Guest Commentary
Jul 03, 2004 | 201 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
By Larry Hopkins I would like to introduce myself. I am Larry Hopkins, a resident of Telluride for over 30 years. I started riding motorcycles after turning 50 when my knees started to hurt when hiking. I am a member of the San Juan Trail Riders Association, a group of over 300 OHV users of all types and ages that promotes the sport of riding and following safety and trail guidelines. We have won praise from the San Juan National Forest and the Uncompahgre  National Forest for our efforts to maintain trails, signage and working with the forest service to educate users. Last year we put in over 500 man hours in these endeavors including the local Telluride area. A lot of people seem to think that enforcing the ban on unlicensed vehicles – basically just ATVs – will stop the problems that are happening on the three mountain passes. I disagree, and feel that a comprehensive plan is needed, because over the next ten years the traffic and impacts are going to double or triple. What are we going to do next time – outlaw mountain bikes, large 4x4s or all private jeeps, and allow only tour vehicles up there, or outlaw all vehicles? I believe the following issues are an overview of the BIG problems, and not just a band-aid to ban ATVs. 1. This is a U.S. Forest Service problem, because they control all land outside of the roadway, which is what we really all care about — the high-alpine tundra. Besides, they currently are the enforcement agency for those who are breaking the rules up on the passes. If a citizen sees people high-pointing, making new trails or driving any vehicle off the roadway, the Forest Service should be called – it is their area to police.  2. The actual legal control of the roadway and placing bans on it is a matter that needs to be worked out between the USFS and the county commissioners’ lawyers, and not in a public debating match. This is a very complex issue. 3. The Uncompahgre Travel Management Plan of 2002 states that the road is open to all vehicles, licensed or unlicensed. Why didn’t the San Miguel County Commissioners go through the proper channels – i.e., hearings, public scoping, draft and final EIS – at that time? We as a group of riders did – and lost a lot of trails that were legal before the plan, among them Dallas Trail, Sunshine Trail, and, earlier, the Lewis Mine-Bixby Road. We believe in the travel plan and obey closures as posted and on maps. 4. As a member of a riding group, I am tired of being accused of riding off trails, tearing up the fragile tundra, disregarding trail closure, trashing the areas, throwing dirty diapers out – you get the idea. Yes, we all know of rule-breakers, people who ski closed ski runs on the ski mountain, pass on double yellow etc. etc. Yes, I agree there are some people out there breaking the rules and they need to be cited or educated by someone, an alpine host-ranger-volunteer or a paid seasonal worker or some other method. 5. In the last few years, the OHV organizations have actively taken on the role of education of riders to ride with RESPECT, Share the Trails, Tread Lightly. The 3 Es are Education, Enforcement and Engineering. Whatever the plan, short-term or long-term, for the passes, it must include the 3 Es, via signs, handouts, patrols and example for all users – not just ATVs – instead of just saying NO! via a sign at the top of the passes. This needs to be a coordinated effort with all parties involved. SOLUTIONS 1. We as an organization put trust into San Miguel County Commissioner Art Goodtimes’s cyber task force, which we thought was a group authorized by the county commissioners. I even sent an email asking Art about the legality of the task force, and if the input was being entered into the public record. He did not respond to this nor did he ever say anything that I am aware of indicating that it was a private task force until July 2 in The Telluride Watch. Since Art’s cyber task force has been disbanded, I ask that the commissioners organize a workshop with representatives from all involved entities. This workshop must be of a workable size and given enough time to actually formulate a formal proposal to resolve this issue. It should be made up of a representative from Ophir, Sheep Mountain Alliance, San Miguel County Commissioners, the Forest Service, the Town of Telluride, the San Juan Trail Riders, the Thunder Mountain ATV club, Ouray County Commissioner and one at-large member appointed by the county commissioners. The group should be charged with finding a workable solution to all the problems, including long-term planning. 2. We strongly support the idea that the Forest Service is working on a bypass of the Town of Telluride by using an old road near the tunnel down to the old Idarado mill site. This bypass would be for motorcycles, ATVs, mountain bikes – not 4x4s. This would cut down on the congestion on lower Tomboy of mixed usages, parking problems at the top of Oak Street, dust, noise, etc. It would make for a connector between Black Bear and Imogene passes. The problem I see is that the Town of Telluride would lose out on tax revenues, but maybe that is what the town wants. 3. The Ophir issue of using the main street of their town for too much traffic might be addressed in two different manners, and help solve the problems over there. Has anybody thought of a bypass route around Ophir? Would it be possible to make a jeep road on the north side under or near the power line or south side of the Ophir Valley, so that all non-local vehicles would use the bypass and avoid the town of Ophir. This idea needs to be looked at as a long-range solution. Another idea would be to cut off bypass for ATVs and motorcycles onto the old Bixby-Lewis mine Road down to Bridal Veil area of Black Bear Pass. This would stop the OHVs from coming through Ophir but would not cut down on the 4x4s.  3. I think the county commissioners should put an ordinance on the books by adopting the U.S.F.S. limits of 96 db-20 inches from the exhaust pipe and spark arresters for all OHVs similar to the USFS. 4. The county commissioners must act today on refunding the $80,500 of grant money that they accepted from GOCO  registration fees in 1999, or lift the ban that is currently in effect. It is morally wrong to accept monies from a grant from OHV fees, and then ban them. I propose that the grant money be returned to the original granting group or be given to the USFS in Norwood so it can be used to improve and maintain OHV trails under the travel management plan in this district and or help fund the by pass proposal. 5. If the commissioners decide today not to change the ban then I beg you to change the wording on the signs at the top of the passes to say Unlicensed Vehicles instead of All OHVs. I saw people turning around over the weekend who were riding licensed OHVs. Thanks for reading this and I look forward to working together to try to find a solution to these tough questions. Larry Hopkins is a member of the Telluride Chapter of the San Juan Trail Riders Association. For “Thank You” Letters to the Editor, please see the classified section on PAGE 26.  
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