‘Going to be on my roads’ATV enthusiasts ask for ordinance
ATV enthusiasts would like to ride their ATVs and side-by-sides on rural county roads in Washington County. They hope to convince the supervisors to adopt an ordinance allowing ATV riders to use county roads for recreational purposes.
Ken Miller of Kalona spoke to the supervisors Tuesday, Oct. 8, about ATV use. He presented a petition with 112 signatures of ATV enthusiasts who support the proposed ordinance. He said the signatures are from Kalona-area residents and he thinks he could gather many more signatures in the rest of the county.
“I’m here today to present an ATV ordinance for your consideration,” Miller said. “There are many residents of Washington County who would like to legally operate their ATV or side-by-side on Washington County rural roads.”
Miller said that only farmers may legally ride on roads statewide. However, Andy Winborn of the Rural Health and Safety Clinic of Greater Johnson County, said ATVs are not just for agricultural uses, but for occupational uses.
Supervisor Bob Yoder asked Miller what a side-by-side is.
“Kowasaki and Yamaha make them,” Miller said. “They’re kind of like a glorified golf cart. They’re bigger, a little more stable, a little wider — similar to a gator.”
Side-by-sides also have seat belts and roll bars, Miller added.
A bill to legalize ATVs for recreational use passed in the Iowa House, this year. Miller said it is known as House 619. The bill was also approved by the Iowa Senate Transportation Committee.
“But Sen. Joe Bolkcom, a Democrat from Iowa who chairs the Senate Ways & Means Committee, is concerned the legislation will result in additional deaths or serious injuries from ATV crashes,” Miller said. He also said the bill can move through the Legislature in 2014.
“Sen. Tod Bowman from Maquoketa, who chairs the Iowa Senate Transportation Committee, has promoted the ATV bill at the request of his constituents who enjoy riding their machines in scenic areas of eastern Iowa along the Mississippi River,” Miller continued. “Bowman is confident the measure can win passage next year.”
Miller said that there are seven counties that have or will have adopted an ATV ordinance. The City of West Chester has also passed such an ordinance. He said he spoke to the Van Buren County Sheriff Dan Tedrow who said Van Buren County doesn’t have any trouble with the law.
“He (Tedrow) said that, in fact, the ordinance has actually helped them with the problem ATVs,” Miller said. “The law-abiding ATVs users and farmers police the ordinance themselves so as to not have the privilege taken away.”
The chief deputies of Mitchell and Dickinson counties told Miller that their counties aren’t having problems with ATVs.
The supervisors were given a six-page packet of information from organizations opposed to an ATV ordinance. Miller addressed many of the concerns and offered counter arguments.
Two people who were also in the audience voiced objections.
“Since you’re going to be on my roads, the county engineers association in the state of Iowa is against this.”
Thorius named safety and the potential of damage to county roads and ditches as reasons for opposing the proposed ordinance. He said that people who are riding ATVs, “whether it’s legal or not,” are using county roads. He said the ATVs throw rock and create potholes. They also pop in and out of the ditches.
“We had, six months, nine months ago, a farmer nearly killed coming out of a driveway onto the road,” Thorius said.
Winborn opposes an ATV ordinance primarily for safety reasons.
“ATVs are designed to work in an environment completely different than roadways,” Winborn said. “Over half of ATV deaths are on roadways.”
As the debate wound down, Miller said, “All we’re asking for is for you to give this ordinance a try for six months and you can reevaluate it. This ordinance will be much easier to rescind than it was for planning and zoning.”
Supervisor Stan Stoops asked for the names of the counties that have ATV ordinances. He and the other supervisors want a couple of weeks to do their own research and agreed to put the proposed ordinance on the Oct. 22 agenda.
“I want to sit and read and think about it,” board chairman Steve Davis said.
Supervisor Jack Seward asked county residents for their input.