SOUTH FORK— After almost three years of obstacles and changes to state legislature, South Fork has finally come to an end in their pursuit to make the town ATV/OHV-friendly. As travelers venture towards the town this summer, they will see a new set of signs on both Highway 160 and 149 leading towards Creede. The new ATV/OHV crossings are quite the accomplishment for the town, and officials urge residents and guests to beware of the new vehicles crossing the road.
Town Manager Tom Acre stated during the recent Upper Rio Grande Economic Development Council meeting on May 9 that the town had finally come to an agreement with CDOT officials to have the signs placed on designated crossing locations along the highways that separate the town. “This is really big for us and now we are moving forward with negotiations to create a designated route,” said Acre. He continued, explaining that he had the upmost confidence that an agreement would be made, though a decision had not been finalized on a proposed route.
In August of last year, town officials were in the midst of conversations with CDOT attempting to come to an agreement for the new crossing which would require an environmental clearance on the right of ways along the side of the highways. Once the clearances were obtained it was a direct road to figuring out where the crossings should be placed and then ordering the signage needed. The crossings were finalized just in time for the busy season in South Fork and will help mark change during their 25-year anniversary of becoming an incorporated township.
“The crossings are the first step, and the town is working with CDOT on a route that travels on the south side of 160 from Birch Street to Beaver Creek Road leading down to County Road 15,” explained Acre. Though the process with CDOT continues; the fact that the town now has designated highway crossings will alleviate a lot of the concern for the safety of ATV/OHV travelers who are riding alongside the highway.
Now that the crossings are in place, officials will begin work on details pertaining to the route by creating maps for visitors, which will include rules and regulations and requirements for ATV/OHV users while operating the vehicles in town limits. Maps can be found in a variety of locations around town, including local businesses, the visitor center and town hall.
In May of last year, the town, as well as several other neighboring Colorado communities worked to pass Bill 16-1030 which allowed municipalities the control needed to mandate their own rules in accordance to their specific needs. According to a previous statement made by town officials, “Last year staff and elected officials for the Town of South Fork worked with the state legislature and Rio Grande County Commissioners to advance the concept of ATVs using local roads to access ATV trails on public lands adjacent to South Fork.”
It continues, “After numerous trips to the state capitol to testify in front of the Legislature, two bills were passed that are positive for the Town of South Fork. SB16-008, sponsored by local Senator Crowder, changed state statute to allow ATVs to cross state highways within municipal boundaries after providing notice to the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) and working with CDOT engineers on the location and marking of these crossings.”
Town officials hope to have an agreement with CDOT on a route for ATV/OHV users before the end of the summer. Please use caution while traveling through the area and watch for crossing ATV/OHV vehicles.