Commissioners Consider County Roads and ATVs
At a special commission meeting held April 28 in the commission chambers, the Emery County Commissioners met with interested representatives from the cities and towns to discuss opening county roads to ATV travel. The request has arisen out of concern to accommodate any visitors or other ATV riders who may need to access the towns businesses from trails and roads on forest service or BLM land.
Commissioner Drew Sitterud called the meeting to order and welcomed representatives from Clawson, Orangeville, Elmo and Ferron. Sitterud stated that he had invited all the councils and mayors in the county to attend the meeting or send a representative. He also stated that he has done quite extensive research into the ordinances of other counties around the state concerning the issue of ATV use.
Commissioner Sitterud reported to the group that this county definitely needs an ordinance to address this need. There are only a few counties in the state that have ordinances like the one being considered. Sevier County is the only county around the Piute Trail system that has an ordinance in place for ATV use on county roads. Their ordinance states that ATVs can be used on any dirt road in the county. Many other counties that responded to Sitterud's questions had responded that any ordinance of this kind needs to be researched very thoroughly.
Millard County has a three page list of roads that can be used for ATV travel, but all staging areas are outside the cities. The staging areas are within one half mile of the cities and access seven trails.
Grand County does not allow the use of ATVs on any paved road, use is limited to dirt roads only. All staging is at the trailheads, there is an in-town speed limit and all ATV drivers must be licensed drivers.
The increase in the number of registered machines has risen by 300 percent over the last three years and the projections are for the growth to continue at the same pace for the foresee able future.
Commissioner Ira Hatch said that he had recently spoken to an attorney who is well versed in ATV laws. The attorney informed Hatch that if the county opens any road to ATVs, then it (the county)assumes some liability. The county will then be expected to keep the roads in a safe operational condition for ATVs. If an accident should occur, the county would have to be proven negligent. The judge in the case would be the one to decide if the road was safe for travel.
Sheriff Lamar Guymon stated that his office is to do the will of the people of Emery County and the commissioners will have the final word, and the sheriff's office will enforce whatever ordinance is adopted. Guymon said Orangeville's ordinance contains the correct wording and that it is a good starting place. Guymon has discussed the issue with his officers and the consensus is that an ordinance needs to be in place that is manageable and usable. Some points for consideration are use on paved roads and supervision of underage riders.
Another issue is that some of the county's dirt roads are very dangerous for vehicles alone, when you put ATVs into the equation, the danger levels increase dramatically. "We need to address the situation, negligence is just as bad as over-enforcement," said Guymon.
Sitterud explained that the county wants to put together a road plan complete with maps and ordinance wordings and begin the process of holding public hearings as far as the county roads are concerned. Each city will need to put together its own plan and maps that will make the desired tie ins with BLM and forest service roads. Those cities that wish to be involved will need to begin work on plans and maps soon to enable the commission to work around the cities needs.
When the cities begin this process, they need to take into consideration the state statutes and the specific language allowing the egress and ingress of ATVs into the cities from the outside trail systems. There should be wording about penalties for those who use their ATVs to just get around town. The state statute prohibits that sort of use, it only allows for those who enter and leave a town with a specific business or resupply destination.
Orangeville's representative, Randall Stilson, expressed that city is only open to low impact roads. He also stressed the importance of all the cities having the same ordinance for ease of enforcement.
Clay Gasser stated that Clawson would like to see the track developed to help keep ATVs off private property. There is a problem in most cities that the ATVs trespass on private property when that land adjoins the city and county or BLM lands.
Elroy Mortensen from Elmo reported that they have passed an ordinance there that allows for ATV use on two of the streets but that there are some problems with enforcement.
The intent of this ordinance is to regulate the riders of the trail systems to get supplies, but there is no trail system. Maps of a trail system are the first order of business for the cities to put in place before the county can make any considerations of ATV use on county roads.
Ray Petersen, public lands director, stated that the machines are not engineered for use on paved roads and that county and city roads are not designed for use by the ATVs. Shared access is a serious safety issue and the ATV users should consider transporting their machines to staging areas. Another question by Petersen was the insurance and liability issue. The liability that would be inherited by the county needs to be taken into consideration.
Jo Sansevero, Ferron city council person, expressed that city's interest in allowing egress and ingress for a four day period during the jamboree in August. The city wants to accommodate visitors and these actions may entice more visitors to return at later dates to further enjoy the beauty of Emery County. The jamboree organizers will issue use permits to those who register at the jamboree. These permits will enable the sheriff's officers to know who is riding legally.
Commissioner Sitterud closed the meeting with the proposal that all the cities create the maps with the designations for tie ins to the trails, and bring the proposals of what each wants to the next meeting. That meeting is tentatively scheduled for June 10.