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County reinstates motorized vehicle ban on bike path

Express Staff Writer

Once again, a few nitwits have screwed up things for a lot of other people.

Vehicles more suitable for an interstate freeway have been reported operating on the Blaine County Recreation District’s bike path. They’ve caused problems for the district and led to a ban on almost anything motorized, even whimpy 10-mph electric scooters.

Complaints about people driving motorized machines on the Wood River Trails System are rare, but when they happen, sometimes they’re whoppers.

Take, for example, the rebel motorcyclist who, between Ketchum and the Hulen Meadows neighborhood a few miles to the north, began using the path for cruising—on a Harley Davidson. Or, there’s the commuter from Bellevue who decided it was a good idea to rip up and down the path on a snowmobile. The path at the time was groomed for cross-country skiing. He said he had to get to work in Hailey.

Outrageous as those actions may seem, the Rec district’s director, Mary Austin Crofts, said until now there was nothing the district or law enforcement could do to stop them.

That’s because county officials inadvertently deleted a section of code while doing a little bureaucratic housekeeping in the mid-1990s, Crofts said. The section prohibited motor vehicles on the paths and granted police the ability to ticket violators.

So, to correct the problem, the Blaine County Commission approved a new version of the ordinance Monday. The vote was 2-to-0, with Commission Chair Mary Ann Mix absent.

The new ordinance, effective immediately, prohibits any device that transports a person by gas or electric motor to be used on any recreational pathway within the county. The penalty for violation is a $100 fine.

Outspoken political and sartorial libertarian Mickey Garcia, who said he was representing the public, plied the commission to take a less "bright line" stance on the issue.

"You should make a distinction between small electric devices and all others," he said, because the old and infirm are relying on the devices more and more often for recreation. Some, who are not disabled, nevertheless have difficulty pedaling a regular bike, he said.

One of the ordinance’s few exceptions is that it does allow motorized wheelchairs. But, Garcia said, it should also allow electric bicycles and even electric inline skates. Those, he added, can be less dangerous than a powerful bicyclist who’s not paying attention.

Crofts said Garcia’s proposal would be all but impossible to adopt because the district had promised to prohibit all motor vehicles when it negotiated the path right-of-way years ago with 75 to 100 different property owners from Bellevue to north of Ketchum.

She said kids can ride their scooters in "parking lots and driveways."

Rec District spokesperson Shelly Preston said it has not so much had complaints about motorized scooters as it has had inquiries about whether it is legal to ride them on the path.

The city of Sun Valley is currently working on a similar ordinance.

The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.