The right to assemble should include snowboarding on Loveland Pass
People have been skiing and enjoying the Loveland Pass backcountry for as long as anyone can remember. Unfortunately, the Colorado State Patrol and the Clear Creek County sheriff’s office recently interfered with that right.After reading the article in the Summit Daily News about what happened on Loveland Pass on Jan. 14 for moonlight skiing, I was extremely disappointed. Many things that were said by the Colorado State Patrol Capt. Ron Prater and the Forest Service were very misleading and, at times, I believe to be outright lies. I was at the pass when the responding state trooper declared the road hers and not ours by saying, “Get off my road!” And I was appalled. There was nowhere close to 300 people in the area (which is what the responding trooper stated); a more accurate estimate would have been around 40 people. People were parked legally in parking places that have been used for years without any problems. When she arrived, no cars were blocking the road other than possibly her patrol car. The parking ticket was given, I believe, as a way to scare people from skiing the pass. She later made every person leave, although no one was breaking the law. This is a civil rights violation. The responsibility of every government employee is to protect our right to peaceably gather for any reason, and that includes moonlight skiing. She also possibly lied by saying that there was a Forest Service law against skiing after dark. Supposedly the Clear Creek sheriff’s office had told Colorado State Patrol that it was illegal to ski after dark on national forest land but it is still the highway patrol’s responsibility to check to see if something is actually a law before they enforce it. Ignorance of the law is no excuse. The sheriff’s deputies and all of the state employees need to be held accountable to the laws of this country. If they choose to violate the constitution, then they need to be prosecuted for violating the laws that they have sworn to protect. Our soldiers in Iraq are fighting for Democracy; we should not allow our rights to be so easily taken away here. There was one car, not several, that blocked a truck’s way on the road and people kept screaming at that car to move but the driver did not move their car as quickly as he should have. The driver of this car should have been ticketed because what he did was wrong, but to violate the rights of the people who had done nothing wrong by having them leave is inappropriate. When Prater asked that people do not snowboard or ski on the highway also shows a gross sense of ignorance. How many snowboarders or skiers have you seen who would wish to scrape off the wax from their skis or boards by skiing on the highway? Then the case of what Patty Turecek said from the Forest Service was also very misleading. Turecek saw a snowboarder with a shovel and an ax and assumed that that person was going to cut trees. Many people also carry shovels for avalanche safety. She presumed that “numerous” trees are being cut for snowboard ramps. It would be far more accurate to say that numerous trees are cut for firewood or for development than for snowboard ramps. She also requested that the backcountry community polices itself. It already does, so please, leave our civil rights alone.
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