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Boulder Junction ATV/UTV issue moves on to October

September 27, 2019 by Brian Jopek

The president of the club for all-terrain vehicle and utility vehicle (ATV and UTV) enthusiasts in the Boulder Junction area plans to have a presentation at the October meeting of the Boulder Junction town board. 

Lee Hoffman told The Lakeland Times on Wednesday about his plan to do that. 

“At that time, I’d be more than happy to have another informational meeting, if that’s what the town would like to do,” he said.

At the heart of things 

Hoffman’s comments came a day after the most recent, regular town board meeting the night before in which 10 people spoke in the public comment portion of the meeting for nearly an hour. 

Each spoke against ATV/UTV access to the town, the primary arguments being the results of a survey conducted late last year of taxpayers and business owners showed a majority were against ATV/UTV access to the town, the negative effects they claimed allowing ATV/UTV access to Boulder Junction would have on the environment and on “silent sports” in the area, such as bicycling and the lack of proof from the ATV/UTV club showing there would be any big, positive impact to the Boulder Junction area economically. 

Boulder Junction resident Greg Van Grinsven was one of those to focus on the economics.

“Being a tourist-based economy, I think it is safe to say Boulder Junction’s economic future is largely dependent upon its success at creating an environment that is appealing to the segment of tourist trade who enjoy hiking, biking, canoeing, kayaking, fishing, snowmobiling, swimming, or just sitting outside a cottage, cabin, tent or house to enjoy the peace and quiet of their surroundings,” he said in a prepared statement.

“At the heart of the justification of the group promoting the inclusion of the ATV/UTV segment to that list of users is the potential positive impact it will have on Boulder Junction’s economy,” Van Grinsven continued. “A claim to date that has been hard to quantify as few formal studies have been completed and any data found by those who have looked into it is largely anecdotal.”

He proceeded to share information he’d compiled from observations made during two trips by car of the same areas of Vilas County to included Conover, Eagle River, St. Germain and Boulder Junction. 

After providing details of two trips he made on Aug. 24 and Sept. 1, Van Grinsven concluded his presentation by summarizing after those two trips, “the data clearly shows that Boulder Junction is the beneficiary of a significantly higher volume of bike traffic with demonstrated positive impact on its businesses as compared to its neighboring towns to the east.”

Former town supervisor Wes Johnson, who was involved in the development of the survey question sent to Boulder Junction residents, business owners and taxpayers late last year, got directly into the local politics of the issue. 

“We can talk all night long about environmental concerns, noise pollution, safety or the economic impact on Boulder Junction,” he said, also like many of the other speakers, reading from a prepared statement.

He was among the speakers to mention the survey results. 

“With the present town board expecting us to respect the results of the last election, isn’t it reasonable for us to expect them to respect the results of the survey?” Johnson asked. 

He spoke of how early in his term as town supervisor he’d consulted with town attorney Steve Garbowicz about a way to approach the ATV/UTV issue. 

“He reminded me that I was elected to make tough decisions,” Johnson said. 

He then addressed town chairman Dennis Reuss directly.

“Dennis, the 55% who voted no will be looking to you to make that tough decision,” Johnson said. “In fact, I’m looking to the entire town board to make that tough decision. Vote in accord with the survey results. Vote no to ATV access in the township of Boulder Junction.”

Later in the meeting, the town board once again took no action, essentially conveying there was still information to be gathered.

Conceptual trail plan 

One item of information revolves around a preliminary trail plan Hoffman gave to Sara Pearson with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and mentioned a few times by speakers in the public comment portion of the meeting and later during the town board’s discussion. 

Pearson has been among a few with the DNR who have made it clear over the past couple years the agency has no interest in designating ATV/UTV trails in a revised master plan for the Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest unless whatever towns involved are onboard. 

At the beginning of the town board discussion of the ATV/UTV issue at Tuesday’s meeting, Reuss said he and town supervisor Laura Bertch had attended the latest Boulder Junction ATV/UTV Club meeting the week before where it was mentioned the conceptual trail plan had been submitted to the DNR by Hoffman. 

“We don’t know what that (plan) is yet at this point,” Reuss said. 

Hoffman confirmed Wednesday he did submit a trail plan to Pearson, but it is conceptual in nature and could very well change before the DNR makes a decision.

“That’s why I really haven’t discussed it with anybody,” he said. “That’s what we’re going to propose at the October town board meeting.”

Hoffman said Pearson is supposed to have an answer for him before then. 

“After I get some sort of an answer, I’ll be more than happy to discuss it with other people,” he said. “With The Lakeland Times and anybody else. But I’m not gonna stick my foot in my mouth until I have a pretty good answer as to which way we’re going.” 

Brian Jopek may be reached via email at [email protected]

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