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Limited access to county roads approved for off-road vehicles

SHEBOYGAN – The way is clear for all-terrain and utility-terrain vehicles to use certain county roads.

The County Board Tuesday approved an ordinance setting a procedure to allow the off-road vehicles on designated county roads and governing their use.

That was despite an appeal from several local riders to open up all county roads at once to ATVs and UTVs during the public address portion of the agenda.

Thomas Kempke of Adell cited the example of Fond du Lac County, where opening county roads requires approval of that County Board’s Transportation Committee.

That committee, he claimed, “has been overwhelmed by requests. It’s gotten to the point where Fond du Lac County has put a stop to considerations,” of designating roads.

Kempke also said it would be “cumbersome” to post signs allowing ATVs and UTVs on individual county roads rather than one sign at the entrance to each town listing all roads open.

“Not all county roads should be open,” Supervisor Brian Hoffmann stated during board debate on the proposed ordinance.

“We are more or less an urban county, especially the town of Wilson,” Hoffmann, who represents that town, continued. He added that, for safety reasons, he planned to vote against the ordinance.

“No, we are not opening up every road in the county,” Supervisor Al Bosman stated. He explained that the ordinance will require a request to open a road to the town board first, followed by consideration by the county.

“At the township you may make the decision not to have ATVs on your town roads,” Bosman said.

Under the ordinance, he added, only county roads that connect two town roads that are already open to off-road vehicles would be considered for designation.

That was one change made to the ordinance by the Transportation Committee after it was sent back to them for further consideration last month.

“The idea is to have each municipality approach the county if they do want some links,” Supervisor Roger TeStroete said. “To open them (county roads) all up, that would be unsafe.”

Supervisor Thomas Epping said he could support ATVs on all county roads, though the board did not consider making such a change.

“I feel ATV drivers are reasonable, sensible and safe,” Epping stated. “We have already opened up our county roads for bicyclists, walkers and who knows what else.”

“Just because one thing is legal doesn’t mean other things should be,” Hoffmann responded.

The ordinance, as amended by the Transportation Committee, passed by a vote of 20-4, with supervisors Jim Baumgart, Curt Brauer and William Goehring joining Hoffmann in opposition.

The board earlier defeated a motion by Supervisor Michael Ogea to remove the $50 application fee for each designation request made to the county.

Ogea noted that the local rider clubs have committed in the past to paying that fee as well as the cost of posting signs.

“We’re charging these guys a fee and they’re doing an awful lot of work for a lot of other people already,” Ogea stated.

His amendment was defeated by a vote of 16-8, with supervisors Paul Gruber, Gerald Jorgensen, Charlette Nennig, Keith Abler, Epping and Ogea voting yes.

The amended ordinance prohibits operation of ATVs and UTVs by anyone under 16 “unless accompanied by his or her parent or guardian or person who is at least 18 years of age.”

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