For the several months people may have noticed more than just cars, trucks, motorcycles and bicycles on city or village streets or on township roads in Vernon County with ATV/ UTVs now sharing the road. But is it legal? That question has many answers depending on where you live in Vernon County, but for the most part the answer is “yes”.
The state of Wisconsin implemented changes to its ATV/UTV operation laws opening up more freedom for use of the vehicles on roads. In conjunction with the state changes the Vernon County Board of Supervisors also updated its policies earlier this year allowing for the use of off-road vehicles on county roads.
In November 2007, the 2017 Wisconsin Act 87 was enacted allowing a town, village, or city to authorize the operation of ATV/UTV on roads within their territorial boundaries that have posted speed limits of 35 mph or less regardless of which municipality has jurisdiction on that road.
Then on April 3, the 2017 Wisconsin Act 193 was enacted allowing a town, village, city or county to place a sign on each road that crosses its boundary alerting motorists that all roads under the municipality’s jurisdiction have been designated as ATV/UTV routes.
The Vernon County Board of Supervisors updated its policies in February to coincide with the state policies allowing each town, village, or city to pass ordinances allowing for the operation of ATV/UTV on roads within their territorial boundaries. Speeds may not exceed 35 mph and drivers must obey any lower posted speed limit.
Once a town, village or city, with connecting county roads, approves an ATV/UTV ordinance they must present a request to the Vernon County Highway Department Committee detailing what roads, if any, are subject to the new ordinance and also detail any roads that might be exempt from the ordinance. If the highway committee approves the request it moves to the Vernon County Highway Safety Committee for final approval and addition to the county website and reference map.
Already approved ATV/UTV routes in Vernon County, with county trunk roads connections, include the city of Hillsboro (Feb. 2018), town of Sterling (Feb. 2018), town of Christiana (April 2018), town of Clinton (April 2018), town of Webster (April 2018) and town of Jefferson (May 2018)
The village of Chaseburg and the town of Coon recently received approval from the Vernon County Highway Department Committee at its June 14 monthly meeting, with approval now pending from the Vernon County Highway Safety Committee when they meet in July.
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The town of Viroqua granted approval for ATV and UTV use on its roads on April 17, but was not yet listed on approved routes as of press time.
The city of Westby also approved the use of ATV and UTV travel on its roads and the town of Hamburg has entered discussions on the subject.
Vernon County Sheriff John Spears said his one request as the list grows is that all towns, villages and cities get on the same page in regards to hours of operation, which makes enforcing the municipal ordinances much simpler. He suggested matching up with the state statute hours of 4 a.m. to 10 p.m.
In the state of Wisconsin there are ATV/UTV specific trails that run from Jackson County north to Superior, but there are no designated trails currently in Vernon County.
According to the DOT and the DNR the new law allows for ATV/UTV route postings on streets and roads at the territorial boundaries. Signage will be in posted in the town, village, or cities where riding is legal in Vernon County.
ATV/UTV riders are also required to stick to authorized areas where riding on roads is allowed and sport utility drivers are not allowed to trespass on private property or damage land. Headlights are required and helmets and protective gear should be used.
The DOT has a website with more information about ATVs on the road, as well as how municipalities can establish routes in their jurisdiction.
Locally anyone wanting more information on the open ATV/UTV routes should go to the Vernon County websites for updates or contact government officials where they plan to ride.