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ATV ordinance premature

without gauging support

Short of gauging public opinion with a new referendum, the Vilas County Board is headed down a slippery slope in proposing an ordinance that allows all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) on county highways.

 

There remains enormous sentiment in Vilas County against expanded use of ATVs in what many call Wisconsin’s premier lake country. Water resources, both lakes and streams, are what currently drive the tourism industry.

 

The county board has not measured public opinion since 1994. But when it did, the vote against the use of county highways, county land and county right-of-ways for ATVs was of landslide proportions — 5,457 against and 3,200 in favor.

 

That being said, it’s hard to believe the board is considering an ordinance this week that defines ATV travel regulations on county highways and specifically endorses the use of ATVs on seven-tenths of a mile of Highway D in Lac du Flambeau.

 

Though it is just one short stretch of county highway, a request made so the town board can get around a gravel pit and some sensitive tribal lands, there is little doubt that approval will set a precedent that will open the door to other ATV routes on county roads and trails. If it passes, you can bet on that.

 

Proponents of ATV routes say the expanded motorized recreation is needed to help tourism-related businesses succeed. And while it may be true that new recreation will bring in new dollars, what is not known are the potential negative impacts.

 

How many property owners who enjoy the peace and quiet of the North Woods will put their homes up for sale? How many won’t buy at all? How will law enforcement keep ATV operators on the routes and trails? At what expense? Nobody knows if any of that will happen, but if it occurs, those negative impacts must be included in the final analysis.

 

It behooves the county board to conduct another referendum on such an important issue. Because until that is done, any ordinance allowing ATVs on county highways and county land goes against the will of the vast majority.

One more message

for the Class of 2013

If we could grab the attention of the 189 graduating seniors at Northland Pines, Three Lakes and Phelps, we would urge them to be humble enough to thank their parents, teachers and the entire community.

 

Parents and guardians have made some incredible sacrifices to see the Class of 2013 through to graduation, not to mention helping them with homework and following extracurricular activities of all kinds.

 

We’d urge them to take the time to thank the teachers, counselors, administrators and coaches who have nurtured their education for 13 years. We have some of the nation’s best teachers in the three schools here.

 

Lastly, we hope the graduates have learned the importance of citizenship. Communities thrive when people share their talents.

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, May 28, 2013 2:57 PM
 

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