Fraser man unsuccessfully fights fine in federal court for grooming local trails
A Fraser man has been ordered to spend a year on unsupervised probation and pay a $510 fine after illegally grooming trails outside of Winter Park.
According to federal court filings, in mid-December 2017 local officials with the U.S. Forest Service began receiving complaints about the unauthorized grooming of trails in the Idlewild trail system near Winter Park. According to complaints received by the Forest Service, the grooming activities were being conducted by Fraser area resident James Simons.
In early March, federal officials cited Simons for violations of a federal statue prohibiting constructing, placing, or maintaining any kind of road, trail, structure, fence, enclosure, communication equipment, or other improvement on National Forest system land or facilities without a special-use authorization.
Between mid-December 2017 and late February, officials from the Forest Service contacted Simons on multiple occasions to discuss the grooming activities and to inform Simons that the grooming activities were illegal.
He admitted to the activities, according to officials.
But Simons’ grooming on the Idlewild trail system continued despite being issued official warnings to stop by the federal agency, according to Forest Service officials. His actions were reportedly caught on video after officials positioned cameras in the area he maintained.
The statute Simons was cited for violating is derived from the Code of Federal Regulations Title 36, which pertains specifically to parks, forests, and public lands.
Simons was initially assessed a $330 fee.
After receiving his citation, Simons sought redress through the federal courts, serving as his own legal representation.
On Aug. 8, Simons entered a not guilty plea to the charges against him, prompting the scheduling of a bench trial in early November.
A warrant was issued for Simons’ arrest Nov. 1 after he failed to appear to a final pretrial conference.
On Nov. 5, after roughly five-and-a-half hours of court proceedings that included testimony from six witnesses including Simons himself, a federal magistrate judge found Simons guilty.
The court ordered Simons to spend one year on unsupervised probation and to pay a $510 fine. The conditions of his unsupervised probation prohibit him, in part, from maintaining any Forest Service trails without authorization.
Simons was not immediately available for comment on this story.
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