commissioners.
Off-highway vehicle enthusiasts who worked with county staff on the effort said they were pleased with the final outcome.
“I’m really excited to get to this point,” said Jacquelyn Johnson, an off-highway vehicle enthusiast who works for the Rifle Regional Economic Development Corp.
Opening off-highway vehicle travel to certain county roads for the purpose of accessing public lands could provide an economic boost, which Johnson said spurred her interest in the issue.
More counties, including neighboring Mesa and Rio Blanco counties, have adopted regulations allowing off-highway vehicle use on public roads in recent years.
While thanking county staff for their work on the issue, Susan Nichols-Alvis, president and secretary of the White River Trail Runners ATV/UTV club, also noted the potential economic benefits.
Commissioner Mike Samson thanked both the enthusiasts and county staff for all their work in crafting the ordinance considered Tuesday.
“I really believe, I’ll just say it, everybody in our county wants something like this to happen,” Samson said.
Commissioners did provide some direction on the matter of signs. The ordinance suggested that signs either be put on roads open to off-highway vehicle use or on roads closed to off-highway vehicle use. Both Kelly Cave, assistant county attorney, and Vallario recommended putting signs on roads open to off-highway vehicle use in an effort to limit confusion and eliminate some defence arguments if a person was caught in violation of the ordinance.
WIth only a limited number of roads recommended for closure to off-highway vehicle access, installing signs on roads open to off-highway vehicles would be more costly but more effective, Cave said.
However, Commissioner Tom Jankovsky said he would prefer to see signs both on roads open to off-highway vehicle access and on more heavily traveled roads closed to off-highway vehicle access.
After some discussion, the commissioners agreed with Jankovsky’s suggestion and directed staff to revise the language in the ordinance to reflect the change.
The ordinance will be published in The Citizen Telegram and likely come back before commissioners for a public hearing and second reading Oct. 3.
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