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Jeffco Open Space updates regulations on e-bikes, drones

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By Corinne Westeman

Jeffco Open Space will be allowing Class 1 e-bikes on its paved trails, which are only located in three parks — Crown Hill, Van Bibber and Clear Creek Trail. For now, the agency is prohibiting use of Class 2 e-bikes in these areas.
During an Aug. 8 Jeffco staff meeting with the county commissioners, JCOS Director Tom Hoby and Visitor Services Manager Mary Ann Bonnell said that the decision came after House Bill 1151 went into effect on Aug. 9. The bill’s intent was to clarify e-bikes’ role in traffic, but JCOS found that the bill also would impact its paved trails.
The bill allows Class 1 and Class 2 e-bikes to operate on paved trails, but Hoby and Bonnell said they intended to use Open Space’s posted notice regulation to allow only Class 1 e-bikes at this time. The agency would like more time to decide whether to allow Class 2 on paved trails, they said.
Both have only a 750-watt maximum motor; however, with a Class 1, a bicyclist must be pedaling to gain assistance from the motor. With a Class 2, no pedaling is required, Hoby and Bonnell stated.
“Seven hundred and fifty watts is considerable assist,” Hoby said. “It’s a powerful motor ... and with Class 2, the throttle makes it feel more like a motorcycle.”
Bonnell told the commissioners JCOS rangers have encountered Class 1 e-bikes at Crown Hill and Van Bibber parks before, so there likely wouldn’t be any major change in trail use or behavior after the bill’s deadline.
Bonnell also clarified that the allowance for e-bikes will only apply to JCOS’ paved trails, which are only found in those three parks.

Other changes
With evolving behavior at Open Space parks, Bonnell said it’s important to incorporate updated language into its parks regulations. Among its most recent updates, JCOS will install bear boxes in all its campgrounds to improve safety for both bears and humans.
It also has modified language on speeding, which is now considered hazardous activity or failing to yield because the rangers don’t have any way to gauge speeds. Speed is very difficult to demonstrate in the field, Bonnell commented, however, with hazardous activity or failing to yield, the rangers can have witnesses to such behavior.
The updated regulations also address trespassing, base-jumping — which JCOS has seen in Clear Creek Canyon — and drone activity.
While it is already against the rules for a drone to land or take off from park property, Commissioner Don Rosier pointed out that once the drone is in the air, it’s out of JCOS’ jurisdiction. Theoretically, people could fly drones over parks from other locations, although it is illegal for the drone to be out of their line of sight if they do so, he said.
Bonnell said that, because of that, rangers have been using other regulations to restrict drone use, such as harassing people or damaging property. For instance, the drone could be cited for noise level, invasion of privacy or endangering park users. Bonnell and Hoby said they already have encountered one drone that hit a person and another that hit a vehicle.
“It’s a visitor experience, and property and safety issue,” Bonnell said. “We’re trying to work on a one-on-one level, so people understand that.”

Contact reporter Corinne Westeman at 303-350-1043 or cwesteman@evergreenco.com and follow her on Twitter @cwesteman.