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Cart put before the horse

with town’s ATV decision


The Three Lakes Town Board made a bold statement last week in favor of all-terrain vehicle (ATV) use on just about any town road, but the endorsement will do little to help the tourism industry or a struggling local economy if the town and ATV club can’t secure an east-west corridor that gives riders access to other counties.


In what many opponents will label as a railroad job that was done quickly in the dead of winter, the town board’s shocking split vote on a highly polarizing issue comes just one month after a formal proposal and map were released to the public in mid-January.



Some claim there was a hearing on the issue last month, but you can hardly label as a true public hearing, an informational meeting where few if any facts about the plan were revealed in advance of the meeting. Only proponents of the ATV?route system had any idea what kind of plan was on the table before the Three Lakes Plan Commission.



Even those who knew of the proposed route system didn’t expect what happened before the commission, when suddenly they switched to the possibility of allowing ATVs on every town road. That was Jan. 17, just a month before the town board’s Feb. 19 vote to endorse ATV use on every town road.


Regardless, the reality that remains is that Three Lakes has few choices when it comes to using town roads for an east-west corridor that links to the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest and eastward to Forest County, where more road routes and some trails can be accessed.


Because ATV operators can’t use U.S. Highway 45 or State Highway 32, there is currently no easy way to establish a corridor from Three Lakes to the east. As we said earlier, the only feasible route would go south of town on Winkler Road, Lake Terrace Road and Crystal Creek Road. It would have to run on Highway 45 right-of-way for a short distance, cross Crystal Creek on a new and separate bridge and connect with North Big Lake Loop Road. The options are extremely limited.


It seems as if the town board put the cart before the horse when it endorsed ATV?use on every town road, including dozens of roads that are dead-end routes because of Highways 45 and 32. That endorsement will have little bearing on tourism or economic development, but it certainly could change traffic patterns and community culture.


Hopefully the town board and the Three Lakes Nicolet ATV?Club will move quickly on an east-west corridor proposal, lest they condone ATV?use everywhere but fail to give Three Lakes and outside ATV enthusiasts any sort of destination that connects communities and counties.


The reality of the board’s quick and somewhat premature action might be that the town’s police department will have their hands full trying to prevent ATV operators from illegally running the ditches of Highways 45 and 32 as they attempt to gain access to a town road that takes them eastward. We hope we are wrong because that would pose an extreme safety hazard that neither side wants.


The board and club have intensified their burden, which is to work faster on establishing the corridor they should have found first.

Behind the editorial ‘we’
Members of the Vilas County News-Review editorial board include Publisher Kurt Krueger, Editor Gary Ridderbusch and Assistant Editor Anthony Drew.


Tuesday, February 26, 2013 4:43 PM
Last Updated on Wednesday, February 27, 2013 1:44 PM


-47 #2 2013-03-04 13:00
E., If that is your real name, not all property owners have a vested interest in the town and its well-being.
+63 #1 2013-02-28 15:46
Just received a tally of the comments sent to the Town of Three Lakes on ATV. The town clerk did a good job of tallying the data - looking at the results for Three Lakes Stake holders (Voters, Businesses and Property Owners):
For ATV: 468
Against ATV: 489
So much for listening to the majority of people with a vested interest in the Town.

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