ATV routes growing and changing in counties, surrounding municipalities

Nicole Aimone, Editor-in-Chief

Routes for ATV/UTV’s in Sauk and Iowa counties have been expanding in recent months, with counties and surrounding municipalities choosing to expand routes or secure funding to up-keep routes for the use of recreation vehicles.

At the March 16 Sauk County Board meeting, the board approved various expansions to ATV/UTV routes throughout the county, after local recreation clubs submitted petitions for the addition.

Additional routes throughout Sauk County include: 7.2 miles on County Highway (CTH) PF from CTH C to Church Road, 1.2 miles on CTH PF from Hemlock Road to Leland Road in Honey Creek, 2.09 miles on CTH PF from CTH D to Skyview Road in Honey Creek, 2.4 miles on CTH O from Troy Road to Skunk Valley Road in Troy, one mile on CTH G from Highway 23 to just past West Prairie View Road in Spring Green, and 2.14 miles on White Mound Drive from CTH GG to Lake Road in Bear Creek.

The expansions include trails in Reedsburg, Delton and Prairie du Sac.

ATV/UTV use on county roads has been an on-going discussion throughout Sauk County, with the board originally rejecting petitions to open county roads in 2019, citing safety concerns and a state loophole that allows drunk driving off enders to operate UTV/ATV with a clean record for that vehicle.

At the March 16 meeting, two supervisors spoke against the route additions, with Supervisor Michelle Buschweiler, who represents Baraboo and portions of Freedom, North Freedom and Excelsior, voting against the motion, citing traffic and safety concerns on routes added on CTH H near Delton and Winfield.

“I know at least for County Highway H, there is a plan, because there are so many crashes on that road, to add rumble strips on center and sidelines, I’m wondering if it’s a real good idea to add an intersection crossing at this time,” said Buschweiler.

Highway Commission Patrick Gavinski said the department and Highway committee did originally share similar concerns for the two routes already on CTH H, but have not seen any incidents or concerns with ATV/UTVs on the road. Gavinski said he believes that is because the road does have four foot, paved shoulders.

Supervisor Thomas Dorner, of Baraboo, echoed similar concerns but did vote in favor of the routes.

Supervisor Shane Gibson, of Baraboo, questioned if Gavinski had received any negative feedback or objections from municipalities or property owners along the routes. Gavinski said there was no objections, and stated that the highway department notifies all municipalities of the additional or expanded routes.

Gibson abstained from voting on the motion.

Supervisor and Highway Committee Chairman,Brian Peper, of Loganville, spoke in support of the expansions to ensure clarity and better flow of the routes.

“We’ve been going over these updates for the past couple of months, we’ve come across a few hiccups and I think we’ve ironed them out,” said Peper. “We took requests from fourwheel groups from across the county, we did expand on a couple of them mildly, we thought it was a better idea to open up a little bit for clarification, otherwise we’re stopping roads or making people turn around.”

The additional routes passed in a 29-1-1 vote.

In the same meeting, the board voted to apply for DNR grant funds that aid in maintaining, acquiring, developing and insuring ATV/UTV trails.

The DNR grant funds 100% of costs associated with counties providing specific ATV/UTV trails that are not included in the routes of county roads and highways. The money can be used for counties to acquire or develop recreational trails, and for maintaining them throughout the summer and winter season.

The funds can also be used towards liability insurance for the county.

Changes to ATV/UTV use in Iowa County

At its regular March 16 meeting, the Iowa County board amended its existing ATV/UTV ordinance to “open” all county highways for recreational vehicle usage, unless otherwise posted, to create uniformed routes and usage.

The amendment comes with a few caveats, including the townships of Wyoming and Cldye, that do not allow ATV/UTV usage in the townships. County highways within those townships are not listed as ATV/UTV routes, according to County Highway Commissioner Craig Hardy.

County Highways that cannot be used in those townships include: CTH C, CTH I, CTH N, CTH NM, CTH T and CTH ZZ.

County roads that see higher traffic or more semi-truck traffic with narrow shoulders are also not included for recreational vehicle use. Only portions of CTH K north of Barneveld, CTH F between Blanchardville and state highway 39, are available for use.

ATV/UTV’s are not allowed on state or federal roads, any ATV/UTV routes that intersect with US 151 will be closed at the crossing and redirected to another route, said Hardy. Signage will be posted in the near future to reflect the recent amendment.

In an effort to keep riding hours uniform with nearby counties, Iowa County’s hours for use allow recreational vehicles to be used from 5 a.m. to 1 a.m., many municipalities in the area have more restricted hours, allowing riders to use roads from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. This includes villages and most townships in the county, along with the cities of Dodgeville and Mineral Point.

In February, the Village of Arena changed their ATV/UTV ordinance to adjust riding hours from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. Recreational vehicles are allowed on all village streets.

The town of Ridgeway follows the county’s time guidelines and allows use from 5 a.m. to 1 a.m.

The county’s ordinance stipulates that all ATV/UTV drivers must be at least 16 years old and have completed a Department of Natural resources (DNR) safety course.

ATV/UTV routes in the village of Spring Green

In February, the Spring Green village board discussed a proposed ATV/UTV route in the village that had been requested by Jeff Johnson, Jeff Freel and John Meyerhofer.

The village currently does not have an ordinance regarding the use of recreational vehicles, but voted to draft one following the specific requests. The ordinance will be drafted by Village Clerk Wendy Crary, along with Police Chief Mike Stoddard for the proposed route to be allowed on a one-year trial period.

The village board discussed the matter with Stoddard, who said he did not have any concerns regarding an ATV/UTV on village roads and would enforce whatever decision the village board made.

The board discussed various questions regarding noise, location and speed.

Crary will present the ordinance to the board when it is finished and has been reviewed by Johnson, Freel and Meyerhofer.

The village has received correspondence from Diane Kaiser, who is a resident within the River Valley School District, but not the village, who expressed dislike for the ordinance and cited many safety concerns.

“Perhaps the board thinks that this would help SG [Spring Green] businesses. But, what businesses would benefit from this? A few bars? A few restaurants?” questioned Kaiser in her letter. “Essentially, a handful of businesses. So not a whole of benefit for a potentially damaging outcome.”

Kaiser provides a list of concerns she said herself and others hold about allowing ATVs on village roads: ATVers driving too fast, ATVs adding additional noise to the village, parking issues, particularly during events, ATVers not being as easily seen as regular vehicles, inexperienced ATV drivers, ATVers who are not part of the local club, ATVs driving on pavements (not what ATVs are meant to drive on safely) the effect ATVs will have on tourism and aesthetics of Spring Green and added air pollution.

Kaiser goes on, “Someone from Lone Rock, where they already have and ATV ordinance in place said to me: ‘ATVs in Spring Green? That doesn’t seem like a good match. Lone Rock, yes. Arena, yes. Spring Green, no.’”

Kaiser recommended the village consider the allowance of recreational vehicles on a six month to one year test period.

Other Municipalities

The village of Plain allows for ATV/UTVs to be used on Highway B/Main Street and Highway 23/Watcher Avenue.

Residents of the village are allowed to utilize the vehicles on other village streets when traveling to an ATV route in the village, but are required to take the fastest route from their residence to the route.

ATV/UTV riders must follow speed limits posted on the village roads, and follow the minimum state age requirements to operate the vehicle, which is 12 years old to operate an ATV and 16 years old for a UTV, after completing a safety course.

Recreational vehicles are prohibited on village routes from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m.

In the village of Lone Rock, ATV/UTV’s are not allowed on public property and are limited to a speed of 20 mph and 10 mph when they are being operated within 150 feet of a residence. The vehicles are required to use headlights at all times.

People under the age of 12 are prohibited from operating the recreational vehicles unless they are accompanied by a parent, guardian or someone over the age of 18.