Town of Lake City Hosts Special Meeting to Hear Public Views on OHV Compromise

A special Town of Lake City Board of Trustees meeting was held Wednesday, February 27 in the Armory as a forum for citizens and businesses owners to discuss ideas and opinions regarding options proposed by the Off Highway Vehicle (OHV) Work Group, and regarding OHVs on town streets and alleys in general in Lake City.
The OHV Working Group began meeting at the end of 2018 and committee members who took part at varying degrees based on availability included Trustee representatives Richard Moore and Marty Priest, County Commissioner representative Susan Thompson and community members Nancy Chambers, Sara Gutterman, Doug Hamel, Lyn Lampert, Peter Nesbitt, Phil Virden and Danielle Worthen.
After months of gathering information and discussing options for OHV use in Lake City, the group put together a presentation featuring two possible options which were presented to the Board of Trustees February 20. The options were a proposed OHV special route around town (see map, page 10), or to limit OHV access to special events weekends only. For full details of these options, see February 22 issue of SILVER WORLD.  Mayor Vierheller called the February 27 special meeting to order at 5:00 pm. Trustees present were
Richard Moore, Marty Priest, Jud Hollingsworth, Jeff Heaton, and Dave Roberts. Trustee Alan Rae was absent. Also present were Town Manager Caroline Mitchell and Town Clerk Jamie Turrentine.
Vierheller began the meeting by saying that it was a regular meeting of the Town of Lake City, and that several letters had been received by the town in regard to the OHVs, but that those letters would not be read at the meeting.
Mayor Vierheller explained the rules of the meeting, saying that the Board of Trustees would not be answering any questions. Speakers were to state their name and address, and direct their comments to the board only. Each speaker was given three minutes. There was to be no cross talk between audience members and speech was expected to be kept courteous; anyone not following these rules would be removed. Vierheller also informed the audience that further discussion was to take place at the town’s March 6 regular meeting.
Fourteen people in total took the podium to speak, the first of whom was Kristie Reeves, who explained that she and her husband Jack had their second home in Lake City.
“I would like to say how much we love Lake City,” she said. “We have been coming here for 15 years. We fell in love and purchased a home here.” Reeves said that she understood there are problems with OHVs and it was her opinion that there needs to be compromise and solutions. “We think most people are respectful of the rules, we ourselves have an OHV, and we follow the rules,” she said. “We go to Silverton and see the restrictions, which are reasonable and it’s not just a free for all.” She also stated that she was concerned about the business excluded from the proposed route in Lake City.
“We want Lake City to be a vibrant community, and to do that you need young people and young people have to have jobs. We need to support tourism. From June through October is when you need to attract the most people.”
Reeves rounded off her three minutes expressing that when automobiles were introduced to town, they were loud and unpleasant and scared horses, also that the trains caused fires, and “if our forefathers had outlawed them, none of us would be here today.”
Next to speak was Lori Bowling who concurred with Reeves that more rules need to be put in place. She said her main concern was that the proposed route includes Gunnison Avenue at 7th Street, which she stated “made no sense” to her. She cited that her cabin sits on that corner and that the dust is ‘uncontrollable.’
“Last year they put down Mag [Magnesium Chloride dust controller] on the road and it did not help. We had a dry year, which also did not help. You can sit on our porch and watch them buzz up and down all day long. Bill [Bowling, husband] and I are both on oxygen now because of the dust. Is it possible to pave that side of the road, as well as the other side by the school? The dust has now become a health issue.”
She concluded her comments, saying that the Town needs to have people coming in to make it thrive, addins she feels it is “scary you guys are trying to get rid of the OHVs.”
Roy Shaw spoke, saying he lives in San Juan Ranch north of Lake City, and owns other properties around town. “I am very sympathetic to those annoyed by the noise and the crush of traffic, and we need to do everything we can to tamp that down and encourage good behavior. We bought out in San Juan Ranch with the expectation that we would be able to transit through town. We are not allowed to keep our trailer in San Juan Ranch long term. So I keep my trailer at my property in Wade’s Addition. I also use my ATV to plow. There needs to be a way to allow property owners around-town transit and to come through town. In Wade’s Addition, going out of town, they [OHVs] are going uphill where the speed limit changes; they hit the throttle and it’s annoying, I get it. But Lake City is a city. With a city comes noise and people and traffic. It is also a gateway to the incredible backcountry. Public land needs to be accessible.”
Michelle Guthmiller of Lake City Auto and Sport, telling Trustees “I am a business owner, a residential owner and a tax payer, and I’m here to share with you that this change is going to possibly be very detrimental at this time. What’s happening in my business is we are already starting to get cancellations, and this is going to effect income and taxes that you will be getting. Lake City is like a circle, you come to town, you fall in love with it, you buy food, you stay in lodging, you buy property, you buy a home. Last year was very successful, the town prospered, taxes went up.”
Guthmiller went on to say that it was her wish that the OHV ordinance are left the way it is for the time being, and take another look at it after this summer’s season. She referenced the fact that there weren’t any ATV accidents during last summer’s season, praising law enforcement in town, and stressed that if OHVs are banned, the businesses as well as the town will see financial repercussions.
Another business owner speaking at the meeting was Debra Goodman, owner of Matterhorn Motel. She said, “I’m hearing people say they are afraid to speak out about their feeling on OHVs because they are afraid they will be interpreted as being anti-business. I want to stand before everyone with one of the most prominent tourist-based businesses [in town] and say that what I’m experiencing is my guests not wanting to have to be in what is called way too often ‘Thunderdome’ for their Lake City experience. They are here for the hiking and the fishing, they want the peace and quiet of nature, that is what they are used to here in Lake City.”
“I have loyal guests waiting to make their reservations this summer,” Goodman continued, “waiting to see if the OHVs are not going to be here. The compromise proposals that are on the table, I feel like [the OHV work group] were so careful in speaking with me and listening to me and I appreciate what each and everyone of them did because I know that was a real challenge for them. I believe that the wheels are rolling for the process of a compromise, but I don’t feel that we have landed on it. There are still so many questions by so many people, and there is a lot of anger.”
Goodman concluded her statements, noting Lake City should broaden its scope, continue with surveys and consultation of town planning experts and hold everything until an answer is found.
Local business owner Viva Ashcroft stated “I appreciate the work the town council and the work group have put into this, and want to reiterate a couple of things, I think we are proceeding with these alternative proposals without complete information. We still have not seen a good valid independent study on the pros and cons, a valid undefended study on the tax effect or the quality of life and environmental effects. We had a very good year last year, but most of our clientele is not the least bit interested in the OHVs and in fact they tell us that they find them problematic. So I really wish we could get more information and more valid studies.”
Taking the podium, Roy Jones said he concurred with Ashcroft, urging “we should focus on the importance of the environment in Lake City.” He
“People seem to have been given the impression that it’s OHVs or death and that Lake City will not thrive without the OHVs. We should be focusing on prosperity and peace for all the people who live in Lake City without catering to a specific segment of the market. What we need to do is broaden the base of our economy and attract a different group of people.”
Jones said he had heard the notion that people on the Front Range don’t know where Lake City is. “I disagree with that,” stating in his experience he has encountered visitors from all over the globe. This is a precious jewel, and not one of them is planning on hauling a noise toy on a trailer to come see it. I hope in the future we will be more balanced. I hope civility will return. We need to be much better citizens and come together on this issue.”
Linda Payne, owner of Elkhorn RV Resort on Bluff Street, stated she is in favor of OHVs, acknowledging there are some issues that need to be overcome. “Let’s all work together and try to come up with a deal,” she urged. Payne reported in the previous two days she has received five cancellations for summer reservations, one of whom cancelling after seeing something on the internet announcing no more OHVs were allowed in Lake City. She also noted that she spends a lot of time educating the people who stay at her RV park about OHVs and that rules and restrictions are posted all over her property and inside vehicles as well. “The Alpine Loop is an experience people can never understand or explain until they get out there and see it for themselves. We need to find a way to work this out, because businesses are losing clients already, and that will be devastating if we don’t get on top of it.”
Next was Jessee Kendall who suggested hanging OHV signs on the route, adding “without making the route legally binding.”
“Put signs on County Roads 20 and 30, and have brochures available. Most people will stick to that. Then locals won’t have to trailer down to the route, and would allow locals to drive,” he said. Kendall said he attended every OHV compromise work group meeting that he could, and in his estimation the anti-OHV groups have no interest in a compromise, “they only support total banishment of OHVs.” He also mentioned the idea of raising the percentage of signatures needed to petition any issue in Lake City. “It’s hard to get five percent of the voting population to sign a petition in big towns, but not in Lake City. We should not be governed by petition.” Concluding his comments, Kendall declared, “You brought this on yourselves with the timing. Don’t ruin our economy.”
According to North Lake City resident Sara Gutterman, a member of the OHV Working Group, most of the discourse she had heard was focused on the proposed route, and perhaps the other option, the designated event weekends, should be taken into closer consideration.
“It’s not at all because I am anti-OHV,” Gutterman said, “I am pro Lake City. I am pro a thriving economy in Lake City.” She stated OHV riders are an important group of tourists, and the events weekend idea was proposed to appeal to a broader group of tourists. “Creating something out of nothing is really hard, and sustaining that is even harder,” she said. “Tourists and target markets are fickle” She said the designated weekend was to highlight the broad spectrum of activities Lake City offers and feels it is worth further consideration.
Country Store owner Nancy Chambers stated “I didn’t come planning to speak but one comment I heard tonight is concern about environmental impacts of OHVs — I wanted to remind everyone that your decision is based on what happens within city limits and that will have nothing to do with OHVs within the rest of the 97 percent of our county. Most people who come here love Lake City and don’t intentionally want to cause it harm.”
Local resident Cinda Rabon also spoke, saying, “I’m just a poor person trying to make a living, and I think there are all different kinds of tourists. I own an ATV, and I agree that we need rules. People have come into town and talked about what they got away with up on the Loop and that concerns me. I moved here for the beauty and I enjoy riding my ATV as much as anybody else. It’s not fair to have to stop them all when there are a lot of them who do obey the rules.”
Rabon went on to say that problems stem from any sort of vehicle that drives too fast or fails to follow traffic rules in general.
Local resident and Bluff Street property owner Sandy Murphy said there shouldn’t be discrimination against people because they ride OHVs. “I do see a lot of fast riding on Bluff Street and a lot of dust. With regard to the special OHV weekends proposal, Murphy asked wondered whether that eliminates OHV riders who aren’t able to make to town for a particular weekend. “I also feel trying to find people to sponsor the weekends might be a issue, and our local volunteers are overwhelmed as well.”
Last to speak was local resident and bank employee Cody Menzies, “I am pro-compromise. A lot of people don’t want the OHVs running amok in town, but sitting and observing on the corner at the bank in the summers, I see that most of them do follow the rules. I think the OHVs need to still get through to the businesses, but we also need to make it so they’re not getting away with things. When I lived in south Texas, one of the things we could look forward to was coming to Silverton in the summers and going over the pass in our trucks. I found out over time that the OHV is a much better ride.”
The meeting wrapped up in approximately one hour, Mayor Vierheller reminding attendees of the upcoming March 6 town meeting.
At the March 6 meeting, all trustees were present as well as Vierheller, Turrentine and Mitchell. Hinsdale County Commissioners Susan Thompson and Kristie Borchers were in attendance as well.
The Armory multi-purpose room was host to a near-capacity crowd, with many community members and business owners wishing to express thoughts, ideas and opinions regarding OHVs and, more specifically, the potential of a special election.
After extensive discourse between Trustees and audience members, it was decided that the Town will, in fact, move forward with a special election; the date has been set for Tuesday, July 23, 2019.
A full report of the March 6 meeting will appear in the March 15 issue of SILVER WORLD.