Stakeholder workshops on Marble ATV/OHV use kickoff

Working toward longer-term plan by May 3

[  By Katherine Nettles  ]

On the heels of a first stakeholder meeting among those concerned with the overcrowding issues in Marble near the popular ATV trails there, Gunnison County commissioners agreed this week to contribute funds to hiring an enforcement officer in the Lead Kind Loop area for a second summer in a row. Gunnison County has committed $7,000 to match $3,000 from the town of Marble on behalf of hiring a White River National Forest enforcement officer for 2022. The Forest Service, Marble board of trustees, Gunnison County representatives and several Marble citizens participated in a long-awaited two-day workshop with a professional facilitator in late January aimed at eventually reaching a consensus between all stakeholders for a more holistic long-term parking and regulation plan.

A second year of funding for an enforcement officer with the Forest Service means more opportunity to address issues of misusing or damaging the trail and also to collect the required data in order for the Forest Service to assess its travel management plan for the Lead King Loop, a popular ATV trail on U.S Forest Service land. The Forest Service decision is expected to be a multi-year process, and in the meantime some residents of Marble have called on Gunnison County commissioners to take a different policy approach to motorized vehicle use near Marble in 2022.

Commissioners deliberated at length over the decision in early January before extending the ATV/OHV allowances on County Road 3 until May 3. The extension allows for more stakeholder meetings and potential work sessions with the White River National Forest and the town of Marble, both of whom commissioners feel need to contribute to solving the area’s overcrowding and management issues. 

Colorado Revised Statute prohibits ATV/OHV use on public roadways or streets except where specifically allowed as an exception, and Gunnison County has allowed that exception on a .7 mile stretch of County Road 3 from the town limits of Marble at Beaver Lake to the bottom of Daniels Hill since 2015. The road is used to access the Lead Kind Loop. The previous resolution expired at the end of 2021.  

 Commissioner Roland Mason has participated in the Lead King Loop Working Group for more than a year as Marble residents have repeatedly expressed concerns over the noise, crowding, illegal parking and safety issues associated with the increasing ATV activity. 

The county has taken a three-pronged approach so far: working with the Forest Service to encourage a new regulatory approach and helping fund an enforcement officer; having hired a new full time, Marble-based sheriff’s deputy who came online in mid-August 2021; and increasing public outreach through signage, education and working with the Marble board of trustees.

Gunnison County sheriff John Gallowich has said that his deputies began enforcing parking and speeding laws along CR3 beginning in late August of 2021, and he believes both a deputy enforcing the speed limit and parking restrictions and increased signage have made a difference. 

“I think the year was better and hope that the people of Marble recognize that,” he said. “But I think we have a ways to go.” Gallowich said he would like to see the Forest Service step up and move the ATV parking and activity to a different, nearby area. 

One proposal is that the Forest Service uses its own land to create and manage a parking area at the base of Daniels Hill at the beginning of the Lead King Loop for loading/unloading recreational vehicles. But the White River National Forest has called for more data in order to consider changes to its Travel Management Plan. 

Mason confirmed after last week’s meeting that enforcement officers would collect more focused data from around the Lead King Loop this summer. 

Marble resident Teri Havens asked commissioners last month if they would consider any policy changes to help mitigate the adverse impacts of motorized vehicles. Her suggestions included a ban on trailer parking, or mandatory spark arrestors and fire extinguishers on every OHV.  

Commissioner chair Jonathan Houck responded that he understands that people in Marble want a faster solution, such as closing the road to ATVS or adding new regulations. “But we are dealing with a federal agency. Closing the road would create even more enforcement issues,” he said, including issues of EMS access and drivers potentially blocking other areas to load and unload ATVs. 

County attorney Matthew Hoyt also confirmed that commissioners can only make the binary decision to close or not close the road to ATV/OHVs, but cannot issue permits or related measures to specific vehicles.

 Houck also stated his belief that Marble has some opportunities to decide what it wants. “There is a tourism and economic base there, and that also needs to be considered,” he said. “The town can decide to have ATVs/OHVs but manage them, or choose not to allow them at all and be uniquely non-motorized. But it’s a municipal decision.”

Mason also agreed to reach out to the Marble trustees and the White River National Forest to join commissioners for a work session this winter or early spring. Marble’s trustees have recently been awarded grant funds to help them “re-brand” around other, non-motorized pursuits such as arts festivals, music and historic interests, and the trustees gave commissioners an update on that funding in late 2021 as the county planned its budget. 

Commissioner Liz Smith emphasized that she doesn’t feel comfortable making a decision to sunset the allowed use on CR3 until a long-term plan is developed. 

“If I thought [banning use] would solve something and improve people’s lives on CR3, I would support it. But I don’t,” she said. 

 “We are not stagnant. This is moving forward,” said Houck.

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