EAGLE COUNTY — Those hoping to make their voices heard on the White River National Forest’s plan to reopen a handful of roads to unlicensed motorized vehicles in Eagle County, have about a week to do so.
The Forest Service’s newest plan is actually an amendment to an existing travel management plan that came into effect in 2011, which is currently being implemented after roughly a decade in the making. That plan says unlicensed motorized vehicles are no longer allowed on the Forest Service roads in Eagle County, which meant ATVs, kids’ dirt bikes and other vehicles that aren’t able to get license plates were no longer welcome in Eagle County National Forest lands.
“We heard pretty loudly and clearly from business owners, municipalities and individuals up and down the valley that that was too narrow of a restriction here,” said Dave Neely, White River National Forest district ranger.
Neely has since begun an analysis to determine if some of those roads should be reopened and has issued a new notice of proposed action to make adjustments to the motor vehicle plan.
Those adjustments would include a reopening of 133 miles of Forest Service roads in Eagle County along June Creek, Berry Creek, Red and White and Muddy pass roadways.
“We felt the plan was overly restrictive,” said Spencer Ball, president of Rocky Mountain Sport Riders, a local user group. “We’d like to see some trails open back up, and we’re encouraging anyone who feels the same way to let the Forest Service know.”
The open comments period on Neely’s notice of proposed action runs through July 30.
“I’ll issue a decision once the comments are received and once we finish conducting the analysis,” Neely said. “We need to make sure we’re adequately disclosing the effects of the change that I’m proposing, and then based on that analysis I’ll make a decision. And at that point, the motor vehicle use map would change, and the routing on those routes that we’re proposing will be fully available.”
On Wednesday, Neely told the Avon Town Council that the 2011 travel management plan — which created the existing restrictions on unlicensed motorized vehicles — was put in place to encourage “quiet recreation.”
He cited the difference between a licensed vehicle pulling a camper and an ATV rider enjoying the roads, and sought to proactively avoid any user conflicts that may come up between groups like those.
However, the Forest Service “hasn’t seen a lot of those user conflicts,” Neely said.