Rule-breakers just another sign of the times | AspenTimes.com

Rule-breakers just another sign of the times

Gaylord Guenin

Living in Lenado this past summer created the strange feeling that you somehow had been transported to the planet of the ATVs.

Over the years we began to see an occasional ATV going into the woods above our community during hunting season; normally the machine would be in the back of a truck or was being hauled on a trailer. But they came in limited numbers and during limited periods of the year.

Then suddenly, or so it seemed, the ATV invasion began and it was not limited to the hunting season. Nor were those things confined to the backs of trucks or to trailers. They were on the Woody Creek Road, which happens to be illegal and reasonably dangerous, and they were occupied by folks who appeared to be out for a joy ride. Now and again a group would go by my cabin and a couple of the drivers looked far too young to be driving any kind of motorized vehicle, much less something as unstable as an ATV. Why not just give the kids the family SUV and set them loose on Highway 82? So, the kid can’t reach the brake pedal? The SUV probably has air bags, right?

As you all know, ATV stands for “all-terrain vehicle,” which is an invitation to trouble if you consider that to be a literal definition. Those damn things will go almost anywhere if you use some caution. If you are the least bit careless, however, you may be on your way to the hospital ” or worse. And we all know that youngsters and too many adults come fully equipped with a huge reserve of carelessness.

What happens to those folks on ATVs once they are off the road and into the woods is of little concern to me. If they don’t want to wear helmets or put them on their children, I guess that is their business. It becomes everyone’s business when they cruise down public roads with little regard for their own safety, however.

So it came as a pleasant surprise recently when a new sign appeared on the Woody Creek Road approximately two miles below my cabin. The sign can be read as you drive up the road toward Lenado, and it states that no snowmobiles, ATVs or camping is allowed on the road for the next 3.5 miles. A neighbor of mine, who has been concerned for some time about snowmobiles and ATVs on the road, finally convinced the Woody Creek Caucus and Pitkin County to erect the sign.

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Now the big question is whether or not anyone will pay attention to the sign. Considering how many visitors ignore the speed limit signs in Lenado, I have my doubts. But it at least makes it clear that those who ignore the warnings will be breaking the law, and there is little question about a majority of Lenado residents calling the law if they see a snowmobile or an ATV roar by.

One problem for those of us who live in Lenado is the fact that the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office does not have the manpower or the finances to patrol the Woody Creek Road on a regular basis, so we are left to our own devices. We are not allowed to shoot at speeders, snowmobilers or anyone else, so we pretty much are reduced to relying on signs.

Now and again one or another of us has the opportunity to stop a snowmobiler or ATV rider and explain the situation to them, but they normally don’t hear a word you are saying and likely don’t give a damn about the rules anyway.

Last winter I stopped some snowmobilers in front of my cabin and explained to them that what they were doing was illegal. A lady in the group made it perfectly clear to me that she could afford to pay any fine that might be levied and that her lawyers would probably get the charges dropped. The “money” thing has become more and more common in our valley, or so it seems. It is the attitude that rules only apply to the “little people,” those who can’t afford to keep an entire law firm on retainer. It is an unfortunate attitude, but it does exist.

One of the reasons I left my job at the Woody Creek Tavern was the fact that as the years passed, I was hearing more and more from individuals who were informed that there was a wait for dinner: “Don’t you know who I am?”

Of course my answer was automatic and honest: “No, I don’t know who you are!” The arrogance of that was just a tad too much to take.

The Tavern’s policy was quite straightforward: “First come, first served and no reservations.” But there were always a few who believed they should be able to make reservations because in their minds, they were “special” and we should bend the rules for them. That was not the way we played the game. We did our best to accommodate everyone but we didn’t break the rules for anyone.

Now that we have our new sign on the Woody Creek Road and the snowmobile season is approaching, it will be interesting to see how many rule-breakers we now have in the valley. My guess is that their numbers have increased.

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