The county has decided to charge for the removal of abandoned snowmobiles and grooming machines left near trailheads such as Kebler Pass (County Road 12) and to eventually sell the ones left unclaimed, in response to a chronic issue with vehicles left littering the road for months at the end of each ski season.
After reviewing the issue last month, Gunnison County commissioners adopted a resolution on Sept. 3 to enforce a new policy: Snowmobiles stored at the county shop yard will incur a fee of $30 per day and will be sold off if the owners do not come forward in due time.
“Each year snowmachines are left in the easement or the trailhead on Kebler Pass, creating an eyesore on the West Elk Byway. This resolution would allow expenses for towing and storage to be recovered,” wrote Public Works director Marlene Crosby in her request to the county for final approval.
Crosby estimates that 12 of these vehicles are currently in the shop yard, and some have been there for three to four years.
Crosby hopes to get rid of the snowmobiles in the next two months. The resolution defines a snowmobile to be “any self- propelled vehicle, including snow cats, intended for travel primarily on snow, driven by a track or tracks in contact with the snow, and which may be steered by a ski or skis in contact with the snow.”
It will be a violation for any snowmobile to remain on any public road right-of-way where Gunnison County has posted signage prohibiting it, or to remain on any public road right-of-way for more than 24 hours after Gunnison County Public Works places a notification on the snowmobile to move the vehicle.
Crosby said that while the $30 per day storage fee may seem steep, that is the point.
“What the tow companies say is, it doesn’t matter if it’s a snowmobile or a car—it takes space. It takes manpower to move it and to accommodate it. And of course, we don’t want to be accommodating: We want to be rid of them.”
Commissioner Roland Mason believes the new policy will make a difference in the number of snow vehicles left by the side of the road. “I think it does have some financial impact with people,” he said.
“Because it’s free storage,” added Crosby.
The Gunnison County Sheriff’s Department, “or its designee,” will remove any snowmobiles in violation of the policy, and the owner will be responsible for “a proportionate share of the tow bill” as well as the $30 per day of storage until the vehicle is collected. Any vehicle not claimed by Sept. 1 of the same year will be offered for sale at a sheriff’s sale.
The current collection of machines being stored will be noticed legally before they are sold off this fall, in case any owners want to collect their machines.
Crosby said she will be looking to the sheriff to follow the same procedures when impounding a vehicle and bringing it the county to store. She cited an example of a black Volkswagen that the county has been “moving around for 18 months.”
Commissioner John Messner asked if the resolution should address people who have permits to park their snowmobiles on Kebler during the winter months, as is common among Irwin residents who access their properties by snowmobile in the absence of paved and plowed roadways.
“It has nothing to do with the permit,” responded Crosby. “It’s the end of the season. Get your snowmobile.”