ATV'ers again target Vilas County, Wis.
ATV riders are back, literally trying to make inroads into steadfastly ATV-free Vilas County in northeast Wisconsin. The Landover ATV Club wants to see ATVs allowed on 53 miles of town and county roads, what they call "routes," connecting the small communities of Eagle River, Phelps, Conover and Land O'Lakes. The Vilas County Board is taking input from town boards on whether to open these paved roads to ATV travel in the eastern portion of the county.
In 2004, Vilas County voters said "no," by nearly a 2-1 margin, to allowing ATVs on county-owned property. Abiding by the majority's wishes, the county has kept public land closed to ATV riding. In 2008, after a months-long DNR study, the Natural Resources Board voted against opening ATV trails in the Northern Highland American Legion State Forest, much of which lies in Vilas County.
Nevertheless, ATV'ers are now seeking trail routes in the county. In a May 10 letter to The Vilas County News Review, area resident and ATV opponent Sue Drum suggested routes that don't connect ATV trails will not hurt not enhance the local tourism economy. "If Vilas opens the door to ATVs, consider the possibility that the worst of two worlds will occur: Vilas will have ATVs on its roads in numbers too small to spur business but large enough to discourage many nonmotorized users."
Despite the current economic slump, Vilas ranks third in generating tourism revenue among Wisconsin's 27 northernmost counties. And like Door County, which is No. 1, Vilas' "undamaged, quiet beauty" attracts many nonmotorized trail and road users, Drum wrote. She noted that efforts are underway to connect Vilas County communities with bicycle and pedestrian trails.
"Once complete, this world-class bike trail will draw large numbers of tourists who will stay in your resorts, shop in your stores and eat in your restaurants," Drum wrote, adding that "ATV riders often displace quiet users for a significant dollar loss."
Those in favor of keeping Vilas County free of ATV traffic are encouraged to write to Vilas County Board Chairman Steve Favorite, 1326 Sunset Lane, Eagle River, WI 54521.
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