ATV access to continue near Marble

Officials plan on enforcement, outreach and data collection

[ By Katherine Nettles ]

Just as summer has kicked into gear, ATVs and OHVs are officially welcome to continue accessing the Lead King Loop and other areas in Marble where their use is permitted this season. Gunnison County commissioners decided to maintain and even slightly expand motorized recreational vehicle use on County Road 3 near the town of Marble, despite calls from some Marble residents to shut down access.

CR 3 connects the Forest Service land and the town of Marble, both of which allow motorized recreational vehicles. The county is taking other measures to help control the busy area without cutting off a major draw for visitors there, having worked with the sheriff’s department, the Marble town council and the White River National Forest to ensure better regulation and enforcement this summer. The hope is that inter-agency efforts will alleviate the worsening noise, crowding and illegal parking issues while also developing more long-term travel management plans for the area in the future.

Commissioners voted unanimously on May 18 to expand the section of roadway available to motorized recreational vehicles, having determined that was the intent of a previous board of commissioner’s actions. The revised resolution authorizes ATVs on the portion of CR3 from Beaver Lake to the top of Daniels Hill, where previously it ended at the bottom of Daniels Hill. Commissioners had delayed this decision by two weeks after hearing public feedback during their May 4 meeting, and spent the additional time looking into alternatives.

Commissioner Liz Smith said she has been doing a lot of outreach in Marble to talk through the county efforts and to listen to what people are experiencing. She spoke to representatives with the White River National Forest regarding what data they need to collect this summer “so whatever efforts we expend are useful,” she said.

Commissioner Roland Mason, who has led several talks between the various stakeholders and residents on this issue, said he believes the next aspect of the plan to work on is public outreach. There will also be a sign package that includes the posted speed limit of 20 miles per hour, and numerous ‘no parking’ signs along Beaver Lake.

Commissioner chairperson Jonathan Houck said he also spoke with White River Forest district ranger Kevin Warner and emphasized the need for swift action and data collection from the Forest Service to resolve this issue for future seasons with an updated travel management plan. “We don’t have years and years,” he said. Commissioners also signed a letter to the White River National Forest on June 1 imploring the agency to move quickly.

However, commissioners all agreed that given the number of new practices all the involved parties have agreed to for 2021, it would make sense to allow the popular motorized activities to continue for another season and monitor it for improvement. The allowed use sunsets on December 31, 2021.

The discussion did not come without substantial outcry from Marble residents, however.

Teri Havens commented in the chat box during the meeting, “It seems careless to pass a resolution to legally allow OHVs without securing an area for parking and staging. It was careless in 2015 and it is careless now.”

“It’s not without reluctance,” said Smith before voting to approve the resolution. “We are extending this resolution in the spirit it was first introduced but with the intention of finding a long-term solution that is going to solve this issue.”

Commissioner Houck said he agreed with that sentiment. “This will not be the last time this board, nor its associated partners, will be working on this issue.”

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