Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Tim Franklin
Moose Lake Star Gazette 

ATVs to be allowed on county roads


All-terrain vehicle (ATV) users will soon be able to drive their vehicles on Pine County roads.

On Tuesday, during the regular monthly meeting in Pine City, the board of commissioners unanimously approved the new ordinance. The only thing left for the ordinance to become law is that it be published, which will be done in next Thursday’s newspaper on May 26.

County board chair Curt Rossow of Willow River said that as a test, the county opened up some roads in his district a couple years ago, and there have been no complaints.

“It has worked there,” Rossow said.

Commissioner Stephen Hallan of Pine City said he had been on the board 10 years ago when ATV groups first asked for this new law, and at that time was not in favor of it. At that time, there were not many Class 2 ATVs on the road, Hallan said. Now, while Class 2 ATVs are more commonplace, Hallan said it didn’t make sense to allow Class 2 ATVs on the road, but not Class 1 ATVs.

“I know I have changed my mind,” Hallan said.

The ordinance will now allow ATV operators to drive their vehicles on county roads all over Pine County, which would include some cities in the county. The change does not allow ATV users to operate on roads managed by townships. The ordinance states they must drive their vehicles on the right side of the road, and drive their vehicles a reasonable speed, not to exceed the speed limit.

About 10 citizens appeared at the public hearing, speaking both for and against the passage.

Don Otwell of Willow River said he just found out about it last week. He had questions on why ATVs could operate in ditches in the first place when there are wetlands. The ordinance would still allow ATV drivers to operate in ditches if they want, which is state law.

Otwell said there are five different classes of wetlands, and asked, “Why are not we enforcing that law and turning a blind eye.”

Otwell further asked if there was a formal study done on how this change would help protect the environment.

“There was no formal study done. It was just obvious,” Rossow said, who added riding ATVs does damage ditches.

Otwell further asked how many business people wanted the ordinance, and asked if there was a study on this as well.

Harold Blatz, also of Willow River, asked it not be passed.

“How does it benefit me to have more four wheelers coming here,” Blatz asked.

The majority of speakers were for the change.

Terry Peterson of the Northern Pine Riders Club of Willow River said that group held a meeting last Friday and voted overwhelmingly to support the new ordinance.

Jerry Stone, representing the Evergreen PAC ATV Club, another ATV club, said over the years, there have been no complaints about additional ATV traffic in the area.

“Willow River and Sturgeon Lake have embraced it,” Stone said.

“I would much more want them on the road instead of the ditch,” Stone said. “It will attract a lot of people from all over the state.”

Scott Helfman of Sturgeon Lake also urged passage, saying ditches are constantly torn up by ATVs.

Commissioner Joshua Mohr of Pine City, also a member of a Pine City ATV club, said he was part of a group 10 years ago that asked for this change, and the goal for the ordinance was to keep it simple.

There was also some discussion on speed, but the commissioners decided to keep the ordinance as written.

“All of our ordinances are not like the 10 Commandments,” Rossow said. “They are not cut in stone. They can be tweaked at any time.”

Speeding on an ATV will also be a misdemeanor, County Attorney Reese Frederickson pointed out. If you drive a car over the speed limit, that penalty is a petty misdemeanor, Frederickson pointed out.


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