To the Editor:
Giving ATV access to county roads is a disastrous policy which has been rejected by the voters locally (town of Lac du Flambeau referendum and Lac du Flambeau tribal referendum) and on a county wide basis (countywide referendum and countywide hearing).
There are three powerful reasons why such access should be denied.
1. There is a huge safety reason for continuing to ban ATVs from our county roads. A recent article in the Chicago Tribune (3-23-2014) explored the dangers of opening up roads to ATVs. As was reported in that article, even the manufacturers of ATVs recognize the folly of opening up roads to ATVs. According to that article “... all ATVs sold in the U.S. carry a warning label that says the vehicles are not to be driven on the road: Their high center of gravity and low-pressure tires mean they’re likely to tip over or go out of control on pavement. What’s more, the vehicles aren’t held to federal safety standards for cars or trucks, such as the requirement for seat belts, even though they can reach highway speeds.”
That article goes on to quote Paul Vitrano, executive vice president and general counsel for the Specialty Vehicle Institute of America. This is a trade group which represents ATV manufacturers! He says “off-highway vehicles are not designed to be ridden on roads.” And he went on to say “that his group ‘vigorously opposes’ efforts to open roads to ATVs. In the face of these warnings given by the ATV manufacturers themselves of the increase of injuries and deaths that will result from opening up roads to ATVs (and knowing that children as young as 12 will be the among the injured and
dead ATV drivers) how in good conscience can anyone continue to support opening up more roads to ATV traffic?
When even the manufacturers who design them oppose opening up roads to ATVs because of safety concerns how can Vilas County consider doing so?
2. The second compelling reason for opposing the opening up of our roads to ATVs is that ATV traffic negatively impacts almost all other recreational users (and residents) of our Northwoods. Even when ATVers are “law abiding” riders, keeping to the designated trails etc., their activity by its very nature disrupts the Northwoods experience for all others. Hikers, cyclists, birders, photographers, etc. can all enjoy our lake/woods ecosystem without negatively impacting each other (or even ATVers). The reverse is simply not true.
3. The final compelling reason for opposing the opening up of our roads to ATV traffic is that ATV activity negatively impacts not only other users of our lake/woods but attacks that system itself. Because of their very design ATVs create noise and chemical pollution and deep ruts in the land – and do so through most of the year including the super vulnerable “mud” months (unlike snowmobiles). Trucked in from all over they bring terrestrial invasive species from all over into our fragile lake/woods ecosystem. And again, they do so (unlike snowmobiles) when the land is most vulnerable to their spread. Survey after survey has shown that most of us came here for the peace and quiet and stunning beauty of our lake/woods ecosystem and the wildlife it supports. Why do tourists (and their dollars) continue to choose our area over surrounding areas? They too tell us in all the surveys that what draws them here is our thriving lake/woods ecosystem and the wildlife it supports. That inviting ecosystem is however a sensitive fragile system which increased ATV traffic would degrade and perhaps even destroy. If we want Vilas County to continue to be the chosen destination of more tourist dollars than any other county other than Door County – which also bans ATVs on its roads – we must be vigilant in protecting our beautiful lake/woods ecosystem – for us and for future generations.
For all of the above reasons, please vote against opening up county roads to ATV traffic!
Dean E. and DeDe Hall
Lac du Flambeau