Darlington Police Chief Jason King knows his community. He knows the people, the streets, the businesses and the issues his community manages every day. He knows that Darlington’s ATV/UTV route through the city has been a huge boon for locals and visitors alike with the exception of the small stretch of Galena Street that is also Hwy. 23. This half-mile is off-limits to ATVs/UTVs because of state law.
King emailed me early this year to see if there would be a way for municipalities to decide whether a small section of state highway within the boundaries of a municipality could be part of a larger ATV/UTV route system. He said that a small, half-mile stretch of Galena Street, which is also Hwy. 23, cannot be included in the city-wide ATV/UTV route because it is a state highway.
The problem in Darlington is that this small section of road dissects the community and effectively landlocks entire neighborhoods from accessing the ATV/UTV route. Residents cannot, legally, drive on Hwy. 23 to access the rest of the route. To comply with state law, they need to trailer their ATV/UTV to the route across Galena Street in order to ride on the route. This is ridiculous.
This challenge is shared by other small, mostly rural, municipalities throughout the state where state highways are also main roads through town. As ATV/UTV trail riding grows in popularity, this issue becomes a challenge in more municipalities.
As a result, I authored Senate Bill 392 along with Rep. Todd Novak, R-Dodgeville, who authored its companion Assembly Bill 485. These bills authorize a municipality to decide whether ATVs/UTVs may be operated on state highways within their territorial boundaries where the speed limit is 35 mph or less.
I believe that local leaders and law enforcement know best whether their community should include sections of state highway in their ATV/UTV routes. They will consider historical data, average speeds, average use and other details before they make this decision. The public, who will be directly impacted, will have the opportunity for input during the ordinance-making process. My bill allows locals to decide whether to enact this policy − or not.
This is another great example of legislation that was borne out of direct experiences in the communities of the 17th District. I appreciate King’s willingness to share his concerns and to offer a reasonable solution. Common sense, local ideas are an important part of the legislative process.
SB 392 received a hearing on Oct. 4 in the Senate Committee on Transportation and Veterans Affairs. AB 485 should receive a hearing soon. I have received positive feedback on this bill from other legislators who have communities that are also impacted by this law. I am optimistic that we will be able to continue moving these bills through the legislative process.
For more information and to connect with me, visit my website legis.wisconsin.gov/senate/17/marklein and subscribe to my weekly E-Update by sending an email to Sen.Marklein@legis.wisconsin.gov. Do not hesitate to call 800-978-8008 if you have input, ideas or need assistance with any state-related matters.
Republican Howard Marklein, Spring Green, represents the 17th state Senate District.