October 17, 2019

Angel Fire Welcomes Off Highway Vehicles On Village Streets

By Ellen Miller-Goins

“These are as good and lawful vehicles as anything on the road today.” – M Jay Mitchell

October 16, 2017

Angel Fire’s village council passed an ordinance allowing use of recreational off-high vehicles (ROHVs) within village limits during its Oct. 10 regular meeting.

During a prior public hearing, June Rau, who lives in Valley of the Utes, told council she was opposed to the law, citing abuse by ATV and ROHV riders in her neighborhood.

Councilor Steve Larson said, “I’ve gotten a number of phone calls from people both for and against. It seems a number of calls against have been from people who have had bad experiences. How do we police that?”

Lt. J.D. Harvey with the Angel Fire Police Department replied, “There is already a law against driving across private property without permission. Anytime we receive a call about that, we will investigate if the reporting party gives a really good description of the vehicle and the person driving it.

Councilor Chuck Howe cited “issues with people loading children on them, no helmets…. We have an option to deny use of these vehicles but to me, denying it penalizes the people who are following the law.” “OHV registration already exists. Helmet law already exists. Spark arrestors already exist. You can’t operate them at night. You have to go back and read the complete stature,” noted M. Jay Mitchell, former village manager and current Cabinet Secretary for the New Mexico Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (DHSEM). “What has changed about the statute is it allows any municipality to allow [ROHVs] within municipalities. You have to be a licensed driver to drive on roads. You have to have insurance. You have to have safety equipment. Councilor Howe is correct, restricting them penalizes the people who are following the law. I drove my ROHV here tonight. These are as good and lawful vehicles as anything on the road today.”

The passage of SB 270 two years ago allows municipalities to regulate off-highway vehicles (OHVs) under limited conditions inside their boundaries. While the law originally included all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), under pressure from manufacturers who noted those vehicles were not save at higher speeds, the state further specified such laws should apply to Recreational off-high vehicles (ROHVs), which side by sides like mules, Razrs, etc. (The ATV Safety Institute advises riders, “Never ride on paved roads…. ATVs are designed to be operated off-highway.”)

Former Village Planner Mark Rivera said, “I am against the ordinance, only because of the unintended consequences.” Citing abuses by snowmobilers, Rivera added, “I could see the same thing happen with ATVs.”

Rivera asked for clarification on wording that allows “use of ROHVs on paved roads owned by the village. That is not defined.”

Mitchell responded, “New Mexico’s definition for paved road is any improved road.”

As with first reading of the ordinance, resident Bubba Davis again said he supported the law. “We’ve been working on this for some time. We’re always going to have speeders up and down the road. By not passing this, you’re not preventing speeders. By passing this, you’re improving enforcement. We’ve got tourists right now that go to Red River because they can do it there. This will benefit the community. I think this will solve a lot of these issues.”

Mike Woolley, president of the Association of Angel Fire Property Owners (AAFPO) added, “If we approve this, I will go to the board and ask them to budget for more [no motorized vehicle] signs on the greenbelts.”

John Hail and Bruce Jassmann also spoke in favor of the law. Said Jassmann, “I was up [in Red River] last weekend and it looked like the 4th of July!”

During first reading for the ordinance, Councilor Brinn Colenda also cited abuses he already sees from snowmobilers who do not respect private property, including his own, concluding, “I am absolutely against this.”

On Oct. 10, however, he said, “Jay persuaded me yesterday when we had a really long meeting. I am persuaded by the comments tonight.”
The ordinance was unanimously approved with Colenda giving a “reluctant” yes vote.

Angel Fire’s ROHV ordinance is similar to existing golf-cart and snowmobile ordinances.

The ordinance defines a “Recreational Off-Highway Vehicle” as follows:

  • “…. a motor vehicle designed for travel on four or more non-highway tires, for recreational use by one or more persons, and having:
  • “a steering wheel for steering control;
  • “non-straddle seating;
  • “maximum speed capability greater than thirty-five miles per hour;
  • “gross vehicle weight rating no greater than one thousand seven hundred fifty pounds;
  • “less than eighty inches in overall width, exclusive of accessories;
  • “engine displacement of less than one thousand cubic centimeters; and
  • “identification by means of a seventeen-character vehicle identification number; or
  • “By rule of the Department of Game and Fish, any other vehicles that may enter the market that fit the general profile of vehicles operated off the highway for recreational purposes.”

Their use would be limited to village streets provided the driver follows local and state traffic laws and:

  • “the vehicle has one or more headlights and one or more tail-lights that comply with the Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Act, Chapter 66, Article 3, NMSA 1978;
  • “the vehicle has brakes, mirror, and mufflers;
  • “the operator has a valid driver’s license, or permits as required under the Motor Vehicle Code and off-highway safety permits as required under the Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Act;
  • “the operator is insured under the provisions of the Mandatory Financial Responsibility Act (NM 66-5-2-5) and the operator must be able to show proof of the insurance or have proof of financial responsibility. The proof of insurance or proof of financial responsibility must have the vehicle identification number of the vehicle being operated clearly shown on said proof. A home owner’s policy will not suffice under this ordinance; and
  • “all ROVs and ATVs must be registered under NM 66-3-1003. Registration can be obtained at the MVD office at Village Hall if you are a resident of NM;
  • “the operator of the vehicle is using eye protection that comply with the Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Act; and
  • “a person under the age of eighteen shall not operate an Off-Highway motor vehicle or ride upon an Off Highway motor vehicle without wearing eye protection and a safety helmet that is securely fastened in a normal manner as headgear and that meets the standards established by the department and comply with the Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Act; Chapter 66, Article 3, NMSA 1978.”


Ordinance may be viewed at:



  1. Chris Holmes says

    So glad AF finally passed this. I’m sick of having to go to Red River and bought our house here so we could enjoy all the mountains have to offer.

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