MONTROSE — Art Goodtimes remembers when his worst fears about off-highway vehicle safety were realized. It was this summer. Twice.
On Aug. 2, Austin Kitchen-Snyder, 14, died after losing control of his all-terrain vehicle in Ouray County. He was wearing protective gear and was supervised, but was thrown from his ride and into a tree. Later that month, Cory Ferrier, 10, of Steamboat Springs, died in San Juan County, also of injuries sustained in an ATV crash.
The deaths prompted Goodtimes, a San Miguel County commissioner, to renew his calls to Colorado Parks and Wildlife to help fund a collaborative ranger program for the Alpine Loop, a high-mountain scenic byway in the Northern San Juans. The agency has refused, citing discrepancies between county and state legislations.
In contrast with state regulations, San Miguel, Hinsdale and San Juan counties don’t allow off-highway vehicles operators who do not have a motor vehicle licenses and insurance to drive the vehicles on the county roads where use is allowed.
Most of the land along the loop, which was not the scene of the deaths, is managed by public lands agencies, but the counties have adopted some of the roads in the loop. San Miguel, Ouray, Hinsdale and San Juan counties kick in funding for their collaborative ranger program.
State regulations say that those riders must be 10 or older to operate one where use is allowed. If the person doesn’t have a valid driver’s license, he or she must be under “immediate supervision” of a licensed driver.
Ouray County allows those 10 or older to operate off-highway vehicles, provided they are accompanied by a licensed driver, Sheriff Junior Mattivi said. Unlike the state, Ouray County requires liability insurance
Colorado Parks and Wildlife has for three years denied grant applications made by the off-highway vehicle users’ fund administered by the agency because some counties have policies that do not conform to their regulations.
State rules for young riders are minimal, though at least five other states in the intermountain West have the same or similar minimal requirements, said Ken Brink, assistant director of parks and outdoor recreation with Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife manages $4 million a year in trail-maintenance money. The funding comes from the sale of $25 OHV/ATV registration stickers, which are necessary to ride on designated trails. Stickers have been sold for approximately 140,000 OHVs in Colorado. The agency has so far devoted $1 million in signage, improvements and other services on the Alpine Loop, Brink said.
“Are we funding the Alpine Loop ranger? No, we are not, but we’re funding $1 million,” Brink said, noting that CPW is not the region’s land-management agency. “We’re glad to do what we can . but at the same time, these are federal lands and county roads.”
With greater funding for the ranger program, there could be more enforcement of the counties’ stricter regulations, Goodtimes said.
Hinsdale County also views the matter through the lens of public safety, Undersheriff Justin Casey said.
“There is a discrepancy in the sense that (statute) says that someone who is 10 or older can operate an OHV so long as they are not on a roadway, a highway or a town street,” he said.
Hinsdale in 2003 adopted an ordinance requiring OHV riders to have a driver’s license in order to ride on county roads. The ordinance was revised in 2007, Casey said. Operators have to have motor vehicle registration, a driver’s license and liability insurance, he said.
Information from: The Montrose Daily Press, http://www.montrosepress.com