Off-road vehicles may be legal on Paonia streets

By Tamie Meck


It may soon be legal to drive off-road vehicles in the town of Paonia.

At the March 14 town board meeting, trustees considered a draft ordinance that would amend current town code to allow off-highway vehicles (OHVs) to be operated within town limits.

Since Colorado legalized crossing of state highways for OHV users about a year and a half ago, there have been a lot of requests for an ordinance allowing them to be driven in town, said Sergeant Neil Ferguson with the Paonia Police Department, who presented the draft ordinance to the board. The ordinance would create the enforcement mechanism to allow that. Operators would have to be licensed and insured, abide by a 15 mph speed limit, and comply with state laws.

Among the benefits expressed, the ordinance would provide convenience for hunters, allow citizens to plow streets with their OHVs, and make it possible to drive machines to the car wash, rather than load and unload them from a trailer.

Trustee David Bradford expressed concerns over the lack of clarity in certain sections of the three-page draft. In comparing it to a similar eight-page ordinance currently under consideration by Delta County, the language is vague about insurance, head and tail lights and other requirements, said Bradford. The machines can be "extremely dangerous... If you've never operated an ATV on a paved road, it's like marbles on ice," at any speed. If it's going to be allowed as a form of transportation, said Bradford, "the board needs to be very clear about what it's authorizing."

If the town and county ordinances are passed, OHV and ATV users could more easily access public lands located just outside of town. Regular meeting attendee Con Hirschfeld spoke in favor of the ordinance. "If I want to go to Lone Cabin from my house, I have to load up my ATV, drive it up there, unload it, then ride," then load it back up, drive it home and unload it. Lone Cabin Road is only a mile away from where he lives, said Hirschfeld.

The draft ordinance was referred to the governmental affairs committee prior to being presented to the board, and will now be referred to the public safety committee for further review.