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Sauk County ATV clubs seek more road access

December 24, 2018

With a new ordinance governing off-road vehicles on Sauk County’s public highways in place, local clubs are requesting greater access.

Applications recently filed with the Sauk County Highway Department seek 32 new routes totaling about 70 miles in 12 different towns, including Baraboo, Fairfield and Freedom.

If approved, the new sections would double the amount of highway already open to all-terrain and utility task vehicles within the county.

The requests come shortly after the Sauk County Board approved new rules governing ATV and UTV access along county highways. Supervisors voted 24-4 in October to repeal and replace a county ordinance that was first adopted in 2013.

Sauk County Highway Commissioner Patrick Gavinski said he has been reviewing the newly proposed routes. The Sauk County Sheriff’s Department and towns also will have an opportunity to review applications and provide feedback.

The new ordinance also says the county must consider public input when examining route applications.

Once the initial reviews are complete, the county board’s Highway and Parks Committee may decide whether to forward the applications on to the full board for final consideration. It’s not yet clear when that might happen.

“January may be possible, but I would guess February at the earliest by the time the townships have an opportunity to meet,” Gavinski said.

State law allows local governments to decide whether their roads, streets or highways may be used by ATVs and UTVs. In Sauk County, some towns and municipalities have opened one or more of their roads to four-wheelers. The county ordinance only applies to county highways.

In the applications, the clubs say many of the new county highway segments are needed to connect networks of existing town road routes or to provide access to off-road trails.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, a federal regulatory agency, urges ATV and UTV riders to stay off public roads, even if local governments allow access. And a national coalition of health, safety and consumer groups has advised the county board to reject any expansion of highway access.

Those groups — as well as the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources — caution that off-road vehicles are unstable on paved surfaces because they are equipped with soft, low-pressure tires and a high center of gravity.

Local ATV club leaders claim those concerns are exaggerated, and that expanding off-road vehicle use throughout the county will stimulate the economy.

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