have your say on ATVs and county roads
|These ATV riders use an open trail on the forest, but access into local communities is currently not available. A public hearing to discuss options for ATVs will be held on April 5 at 5:30 p.m. at the county building during commission meeting.|
Should ATVs be allowed on county roads? This question will be addressed at a public hearing on April 5 at 5:30 p.m. If a county road is not designated as open then it is closed. At the current time a county ordinance doesn't exist which addresses ATV use on county roads. A planning committee has been working on such a draft ordinance for the past two years.
A map has been prepared detailing which roads would be opened and which would remain closed. The committee couldn't come to an agreement on three roads, the Ferron Canyon road from Millsite to the forest boundary, the Buckhorn Draw road and Bott Lane. The committee has sent their findings to the commission and public input is needed for the commission to formulate a conclusion to the ATVs on county roads issue. Written comments can also be submitted to the commission through April 5.
At the recent public lands meeting, Ray Petersen, public lands director, alerted council members to the meeting on April 5 at 5:30 p.m. He said, "A lot of different people have done a lot of work on this. We went through each county road to decide if it should be designated open or closed. On the map the green roads are designated open and the red roads are designated closed. The three routes we couldn't reach consensus on are outlined in orange. The safety review committee included the sheriff, attorney, road supervisor, road foreman and OHV advocates. If you have concerns, come to the public hearing."
Sheriff Lamar Guymon said there has been an ongoing effort to educate people on what an ordinance can and can't do. State law says it is OK to open routes to access open routes on public lands, but since no county roads are open to access these areas, the city ordinances are in violation. ATVs are not to be used for errands around town. ATVs with a husbandry exception are exempt.
Petersen said there has been a lot of misunderstanding on ATV rules. Any peace officer can enforce laws on ATV use. If an ATV loop crosses a state highway then special permission is needed from the Utah Department of Transportation for permitting such use.
Dickson Huntington, public lands council, said, "I have a tough time with this. Why are we putting ATVs on county roads?"
Commissioner Gary Kofford said ATVs are already on county roads illegally. "The theory is you have people using the Skyline Trail and using the ATV as a mode of transportation. They need access to a town for supplies. What is the will of the people?"
Tory Killian, public lands council, said it will help promote tourism if ATVs are able to access towns for gas.
Eric Luke, public lands council, views the ATVs on county roads as a safety issue. He sees young riders on the roads without proper training in the rules of the road as a big problem.
Sheriff Guymon said what the cities have done is basically illegal. The sheriff's office will ticket people as needed. They have ignored a lot of the riding on county roads. He said people spend a lot of money to get tourists here and then the roads aren't open for access by ATV. "There is no safe place to put an OHV and a full-sized vehicle on the same road," said Sheriff Guymon.
It is the responsibility of the citizens of the county to show up at the public hearing and make their comments known so the commissioners can make an informed decision.
Mesia Nyman, forest ranger for the Ferron office said they have approached the county and asked for a system of open roads to link trails from the forest to the cities and beyond to the desert trails. She mentioned riders can leave Manti on their ATVs and travel to Skyline Drive, but do not have access on this side of the mountain to refuel and get supplies. Petersen said they have made an effort to accommodate the communities in this draft ordinance.
Petersen said no decision has been made concerning whether ATV travel on county roads will just be limited to licensed drivers age 16 and over. These issues will be discussed at the public hearing.
"Is there a compelling reason to open these roads up? Most of these owners have trailers for their ATVs. I think you're asking for trouble to open these roads," said Huntington.
Some trail heads in the county have limited access and not much available parking. If you drive the ATV you don't have to load and unload the vehicle.
Commissioner Drew Sitterud said in Grand County they are required to trailer their ATVs to get to the staging area. He thinks their ordinance is a matter of economics where they want the vehicles hauling the ATVs to also gas up in the community.
Some counties have plans where all roads are open. In some they are all closed, in others only the paved roads are closed and unpaved roads are open.
Petersen said, "We've gone the extra mile to be fair, now the public needs to comment."
Sheriff Guymon said their office is criticized for enforcing and for nonenforcement and an ordinance will be helpful to them.
Will ATV usage on county roads increase with this ordinance? Sheriff Guymon doesn't see the use increasing much because the roads are already being used.
Gary Petty, public lands council, wondered how OHV ordinances are working in other areas. Sheriff Guymon said it depends on who you talk to. OHV people think it's great and other people don't like the dust and noise. So, whether or not it's working depends on who you are.
Luke said, "You can teach ethics, preach ethics but you can't enforce ethics." A few irresponsible riders make a bad name for responsible riders.
Sheriff Guymon said some local law enforcement is based on complaints from responsible ATV riders.
Lands council chairman, Bruce Wilson encouraged all groups to participate in the public hearing because often times public hearings are dominated by the most vocal group.