A metered view? Tips to avoid paying an entry fee to Mount Evans

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In one of the more ridiculous recent examples of asinine government nitpickery, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals yesterday upheld a ruling of a lower court in a case alleging that the U.S. Forest Service was charging people $10 to drive up the Mount Evans Scenic Byway in violation of a 2004 law that disallows the Forest Service from charging people unless they are also using amenities. Generally, that law means that the Forest Service can't charge people to access its lands, but it can charge them to use bathrooms, on-site camping, visitors' centers and the like. The the case of Mount Evans, though, the Forest Service applied a much looser interpretation.

The Forest Service told Westword editor Patricia Calhoun last year that their policy was this: "As long as you drive to the top and back without stopping, you don't need to pay." And that's a pretty questionable policy on its own, but what made it extra heinous was that the Forest Service wasn't even telling people that; they just blanket charged everybody as they drove in. In case you're wondering, here's what the law says the Forest Service can't charge people for:

  • Solely for parking, undesignated parking, or picnicking along roads or trailsides

  • For general access unless specifically authorized under this section

  • For use of overlooks or scenic pullouts

Shockingly, the court agreed that the Forest Service's interpretation was legit -- which, how the policy jibes with the law remains a mystery to us -- but admonished the Forest Service to tell people they don't have to pay if they don't stop.

In situations such as these, we recommend sticking it to the man, which you can do in this case by not paying and following the rules in the most obnoxious fashion possible. Here are our recommendations:

  • Bring a friend. That way you can take turns leaping out of your vehicle to briefly take a picture and enjoy the view. Then run, catch up and get back in.

  • Pull into every scenic overlook and immediately pull out.

  • Pull into every scenic overlook and drive in circles.

  • Pull into every scenic overlook and go forward and backward until you leave.

  • Pee out the window.

  • You weren't planning on stopping, but your car somehow breaks down. Miraculously, it begins working again after you have finished your picnic.

  • Drive really, really slowly.

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