Rapids city council to consider ATV, UTV routes in city
Bryan Marsch speaks before the Wisconsin Rapids Legislative Committee in favor of Wisconsin Rapids adopting an ordinance that would allow ATVs and UTVs to operate on city streets. Photo courtesy Wisconsin Rapids City Council.
BY EILEEN PERSIKE
WISCONSIN RAPIDS – ATV and UTV enthusiasts may be able to add Wisconsin Rapids to their list of stops to make when riding through central Wisconsin. The city’s Legislative Committee is forwarding a recommendation to the full council to create an ordinance for ATV and UTV traffic through Wisconsin Rapids.
Bryan Marsch, representing Open Grand Rapids ATV Routes, presented maps, statistics and suggestions to the committee July 27. Marsch said he has spoken with leaders from surrounding communities and some as far away as Wisconsin Dells, regarding recreational vehicle routes. He said the general consensus is to keep it as simple as possible.
“There’s a minimal route just to try and get through town and be able to hit up some of the businesses so people can kind of connect to the trail systems,” Marsch said. “We have four main trails that kind of dead end right at Rapids, and it’s a very long process to go around them.”
Opening up the city to ATV and UTV traffic would provide another option for crossing the Wisconsin River. There is also only one way to cross currently, and that’s in Nekoosa.
“The reason for the push to try and open all the roads is, again, it keeps it a lot simpler, it keeps everybody included in the process if somebody wants to have an ATV and go riding, it includes everybody,” Marsch added. Numbered highways would not be included.
He also said though there are some 2,400 registered machines in the city of Wisconsin Rapids, there is a lot less ATV traffic than people anticipate; with more roads available, there is less chance residents will see one. Another reason Marsch cited for opening the city to ATVs is that it is “exponentially cheaper” for signage because route beginnings and endings would not be needed. He is also suggesting the city keep the speed limits the same as other motor vehicles.
“One of the biggest complaints I got from residents was being stuck behind an ATV or UTV going 10 miles an hour because that was the posted speed limit,” said Marsch.
Mayor Shane Blaser weighed in on the discussion, saying initially he was unsure of the viability of recreational vehicle traffic through the city. However, after the city of Marshfield passed an ordinance, he said he has come around to the proposal.
“It’s something worth considering and I favor trying it and I favor opening up all the roads, aside from the highways because I think that would be dangerous,” Blaser told the committee. He added he thinks the Marshfield ordinance is a good ordinance because it is very detailed and covers such things as loud exhaust and music.
Kristy Egge spoke on behalf of the Wood County Health Department.
“We’re very supportive of this ordinance,” said Egge. “Our hope is with having things written out it will aid in the ordinance creation and that potentially we may be looked at as a reviewer of the ordinance from a public health and safety perspective.”
Some of those public health and safety concerns Egge stated include making sure a driver’s license requirement is included, prohibiting open intoxicants for both the driver and passengers, maintaining limited hours of operation to daylight hours or from 6 a.m.to 10 p.m., requiring the same amount of insurance as motor vehicles, and requiring all occupants wear helmets.
Alderman Matt Zacher put forth the recommendation to forward the idea of creating an ordinance for ATV and UTV use in the city. No one at the meeting expressed opposition. The agenda is not yet set for the August council meeting, but the next full council meeting is scheduled for Aug. 15 at 6 p.m. at city hall.