Vilas Co. won't allow ATVs on highway
The Vilas County Board on June 19, heeding the will of a majority of its residents in northeast Wisconsin, voted 12-8 against allowing the use of 6.3 miles of County Trunk A in the town of Phelps as an ATV route for a two-year trial period.
Board members were inundated with calls and emails from residents asking them to uphold a 2004 advisory referendum rejecting the use of ATVs on county land in all 15 municipalities, according to the Vilas County News-Review. Opponents also cited safety concerns for allowing the off-road motor vehicles on a paved road.
In 2008, a similar grassroots campaign convinced the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board to keep ATVs out of the Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest, much of which lies in Vilas County.
But area ATV'ers tried to outrun their opponents by proposing, in May 2011, to establish as ATV routes 63 miles of town and county roads in Phelps, Conover, Land O' Lakes and Eagle River.
After Vilas County officials solicited interest in ATV routes from the various communities, only the Phelps Township Board approved a map of ATV routes there in October 2011. Seven months of rancorous debate later, a draft ordinance was submitted to the county forestry and highway committees requesting the opening of 12 miles of county roads A and E to ATVs.
The combined committees initially denied ATV use of the county roads but last May voted to allow the machines on County Highway A for a two-year trial period. The matter then went before the full county board where it was defeated.
"Vilas is still unique, like Door County, in offering silent sports and nature study without the specter of ATVs," long-time anti-ATV activist Sue Drum of Presque Isle wrote after the county board vote. She cited Wisconsin Department of Tourism data indicating that "Vilas County consistently took in more tourist dollars without ATVs than any surrounding northern county with ATVs."
Drum added, "We believe that our prosperity is tied to our beautiful resources. As more and more urban people seek comfort in nature, we must try to provide forms of recreation that go easy on the land. ATVs have no place in our still somewhat wild ecosystems."
For background on this issue, see the Editor's Letter in the November 2011 issue of Silent Sports or online at bit.ly/RVAGGy.
- Student mountain biking in Wis. gets a boost
- Telemark Resort closes again
- 924-mile Mich. trail idea inspires hiker
- Ice Age Trail draws 1.2 million people a year
- Tax nonhunting gear for Mich. conservation?
- Iowa cyclists lobby for 3-foot passing law
- Iowa tax hike for recreation clears hurdle
- Franklin, Wis., looks at fees for trails
- Biking & walking increase in Twin Cities
- New mining bill raises same concerns