Guest column: Protecting our beautiful Rifle area
This is my first spring on the Western Slope, and I love every minute of it. Recently, my wife and I were able to get to the top of the JQS Trail and were amazed at the beauty. We have also enjoyed other local trails and just being outside in this beautiful area.
With the wildfires on the Front Range destroying homes and land, and with the past week’s Ward Gulch Fire, I am now also keenly aware of the fragile nature of our beautiful landscape, and how much responsibility is placed upon each of us to make sure we all can enjoy all that the Rifle area has to offer.
The first part of this stewardship is to remember that, as listed in section 10-10-40 of the municipal code, “Open burning of fires, including the sale, possession or use of fireworks, is prohibited in the city and Rifle Mountain Park from Memorial Day to Labor Day each year.” Keep in mind that this does not prohibit ringed campfires or cooking on outdoor grills.
As summer progresses, we may have to enact further restrictions. The procedure the city of Rifle will follow is:
• On a weekly basis, officials of the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and Garfield County Sheriff’s Department will have a teleconference to compare notes and research to determine possible fire restrictions for federal and county purposes.
• They will then notify local jurisdictions for possible local consideration in instituting their own restrictions.
• The police chief will then meet with Colorado River Fire and Rescue officials to review the federal/county recommendations before considering recommending local fire restrictions to the city manager.
Restrictions that can be considered are:
• Stage 1 – Further restrictions on outdoor fires, limiting where smoking is allowed, some restrictions on powered equipment that can be used outside.
• Stage 2 – Restricting all outside fires, further restrictions on smoking and use of outside powered equipment.
• Stage 3 – A ban on all outside fires, smoking and operation of certain machinery.
Of course, the city takes into consideration the difference between a semi-urban environment and the recommendations set forth by the Forest Service (such as grilling on your back deck versus a camp fire in the woods). In all circumstances, we will keep the safety of the citizens of Rifle, and of our beautiful environment, in mind.
In a meeting on June 11, we were briefed on current conditions. This year’s late precipitation positioned us well as we entered June, but recent unusually hot, dry conditions have returned us to a cautious stance. No further restrictions are in place, and we intend to permit Rifle’s fireworks display to occur Wednesday, July 3. I will keep you all in the loop as the summer proceeds.
In the meantime, if you have some good locations for me to visit in this great area, I would love to hear it.
John Dyer is the chief of police in Rifle.
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