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Is Vilas County discriminating against ATVs? PDF Print E-mail

Letter to the Editor:

Discrimination can be an ugly word. It is sad to say many people in Vilas County, including some county board supervisors, discriminate against all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) and people who own them.

Twelve years ago (May 2001), I founded the Land-over ATV Club with the goal of having ATV recreation in Vilas County. All hell broke loose as the anti-ATV movement sprung up and ATVs became the boogeyman.  This resulted in a February 2004 countywide, nonbinding advisory referendum. The vote was 63% against ATVs. It should be noted that 1,700 of approximately 8,000 votes were absentee ballots cast mostly by snow birds.

In March 2004, the Vilas County Board passed an anti-ATV on county property resolution which remains today. This resolution is justification for the antis to keep up their crusade against ATVs. You can say the county is nearly evenly split on this issue.

You have the newly coined silent sport on one side wanting Vilas to be branded the Island of Silence, constantly demonizing ATVs. Then on the other side, you have the pro-ATV people, ATV users, business owners and employees who can benefit from the ATV revenue generated — most who are too busy making a living and paying taxes to find time to counter the antis. These are people who feel they have been discriminated against and this issue will not go away until the right thing is done. Vilas has room for both.

In 2005, the Landover ATV Club was successful in getting an ATV trailhead and 1?4-mile trail into Michigan. Thank you Land O’ Lakes. This is the only ATV trail in Vilas County today.

Much can be written about the attempts to getting trails in Vilas beyond Land O’ Lakes. In June 2012, the Vilas County Board defeated (12-8 ) an ATV route on a section of County Highway A requested by the town of Phelps.

In 2010-’11, The U.S. Department of Justice ruled that an ATV and “like devices” would be recognized as “power driven mobility devices” (PDM D) in the American Disabilities Act for disabled people. In all probability, a case could be made that by disallowing ATVs on Vilas lands and roads (a practice allowed on entire bordering jurisdictions to Vilas), that the non-ATV culture discriminates against handicapped and elderly from ever using ATVs. It will not be difficult to file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division. Doing so would have the risk of triggering a federal lawsuit which would be so unnecessary.

The time has come for all Vilas County supervisors to become leaders and make this issue go away. Stop pandering and recognize that Vilas has room to accommodate both sides. That is your job. We need leadership.

On Tuesday, May 28, at 6:30 p.m. the full Vilas County Board will hold its first-ever evening meeting at the St. Germain Community Center. The agenda will include the town of Lac du Flambeau request for an ATV route .7 of a mile of County Highway D in order to facilitate an ATV trail from Price County to the casino. Do the right thing. Stop discrimination in Vilas County.  Vote in favor of ATVs.

Roger Flaherty


Landover ATV Club Inc.


Tuesday, May 21, 2013 1:34 PM

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