Alpine Ranger Tom Reyburn at Hurricane Pass
Conflicting state and county rules regarding the use of off-highway vehicles are creating confusion in the backcountry and complicating local efforts to deal with the growing traffic.
And local officials say the tension is heightened by the state’s refusal to help fund the backcountry alpine ranger program in the San Juans.
State officials gathered in Silverton with representatives from San Juan, Hinsdale, Ouray and San Miguel counties last week to air their concerns about OHV use on the Alpine Loop jeep trail network and the inconsistent rules of the road.
State law allows OHVs — all-terrain vehicles and dirt bikes — to be operated by children as young as 10, under adult supervision.
But San Juan, Hinsdale and San Miguel counties require OHV operators to be licensed drivers and to have liability insurance. Ouray County has a liability insurance requirement.
The four counties also operate an alpine ranger program, with two rangers on patrol in the region during the summer months. For the past three years the counties have sought state funding for the program, but have turned down due to their tighter rules.
The state collects an annual registration fee of $25.25 from each ATV, adding up to some $4.2 million a year.
On Aug. 12 a 10-year-old Steamboat Springs boy was killed while operating an OHV on South Mineral Creek Road in San Juan County. Just 10 days earlier a 14-year-old Florida boy was killed in a Ouray County ATV crash.
Those tragedies have heightened concerns about off-highway vehicle use and enforcement issues.
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