The Vilas county board voted 15-4 last night to amend the county's land use plan to allow motorized trails on county land and roads. The vote is a victory for those seeking to overturn a 2004 referendum vote where a majority wanted no county ATV trails and a subsequent county board resolution banning ATV's on county properties and roads.
About 400 people packed the Arbor Vitae town hall. The proposal approved last night doesn't allow ATV's on county property, but it does allow the planning of such trails. Another vote is necessary to rescind the ordinance passed in 2004 not allowing county ATV trails.
Supervisor Erv Teichmiller felt the proposal was more than just amending the land use plan..
".....this resolution is the camel's nose that will allow ATV trails not only in our forest land, but on our roads..."
But Techimiller was in the minority all night, as debate lasted more than two and a half hours. Supervisor Steven Doyen of Phelps and Conover felt ATV's and silent sports trails can both exist to benefit his district.....
"....we're looking at getting the bike trail in there and having an ATV route. We need both(trails) our community is dyin'...."
Several proponents felt the plan had to be changed to plan effective trails.
County Board chair Ron De Bruyen allowed four citizen speakers on each side of the issue.
Jeff Currie from the Great Headwaters Trails felt the work they have done to bring more silent trails to Vilas county could be jeopardized if the same property had to be given to ATV trails..
".....there are questions of practical importance that need to be discussed and answered before anything goes forward with adding ATV use...."
Opponents also raised concerns about the spreading of invasive plants with the ATV's and rogue ATV use leading to destruction of property and safety issues, but Randy Harden from a statewide
ATV-UTV association said they feel it can be managed...
"....it's not just ATV's...they're no different. A group said they are the greatest(invasive) spreader. That is not true. We can all spread invasive species unless we take precautions..."
Several amendments to have citizens vote on another advisory referendum, to hold public hearings across the county, to ban ATV use on county roads, and to give each town a vote whether to allow ATV's on their county roads were all defeated by wide margins.