Mike Kent: Cart before the horse
January 10, 2013
The parking lots on Rabbit Ears Pass should not be expanded to allow more snowmobilers until the Forest Service can enforce the existing nonmotorized boundary. Obviously, there is a new demand on parking spaces for snowmobilers with the explosive growth that this activity has experienced, and expanded lots would help relieve this congestion. But there still is a problem — a very old problem that has yet to be adequately resolved.
It's the same old song and dance that skiers have been "complaining" about for years. The nonmotorized boundaries are not being respected or observed, and snowmobilers continue to trespass on the limited amount of accessible terrain available to backcountry skiers. What limited resources the Forest Service has to resolve these conflicts is not working. There are no serious consequence for those rogue riders to keep out of the nonmotorized areas, and they continue to ride impudently. It still is obvious, as it always has been, that these "sledheads" know exactly where they are going and what they are doing.
Boundary signs have been destroyed and not replaced, and Forest Service law enforcement is woefully inadequate. Until there is a threat of serious monetary consequences, confiscation of snowmobiles and/or jail, this will be a continuing problem. To expand the parking lots to accommodate more snowmobilers will only exacerbate the problem. It's simple numbers. Before money is spent on parking lots, money should be spent on more signs, more law enforcement and whatever else it takes to get a handle on the current and ongoing problem. Until that happens, smaller parking lots, not larger ones, seem to be the more logical answer.
Why spend money to bring in more snowmobilers when our public lands cannot even be managed in their current state? This is putting the cart before the horse. Again.