The Arbor Vitae Town Board last week approved town roads for all-terrain/utility vehicle use.
Town chairman Frank Bauers, in opening the discussion, said in the four years since the town first adopted an ATV/UTV ordinance authorizing trails on a limited basis, “we’ve had nothing but really good things happen.”
“This year, I don’t think we had one complaint,” he said. “Nothing. So, what happens is more and more people would like to drive their ATVs, you know, and then every year, they pass another petition (for more access), they have the people on a town road sign the petition, they bring it to the town board ... we have never turned down one road.”
In order to save time, Bauers said, the thought was along the lines of opening all the town’s roads to ATV/UTV trails.
Town supervisor Brian Nerdahl said he was in Rhinelander earlier in the day and noticed an ATV rider driving a machine from a location on Thayer Street to another on Stevens Street.
“He got off of it, picked up his lunch pail and walked in,” he said. “He drove it to work, I guess, is what I’m assuming.”
Woodruff town supervisor Corky Shepard, vice-president of the Lakeland ATV/UTV Club, said ATVs and UTVs are being used as a second vehicle.
Bauers said he goes to Eagle River monthly for meetings of the Landfill Venture Group’s executive committee.
“There’s ATVs parked right on Main Street,” he said. “They’re all over. They don’t have any problems with them. You know, we could open all our roads and if we have a problem, then we could close those roads.”
“Or we could do a renewal every year,” town supervisor Ryan Johnson said. “That way, we could meet every year and discuss it and see if there’s a list of complaints ... people coming in and didn’t want them closed.”
Town supervisor Ashley Roach agreed, saying the opportunity should be there for town residents to not have ATVs and UTVs on their roads.
“If it’s a nuisance or unnecessary,” she said.
The vote to open the roads was unanimous.
The town board will have to do a first reading of its amended ordinance to reflect the changes at its Oct. 22 meeting.
Sara Pearson, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources’s forest recreation superintendent of the Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest, was encouraged with the approval of opening roads by the Arbor Vitae town board.
She said a recent public comment period ended for a variance to the master plan for the NHAL, a variance that includes portions of ATV/UTV trail systems in the Arbor Vitae, Sayner, Star Lake and St. Germain areas.
“Right now, that variance is working its way through the approval process,” Pearson said.
Approval last year of another variance for existing DNR roads and snowmobile trails has resulted in some trail construction occurring this year.
“Those connect Woodruff to the Sayner area,” Pearson said. “We have done some construction on a segment of that this summer. There’s two other segments we’re hoping to go out to bid with contractors for soon.”
She stressed again once a club brings a trail proposal, the DNR likes to see town support.
“If a town has opened road routes that help our trail system, I see that as a win,” Pearson said.
Brian Jopek may be reached via email at [email protected]