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Some question legality of 'locals-only' trail and lodging closures

Published March 26, 2020

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (BRAIN) — While officials in many regions are restricting travel and other activities due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some are questioning the legality of some orders that affect outdoor activities on public lands. 

In Colorado, the sheriff in a small rural county implemented a locals-only rule, prohibiting non-county residents from parking along a road that is popular with backcountry skiers and snowmobilers in winter, and mountain bikers in the summer. Sheriff Bruce Conrad said he would ticket and tow any vehicles without local registration that were parked along the road.

Mark Squillace, a professor of natural resources law at the University of Colorado Law School in Boulder, told The Colorado Sun that such a policy probably wouldn't stand up in court. “If the counties are challenged (in court) here, they likely will not prevail,” Squillace told the Sun.

In Utah, a regional health department banned non-locals from camping or staying in hotels in the area. Besides the discriminatory aspect of the ruling, it's unclear whether a regional health department has any authority to ban camping on the federal lands that make up most of the terrain. The order was intended to discourage tourism in the Moab area during the pandemic. The area has limited health care resources. 

In the Grand Junction, Colorado, area, some locals are growing concerned about out-of-towners who are visiting to ride bikes and hike. So far, local law enforcement have been reluctant to enact a lodging ban.

Colorado's Gov. Jared Polis issued a mandatory stay-at-home order Wednesday evening that bans unnecessary travel, although it allows travel to engage in necessary activities, which includes outdoor hiking and biking. Colorado state parks remain open for those activities, although camping and picnic areas are closed. Hotels are considered an essential business and are allowed to stay open under the new Colorado rules.

Some coastal towns in Oregon also have banned out of towners from renting hotel rooms in a bid to discourage tourism. 


Topics associated with this article: Coronavirus

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