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Gold Bar embraces ATVs on city streets, Snohomish may follow

June 27, 2019

GOLD BAR, Wash. (AP) — Another Snohomish County city has joined the ranks of those allowing wheeled all-terrain vehicles on its streets.

The Gold Bar City Council voted 4-1 earlier this month to pass an ordinance legalizing ATVs in the city. Snohomish might be next.

“My hope with this ordinance passing is that those who are respectful and use them legally will want to use them for recreational purposes like riding them up to an ice cream shop on a sunny day,” Gold Bar Mayor Bill Clem said.

The idea first came up for discussion nearly a decade ago, Clem said.

It resurfaced recently as Darrington, Granite Falls, Stanwood, Sultan and Monroe passed similar laws.

In Monroe, where the vehicles have driven legally since May of last year, the hum of an ATV is a regular addition to downtown’s ambiance.

Starting at 8 a.m., tutu-sporting Michelle Walker can be seen zipping around town delivering coffee for the Original Pilot Coffee House in the company’s branded ATV.

Walker, known as “the caffeinator,” said the vehicles are perfect for short trips through the city. Gas is cheap, and insurance is relatively inexpensive.

The same open-air thrill that attracts motorcycle riders also draws people to ATVs, she said. Walker’s family has owned the vehicles for years.

She said it was “a dream come true” when Monroe legalized them on city streets.

Her family used to seek out cities that allowed ATVs on the road for vacations.

“To have that as an option in our hometown is really amazing,” she said. “It’s fun. It’s freeing.”

As it has in other cities, the topic of opening city streets to ATVs drew passionate public comment from both sides in Gold Bar, Clem said.

The primary concerns of those opposed were based on behavior that’s already illegal, like quad drivers not wearing helmets.

The new law will hopefully give ATV owners another way to use them legally, Clem said.

Gold Bar’s ordinance will mirror state requirements. Those include wearing a motorcycle helmet, unless the ATV has seat belts and roll bars or an enclosed compartment for the driver and passengers. The state also requires safety features such as headlights, turn signals and a windshield.

The new rules are part of a statewide effort to boost tourism in rural areas and expand recreation for the estimated 25,000 ATV owners in Washington. By law, cities can create local rules allowing quads, side-by-sides and four-wheelers, with a 35 mph speed limit. Otherwise, ATVs remain illegal.

Snohomish is also considering a pilot program to allow ATVs on its streets. The City Council asked staff last week to draft a proposal, which is expected to reach the council in late August.

“I don’t know which way the council will determine,” city administrator Steve Schuller said.

Snohomish County has also begun to open some roads to ATVs.

Last year, the County Council approved expanding a program to allow ATVs on some east-county arterials with speed limits of 35 mph or less. The routes —Mann, Old Owen and Ben Howard roads— connect unincorporated areas between Sultan and Monroe, two cities that had already passed laws to legalize ATVs on some city streets.

There’s a chance that could happen on the outskirts of Gold Bar as well. County Councilman Sam Low said he plans to advocate for opening up the county-operated portion of May Creek Road to ATVs. That would allow riders to get from the city to popular trails in Reiter.

There is currently no legal way to ride an ATV from Sultan to Gold Bar, since U.S. 2 is the only road connecting them.

“I think all these counties should be opened up to ATVs,” Low said. “But it’s up to the entire council to decide that.”

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