ATV overload is a problem for some Marble residents | PostIndependent.com

ATV overload is a problem for some Marble residents

Ryan Summerlin
rsummerlin@postindependent.com
Jeremy and Erin Bouwhuis spent the weekend in Marble for a large family reunion and brought their own ATVs along to enjoy the Lead King Loop and Crystal Mill.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent |

Some Marble locals are calling for action on an overload of ATVs and other off-highway vehicles flooding the remote town and its back roads.

Central to these problems, neighbors say, is a lack of enforcement, while the town is hesitant to hobble its own economy by shunning the ATV users.

Their complaints cover a range of problems: speeding, generally unsafe riding, dust, noise, children being allowed to ride unsupervised and a lack of proper licensing. Much of the problem is on Gunnison County Road 3, leading into the Lead King Loop.

Steve and Alison Finn live just about a half-mile up Gunnison County Road 3, just east of Beaver Lake. That half-mile walk down to Beaver Lake used to be their daily routine, but these days, they say they have to stay alert to ATVers and dirt bikers flying up the road.

“Out here it’s the wild wild west,” said Steve Lucht, another Marble local who wants something done about the off-roaders in town.

Off-highway vehicle traffic in the town was busy but moderate Saturday, but the Finns described days where they see 50-100 or more whipping up the county road.

“Every year has gotten increasingly worse for us in terms of the impact it has had on our lives, and sadly we watch as the environment around us suffers,” the couple wrote to the Post Independent.

Because the area doesn’t have the facilities to accommodate the stream of ATVers, such as parking, bathrooms or trash cans, these visitors end up parking wherever they want, defecating in unsuitable places and often leaving their trash behind, say the Finns. The noise ruins the peace and quiet they and other residents sought in Marble; not to mention it drives away wildlife.

This is more than just a nuisance, said Steve Finn. The speed they’re driving, and often its young unlicensed children driving, makes for a serious safety threat, he said.

This situation is much like Hanging Lake or the Maroon Bells, where the U.S. Forest Service is implementing management plans to deal with the excess numbers, said Lucht.

The ATV problem is nothing new to Marble. This has been a battle they’ve been fighting for years, said Alison Finn.

Many years ago, you could drive up to the Lead King Loop, and when you come across someone on an ATV coming down, they would signal you with one or two fingers to indicate that there were a couple more people coming behind them, said Lucht.

“More recently it’s been more like seven, eight or nine,” he said. And on one occasion last summer, he had to wait while a group of more than 20 off-roaders made its way down.

It’s gotten to the point that the motorized-users are pushing out the mountain bikers and hikers on this road, said Steve Finn.

“There are just so many of them that hiking on these trails is next to impossible, and many have to wear face masks to avoid the dust,” the Finns wrote. “The solitude one would expect in such a pristine area has disappeared. Good luck seeing any wildlife in this area.”

Some Marble residents declined to give their names along with their comments about the ATV problems, saying that many visitors behaved aggressively when locals would approach them. The Finns reported being cussed at or flipped off when they’ve asked ATVers to slow down or to not park in their driveway. Other residents described threatening behavior verging on violence.

Some Marble residents think a permit system is the best option for dealing with the motorized-users.

Lucht also suggests making the Lead King Loop a one-way loop to help avoid bottle necking, as well as designating the trail for motorized users and nonmotorized users on alternating days.

Perspectives among the locals on the motorized traffic is not, however, unanimous. Shirley Walter, who’s been a second home owner in Marble for 21 years, was out riding her ATV Saturday morning with a couple of family members. Walter said she doesn’t have a problem with the off-roaders in town, as long as they slow down and have respect for residences they’re passing. “Marble has been discovered,” she said, and it can’t go back to what it was. “Some people here just never want Marble to change,” she said.

“What’s a town to do?” asked Marble Mayor Will Handville. The mayor agreed that there is absolutely a problem with the number of motorized users streaming through town and into Marble’s back roads — a problem that’s stems from the town’s lack of enforcement ability and the Gunnison County Sheriff’s rare patrols — but he fears the economic fallout should the town and county crack down on these visitors.

Handville said this is an issue that will require cooperation between the town, the county and the U.S. Forest Service, as the road to Lead King Loop crosses all their jurisdictions.

The town is also considering hiring a part-time law enforcement officer, whereas it currently has no ability to enforce its own ordinances.

Handville said that some people in town simply “want zero growth because they’re already here.” Nevertheless, Marble does have tourist destinations, and people are going to bring their four-wheelers, he said.

“Yes, we have a problem, and the people contacting [the Post Independent] are absolutely right,” said Handville. “But there is not a solution to make everyone happy. Before I pull the trigger on anything that will impact commercial ventures or residents, I need a lot more time to give it some thought.”

The heavy traffic has already prompted some changes in town, such as ATV parking being moved from Beaver Lake further into town and new signs barring parking along some streets to avoid congestion. Marble has also recently installed speed bumps to cut down on speeding.

“I know that ATVs are fun, but if there is anyone left out there who wants to preserve what is left of our pristine environment, you will think twice about opening up any more territory to ATV and OHV riders,” wrote the Finns.

The Post Independent was not able to contact Gunnison County Sheriff Rick Besecker for comment.


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