Approximately 30 community members were in attendance at the Wednesday, September 5, Town of Lake City Board of Trustees meeting to again discuss the issue of Off Highway Vehicles (OHVs) with the Board of Trustees.
Present at the meeting were Mayor Bruce Vierheller, Trustees Jud Hollingsworth, Marty Priest, Alan Rae, Dave Roberts, Town Manager Caroline Mitchell, and Town Clerk Jamie Turrentine. Absent were Trustees Jeff Heaton and Richard Moore.
Letters of correspondence were received from High Country Market business owner Peter Nesbitt regarding parking in town, Lyn Lampert in regards to increased access to public fishing, and from Morton and Cecelia Weir Wier and Bernadette Hagendorf regarding OHVs.
Once everyone was seated, Mayor Vierheller welcomed the large crowd, reminding them that it was a regular meeting and asking them to please limit their comments to two to three minutes or less.
Trustee Priest began the conversation, saying, “I wanted to comment on Peter’s letter and say, we are continuously looking into the parking thing, to let the citizen’s know, we appreciate their input and everything is being looked into. We are not letting it lie by the wayside, but we have to do this in an orderly and thoughtful manner. We are looking at all options to tweak and enforce different rules and regulations.”
The first audience comment to Mayor and Trustees came from David Cherry, “First of all, I want to thank you all for your time and your trouble. I agree with the comments that have been made that I’ve read in the paper, and the communications that you’ve received. I have some requests rather than complaints.”
“Please provide funds to the sheriff’s office, get with the county commissioners, put together a financial package to get this man” — gesturing toward Trustee Alan Rae — “some help”. “He can’t do what needs to be done on the Alpine Loop and the Sheriff’s Office can’t do what needs to be done in town with the current staffing levels. The only way to cure that is to provide the money, use the sales tax revenues.”
“Now I’m going to say something politicians hate to hear – raise taxes! If you have the ability under Colorado law to increase your tax levy, do so. People in this town wanted OHVs, they voted for it, let them hit their hip tax-wise to help pay for enforcement and to take care of this town and what we have here.”
“County roads 20 and 30 have become a race track. I’ve been up there and it’s just unbelievable. Ask the commissioners to lower the speed limit to 15 MPH, they don’t need to go more than 15 on either of those two roads, there’s no reason for it. It’s dangerous. If you read the owner’s manual for OHVs, they warn you not to go too fast, especially in conditions like around here.”
“Encourage the sheriff to not issue warning tickets. When somebody violates an ordinance, whack ‘em. The only way you’re going to get control on this situation is through enforcement, no mercy, write them a ticket, get Judge Lutz to enforce the maximum punishment and keep them out of the residential areas.”
Next to speak was Ball Flats resident Ron Yates, “I agree with everything David Cherry just said. I’m very grateful for what you guys do for this community. The town trustees have the authority and power to make this situation better. I think you’re going to find more and more people are supportive of this situation getting better.”
“I leave you with this one thought – the NAACP has a phrase that ‘a mind is a terrible thing to waste.’ I would say to you that the soul of a town is a terrible thing to waste.” This comment was met with raucous applause and cheering from the crowd, punctuated with a loud “BRAVO!”
Yates concluded his comments with, “There are a lot of people who feel the soul of this town has been lost. I encourage you to continue the good job you do and help us to solve this problem.”
Local resident Cinda Rabon noted, “I want to express my experiences in the last two or three days. I live at 111 Silver Street, and what I see are people coming down from Henson Creek, around the corner, going as fast as they can. I was coming out the door and saw three ATVS hauling butt around that corner. I said, ‘slow down,’ one of them expressed several cuss words at me and kept going.”
“I don’t think I deserve that. Another time, I was sitting at a restaurant and a lady among a group of 10-12 people, told them that our sheriff has overlooked the laws of Colorado and lets them do what they want to here.”
Rabon continued that the woman went on to suggest that Silverton has “cracked down” on OHVs while we here in Lake City have not. “I think that’s a bad thing for our town to be known as,” she told the Trustees, “that we let people do whatever they want to.”
Next to comment was J.L. Jones whose letter to the editor was published in the August 31 issue of SILVER WORLD. “I live on South Henson Street, and my letter was in the paper on Friday. I represented a group of at least 35 signatures, and a lot of those people are sitting right here. You know how we feel.”
“One of the things I wanted to point out is, if we go back to where we were, we’re not stopping OHVs in town. They can come into town on trailers just like they used to. The ones who stay here in all the RV parks, they’re the ones who really pump a lot of money into the economy. We’re not going to stop them at all. But if we go back to no egress into the town from CR 20 we kind of solve the problem everyone has been talking about.”
Jones referred to Trustee Rae, noting “this man and the sherriff cannot take care of a thousand vehicles a day coming over Engineer Pass, but if they’re only on trailers going down 149 to a staging point, they don’t have to check any of that. And if they’re not running all around town, the burden would be much less. The impact on the economy will be just like it always has been historically.”
Former Lake City Mayor Larry Iiams explained that he has corresponded with CDOT Region 3 Traffic Program Manager David Zane. According to Iiams, Zane stated that in his opinion the OHV issue ‘came to a head’ in 2016 when Governor Hickenlooper declared the Alpine Loop to be one of the top 16 trails in Colorado.
Iiams said Zane told him “we have had several meetings involving the town, the county, Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), Colorado State Patrol and officials from the Governor’s office on how we could make the Loop complete.”
“My question is,” said Iiams, “where were these meetings, and when and who of the town and county officials attended these? Where was the public process? I have looked back at agendas for town and county and saw nothing – nothing else about discussion with CDOT or any other state official concerning the pilot program. Looking at the agendas, its just not there.”
Continuing, Iiams noted Commissioner Susan Thompson had responded, saying there were regular public meetings in both spring and fall to discuss ongoing OHV issues. “I just wondered if the commissioners are having all these meetings? It’s not on the agendas, not in their minutes; was the town involved in these? Within that Alpine Loop Backcountry Byway, it says that an environmental impact assessment will be necessary to advance the project of completing the loop, and I can’t find anybody who can tell me that it has even been started and that’s not a quick deal either.”
Caroline Mitchell responded, “as the Town Manager, I will tell you that nobody from the State of Colorado has reached out to our office and asked us anything.”
An audience member chimed in, stating that the “pilot program” was to begin September 19 of this year, would last two years, that it did require both town and county to agree to speed limits and special signage, and that mention had been made that it might be possible for the Sheriff’s Office to unilaterally agree to the program without specific Town Trustee or commissioner consent.
J.L. Jones replied, “They will not do anything unless a county or city specifically comes forward to ask. My question is, what gives them the right to negotiate with any town to allow OHVs as on-the- road vehicles on a state highway?”
Bernadette Hagendorf took her turn to speak, stating, “This is a quote from Zane’s letter [CDOT Region 3 Traffic Program Manager David Zane] that may clarify some things; ‘As you probably know, CDOT and Colorado Trails System (CTS) have been working with Lake City and Hinsdale County on this issue of allowing OHVs on the State Highway 149 for many years. In the past, CTS has permitted the use of OHVs on the highways for short time periods, namely events on Memorial Day, July 4th and Labor Day. However, both the town and the county have made it very clear that these limited events are not sufficient and that OHVs need to be legally allowed on the highway all summer.’
“He goes on to say,” Hagendrof stated, ‘if we never see an application for the pilot program or if the town or county decides they do not want to move forward, it won’t happen.’ “He’s pretty much saying all of this is from the county and town; these guys didn’t ask to do this, its from county and town, so somebody isn’t telling the truth.”
Town Manager Mitchell replied, “Mrs. Hagendorf, you can go back and listen to the last two years, since August of 2016, since I’ve been your town manager, and we have not addressed any pilot program with CDOT at any time. We’re a fairly transparent organization and I’m going to continue to be consistent. Permitting for special holidays in the past is true, but that was before I was here.”
Audience member Gwen Powell noted, “I’ve been a seasonal resident on County Road 30 since 1982, and it has really changed out there. For one, there are guns and a rifle range, with automatic weapons and all sorts of things that aren’t supposed to be used there. And then of course there are the County Road 30 traffic problems certain times of day.”
“It is a race track, mainly in summer when OHVs are here. I walk about a two-mile stretch of County Road 30 every morning. I’ve always been a garbage pick-up person, and before, I would always come back with my pockets full – now I come back with two grocery bags. The garbage is 25 times what it used to be. Nothing has changed except the OHV people. The occasional gum wrapper, I understand, but we’re talking bottles, cans — obviously thrown and not accidentally dropped. It makes me wonder about garbage in town. Garbage isn’t something we have even talked about. I think that’s one of the things that makes Lake City look a little shabby right now by these people. Some of them, not all of them, but enough to make a difference.”
Long-time Lake City tree advocate Henry Woods stated he wanted to make the town board aware of another issue. “Some of my neighbors asked me to come look at their trees that are dying, so I did,” he said, “the aspens up at my shop [on Oceanwave Drive], at the west end of Jud’s, [Hollingsworth’s apartment building] and at Rene’s [auto shop] are all dying. I called Andy Pankratz to come look at them and he said that they are close to the road and it is the Magnesium Chloride that is killing them. “
Mayor Vierheller offered an invitation to Woods to stop by the town offices to discuss the topic further.
Magnesium Chloride is the chemical placed on the road to minimize dust in the summer season.
John Coy spoke next, explaining that it is his intention to begin working with an ‘innovative program group’ in conjunction with town staff and the chamber of commerce to “approach this whole OHV debate on a rational fact-based method. We are interested in the effects on local businesses; no one wants our local businesses to suffer.”
“We don’t think the OHV business is going to go away even if they are allowed a different access to town, but you can see the effects this summer — noise, dust, pollution, lack of enforcement because of tight budgets. I’ve looked at sales tax figures for the last two and a half years and they are slightly up,
partly because Silverton was shut down for the month of June. I think we benefitted from some of that, but even if they were up, there’s not enough money to do the kind of enforcement we’re talking about here. Because, there’s enormous enforcement on County Roads 20 and 30 and all over town, but you can only spread the Alpine Ranger so far.”
Alpine Ranger and Trustee Alan Rae stated that he and the Sherriff’s Office have been working with different entities including the BLM and there will be new rangers next year, working together in conjunction with the Town of Silverton.
Coy concluded his statements with, “We want to come up with a solution for the OHV situation, but beyond that, I want to open up a dialogue for code enforcement and full-time growth. What we can do in this town to make it grow, first thing, is vote for the school bond in the election.”
A suggestion was made by Ball Flats resident Ron Garrett to place a sign in the Ball Flats reiterating the 15 mile an hour speed limit and directing OHV riders and motorcyclists toward downtown. “It might help to cut back the traffic in that neighborhood,” he said. “I think people get confused and don’t realize there is no outlet, and think Ball Flats will lead them to downtown.”
Teresa Pippin, who spoke at length at the August 15 trustee meeting, stated that after her comments several people expressed to her they are afraid to speak out against the OHVs because they feel they are speaking out against local businesses. “This is far from the truth,” she said. “But I’d like to hear what you think. Can you give me some of your thoughts?”
Town Manager Mitchell noted “town staff is going to meet with the group John Coy mentioned, including our political bosses, the Sherriff’s Office, County Administrator Jami Scroggins, to start to work on some of these issues through fact-based data analysis. We are going to look at the statistics and do surveys — give us a chance.”
Both Teresa Pippin and Kerry Coy were interested to know how the intangibles, such as quality of life, could be measured, Mitchell replying, “please, just give us a chance.”
David Cherry capped off the conversation saying, “If the revenue sources are not there to provide the enforcement to solve these problems, then your only solution is to cut it off – no OHVs in town.
To loud applause, Cherry concluded, “if you can’t come up with the money, it’s only going to get worse.”