Telluride Daily Planet article:
BOCC passes OHV ordinance
Published: Sunday, April 22, 2007 6:03 PM CDT http://www.telluridegateway.com/articles/2007/04/23/news/news02.txt
Rules affect Imogene, Black Bear and Ophir passes
By Katie Klingsporn
In San Miguel County, three mountain passes — Imogene, Black Bear and Ophir — attract off-highway vehicle (OHV) drivers each summer with their steep grades, windy curves and sweeping views.
But in recent years, confusion and contention have been swirling around the use of OHVs on these passes. Questions over who has jurisdiction over the roads, what uses are or aren’t allowed and what should be allowed have arisen, prompting several public meetings and hours of discussion.
Over the past several months, the San Miguel County Board of Commissioners has untangled many of the concerns, taken the hefty public comment and worked with neighboring counties — which sit on the other side of the passes — to hammer out a solution.
Last week, the board passed an ordinance that sets out rules and regulations for OHV use on the passes. This ordinance is in accord with rules agreed upon by the neighboring counties of Ouray, San Juan and Hinsdale, and it closely mirrors an ordinance already passed by San Juan County.
“We have four counties that have been part of this discussion,” said Commissioner Elaine Fischer. “We all had similar concerns and wanted to create an ordinance that could be used across these invisible boundaries.”
According to the ordinance, all drivers operating an OHV must have a current driver’s license or operator’s license and must have minimum liability insurance. This goes beyond state law, which allows for kids as young as 10 to drive OHVs as long as they are “supervised.”
Also, the ordinance requires signs on the roads that inform users of the proper rules and where they cannot venture.
And the ordinance allows for the hiring of a high country ranger, who will patrol these passes, enforce the rules and make sure that users are not going off-road, driving recklessly or driving without a license.
One of the biggest concerns of OHVs in San Miguel County has been the damage that has been done by rogue drivers venturing off-road, leaving ruts and tire tracks in alpine hills or fields. In the past, many have argued that OHVs should be outright banned to prevent more damage. Commissioner Art Goodtimes said that with a this enforcement officer — who will be able to enforce across the jurisdictions — these problems can be mitigated.
“We’re hoping that we’ll have more enforcement than we’ve had in the past and we’ll continue to protect the resource rather than just ban the use,” Goodtimes said. “We’re hoping to have less damage.”
The ordinance will take effect early this summer.
Fischer said with the danger posed by driving on these rocky passes, the potential for damage of high-country landscape and the needs of our neighboring counties, the time had come for some regulations to be cemented.
“I think it needed to be done, and I think it’s important,” she said.