Pitkin County, feds working on ATV ban enforcement plan
Heavier enforcement in Aspen Mountain area to start in 2018
Come next summer, those who continue to ride off-road, unlicensed vehicles on Aspen Mountain and other Pitkin County roads may be in for a rude awakening.
That’s because Pitkin County and U.S. Forest Service officials are working on a plan to hire two rangers to patrol Aspen Mountain and other areas in 2018 to enforce a ban on unlicensed, off-road vehicles on county roads, said Brian Pettet, Pitkin County’s public works director.
Unlicensed, off-highway vehicles — which include the popular Razors, four-wheelers and other vehicles that don’t have the proper equipment for an official license plate — never have been officially allowed on roads in Pitkin County or the city of Aspen. However, city and county law enforcement have traditionally not enforced the law.
Pitkin County commissioners debated whether to open some or all county roads to the off-road vehicles this spring, but decided in the end to allow the ban to stand. The only roads in Pitkin County open to the off-highway vehicles are certain designated roads in the White River National Forest, which are delineated on a map on the forest’s website.
The next step in the process was to figure out how to enforce the ban, which includes all roads on Aspen Mountain, including Summer Road, Little Annie’s Road and Midnight Mine Road.
Pitkin County Undersheriff Ron Ryan said the sheriff’s office doesn’t have the manpower to patrol Aspen Mountain or the numerous other roads in the county looking for scofflaw off-roaders. The office does address complaints when it receives them, he said.
So, with that option off the table, Pettet said he approached area Forest Service officials with a proposal to jointly hire and pay for two Forest Service rangers to be responsible for the enforcement. The officials were interested in the idea, he said.
A message left Friday for Karen Schroyer, district ranger for the Aspen-Sopris Ranger District, seeking comment was not returned.
Pettet, however, said the idea is that the rangers would work from April to November and, initially at least, concentrate on Aspen Mountain, where many off-highway vehicles continue to operate. He said he’s budgeted $20,000 for the project for next summer, though he wasn’t yet certain if that was too much or not enough.
Pettet said he hasn’t received details yet from the Forest Service about the project. However, it will probably work similarly to a partnership with the agency that began last year at the North Star Nature Preserve, where a Forest Service employee paid by Pitkin County enforces parking rules for boaters at the main put-in for the popular float trip east of town. The law banning the vehicles has not been enforced much this summer, he said.
But businesses in town that rent the unlicensed, off-road vehicles appear to have adapted.
Paul Williams, co-owner of Aspen Bikes next door to The Butcher’s Block, said the commissioners’ decision to re-emphasize the ban has affected his Razor rental business. However, the company now puts the vehicles on trailers and drives them up to the Kobe Park area above Lenado for people who want to rent them.
“It’s cut into our business significantly,” Williams said. “But we’re trying to do the right thing.”
Williams also said he thinks the number of off-highway vehicles on Aspen Mountain has decreased this summer.
Aspen Assistant Police Chief Linda Consuegra said the other business that used to rent Razors out of the Conoco gas station on Main Street stopped renting the vehicles after the commissioners’ decision in April. In addition, Aspen police officers do enforce the ban, but rarely write tickets because offenders are often from other areas or are merely trying to get gas, she said.
Officers have written one ticket for violating the city’s ban in the past three months, Consuegra said.
Pettet said that when and if the enforcement begins next spring, rangers will likely issue warnings only in the beginning before writing $50 tickets to those who violate the ban. Also, the county will post signs in popular areas like Aspen Mountain to educate people about the ban, he said.
Pitkin County Board Chairman George Newman said he wants more information about the possible partnership before giving it the thumbs up. However, he said it is important to enforce the ban in Pitkin County.
“It’s a big deal in terms of the impacts it has on other users in the backcountry,” Newman said. “It could grow into a tremendous problem.”
Newman also pointed out that many other counties in the area not only allow but embrace off-road vehicles.
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Social media sites exploded with activity on Monday night as locals posted pictures of a mushroom cloud formation visible from most of Pitkin, Eagle and Garfield counties.