County-federal dispute puts ATVs on hold

Thursday, July 30, 2015 7:56 PM
Jim Mimiaga/Cortez Journal ¬ Montezuma County has installed a dozen of these signs to remind drivers of the new ordinance allowing Off Highway Vehicles (OHVs) on green-signed county roads. This one is on County Road 31, also called the Dolores-Norwood road.

Dolores officials are hesitant to discuss allowing ATVs in town until a jurisdictional dispute between Montezuma County and the Forest Service is resolved regarding the Dolores-Norwood Road.

This year the county authorized ATV use on county roads. They are not allowed in Dolores, Mancos, or Cortez city limits.

Colorado allows county and city governments to authorize and regulate ATV use on roads they control if they so choose. They are not allowed on state or federal highways.

Sheriff Steve Nowlin reported some illegal ATV use in Dolores after the county authorized their use.

“After we informed them it is only for county roads, they understood and stopped,” he said.

Nowlin has been against allowing ATVs on city and county roads, citing safety issues.

“Right now people are trailering their ATVs up to the forest and it is working well,” Nowlin said.

The Dolores-Norwood Road up to Granath Mesa and the National Forest has multiple jurisdictions. It begins as 11th St. in Dolores, changes to County Road 31, then becomes Forest Road 526 at the cattle guard.

The county is claiming jurisdiction over the Forest portion of the Dolores-Norwood Road saying it’s a historic right-of-way.

However, while forest officials are generally supportive of the county’s wishes, they has not officially conceded the road.

“From the forest’s perspective, there has not been a formal transfer, so technically it is still under forest jurisdiction,” he said.

Under the current Forest Travel Management Plan, ATV use is not authorized on the Dolores-Norwood Road (FR 526) on the section of forest within Montezuma County. They are also not authorized on the House Creek road, but forest officials are planning this winter to discuss ways to allow ATV’s to travel from the House Creek campground to nearby designated motorized routes.

The Four Corners Trail club has expressed interest in allowing ATV use in Dolores.

“I don’t think it is appropriate to waste time discussing it until the dispute between the forest and county is resolved,” said Dolores Mayor Val Truelsen.