Routt County commissioners hear pitch for ATVs on roads | SteamboatToday.com

Routt County commissioners hear pitch for ATVs on roads

— The Moffat County commissioners invited Routt County to join them and the Rio Blanco County Board of Commissioners in allowing ATVs to travel on county roads.

Moffat County Commissioner Audrey Danner said the step was taken in her county to encourage that form of recreation for its economic benefits.

"We want to do it correctly. We want to stay on trails," Danner said during a joint meeting. "We also see it as economic development. The people who come (to Northwest Colorado) to ride tend to stay a few days, stay in campgrounds, eat at restaurants and buy groceries."

Danner added that Moffat County is in the process of developing a trail map showing how off-highway vehicle (OHV) users could use county roads to link to existing trails on public land and ride longer, continuous loops. She added that Uintah County, Utah, is taking similar steps.

The Routt County Board of Commissioners, hearing the plan for the first time Monday, expressed some reservations about a countywide approach, particularly on paved roads.

"I could see some people commuting to work in Steamboat," Commissioner Doug Monger said after the meeting.

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Earlier, Monger told the Moffat County commissioners he also was concerned about mixing ATVs with larger motor vehicles on some of Routt County's poorly maintained unpaved roads.

Moffat County Commissioner Tom Mathers said his county was particularly interested in a network of trails in the vicinity of 10,801-foot Black Mountain about four miles west of the Routt County line in the Elkhead Mountains.

"Would you be interested in looking at a couple of roads that would make the loop complete?" Mathers asked.

Danner added that using county roads to link public trails on Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest lands saves ATV users the inconvenience of repeating the chore of loading and unloading their vehicles from their trailers several times as they go from public trail to public trail.

Routt County Sheriff Garrett Wiggins asked the Moffat County delegation if they had encountered any opposition from people living along rural county roads in the vicinity of the proposed trial network.

"It was actively the opposite," Moffat County Resources Director Jeff Comstock said. "They came to us and asked for this."

Stan Bragg, a retired Saratoga, Wyo., police officer who was in the audience, said people with Wyoming driver's licenses are allowed to ride their OHVs on paved roads in Carbon County, and local law enforcement has encountered no problems with the practice.

Routt County Commissioner Diane Mitsch Bush told the Moffat County commissioners that she felt pressured to agree to their request, but commissioners Monger and Nancy Stahoviak said they did not share that feeling. However, they said they would wait to see Moffat County's final trail map before considering the question.

In other business

The Moffat County Board of Commissioners shared with its Routt County counterparts Monday negotiations among themselves, Shell Oil and the Colorado Department of Transportation about Shell's desire to operate heavy oil field equipment on Colorado Highway 317.

The highway runs up the Williams Fork Valley from Colo. 13 south of Craig at Hamilton. Most of the road is in Moffat County, but a 1.5-mile stretch crosses into Routt County.

Moffat County Commissioner Tom Gray said CDOT already has declined to allow Shell Oil to use the road because of its condition and its narrow width. Gray said discussions are under way to explore an arrangement that would provide for Shell to bear the cost of upgrading the highway.

CDOT tentatively is open to that approach but also would want the short section in Routt County, which leads to Routt County Road 67, upgraded, presumably at Shell's expense, he said.

The Routt County commissioners were noncommittal about the idea this week.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com

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