Pitkin County’s ATV ban to cost violators this summer | AspenTimes.com

Pitkin County’s ATV ban to cost violators this summer

For Pitkin County it’s no more Mr. Nice Guy when it comes to unlicensed, off-road vehicles this summer.

A county commissioner said earlier this month he wants those who violate the ban to be hit in the pocket book.

“Since we’re utilizing our own dollars, I would like to see them actually ticketing and fining people,” Commissioner George Newman said during a county meeting March 12. “That’s really the only way to get word spread.”

Commissioners reiterated a long-standing ban on unlicensed, off-road vehicles on county roads last summer after surveying county residents on the subject. More than 60 percent of residents supported severely limited or no use of county roads by off-highway vehicles like Razrs and other ATVs.

After commissioners decided to leave the ban in place, the question then became how to enforce it. The county decided to give the Forest Service $35,000 last summer to hire a contractor to go out between May and October and patrol areas like the backside of Aspen Mountain and Taylor and Pearl passes.

Commissioners also decided to emphasize education over punishment last summer because it was the first year the ban had been enforced, possibly ever. This year, however, will be a different story.

“Before we deploy the (Forest Service) rangers, I will make sure that the direction is clear,” Pettet told commissioners March 12. “I will make sure they know the county wants more tickets written this year.”

Last year, the plan was not to ticket anyone until the third offense, when a $250 ticket was to be written. The plan this year is not yet clear, according to Pettet and Karen Schroyer, the Forest Service’s district ranger for the Aspen-Sopris Ranger District.

Those who violate the ban could be given a ticket of as much as $500 and six months in jail, according to Forest Service regulations governing motorized road use.

Another change this year will be the addition of another contracted Forest Service enforcement officer. Pitkin County chipped in an extra $15,000 this year — for a total of $50,000 — after a Forest Service official told them in December the agency believed it was unsafe for just one person to enforce the ban.

This year, the officers will mainly concentrate on the back side of Aspen Mountain when enforcing the OHV ban, Pettet said. That area will include Express Creek Road, Little Annie Road, Midnight Mine Road and Richmond Ridge, he said, because that’s where most of the illegal OHV activity occurred last summer.

Pettet said Friday that he continues to receive regular emails from people upset about the OHV ban. The angry calls from OHV users last summer and fall prompted Pitkin County staff to suggest in December that commissioners open up a loop route using Pearl Pass Road and Express Creek Road, which both enter from Gunnison County.

The roads are Forest Service roads in Gunnison County, but county roads in Pitkin County, Pettet said.

But Pitkin County board members were not interested in the compromise. Pettet said earlier this month he also checked with the Castle Creek Caucus, which also didn’t want OHVs allowed in, so he dropped the subject of opening the loop.

Finally, the county will spend about $1,000 to have the Forest Service contractors replace signs it installed twice last year informing people that only highway legal vehicles are allowed on Pitkin County roads, Pettet said. The signs all disappeared last year, Pettet said.

Newman suggested earlier this month that the county install cameras to try and catch people stealing the signs. Pettet said he’d look into how much that might cost.