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County residents, officials debate ATVs on county roads



Should ATVs be allowed on county roads? That question brought many comments from local ATV club members as well as business owners during a public hearing Monday. Comments and questions ran the gamut, with some noting that a proposed new ATV ordinance looks fair and others saying that counties around us already have unrestricted ordinances, we should too.

Carlton County Commissioners had a long day of meetings Monday. They began with budget presentations at 1 p.m. and slid into the regular board meeting at 4 p.m. with a public hearing for "the Management of All-Terrain Vehicles in the Public Right-of-Way of Roads" in Carlton County sandwiched in the middle of the board meeting.

The public meeting was well attended by members of local ATV clubs as well as other interested residents. The county's proposed ordinance would allow ATV riders out of the ditches and onto county roads, including on streets in town such as Washington Avenue and Big Lake Road in Cloquet.

The commissioners said they welcomed ideas and suggestions for any improvements on the proposed ordinance, and the residents responded.

According to an audience member, Moose Lake already has designated ATV trails painted on their roads.

"Moose Lake has lines painted around the city for ATVs and I believe most of their smaller roads are open for ATVs to access trails and businesses, said Darwin Chester, a resident of Barnum Township.

Citizens from Holyoke requested chloride on dirt roads or shoulders to help keep dust levels down.

Carlton County ATV Club President Eric Senarighi thanked the commissioners for a well written and fair ordinance, while Evergreen PAC ATV Club Coordinator Jerry Sloan praised a few towns.

"Two towns are incredible: Moose Lake and Sturgeon Lake are very ATV friendly," said Sloan. "While we do have some trails, the counties around us are unrestricted and would like to see us be the same."

A Wrenshall resident and ATV Club member said Wrenshall was waiting to see what was included in the Carlton County ordinance before writing its own.

"Right now the way ordinance [is] written [now], we are supposed to be riding in the ditch and some farmers and landowners don't want us to be there, they would rather see us on the road," said an ATV club member.

Stone agreed. He said the current ordinance is a mess with too much going on and the proposed new ordinance simplifies rules for ATV drivers.

"If I'm sitting on an $8,000 ATV, I will drive responsibly on the side of a road if I can. I don't want to wreck it on rocks, get it stuck in wetlands or hit a telephone box in a ditch," Stone said emphatically. "Go to Moose Lake and look around, you won't find any tracks in their ditches...We want troublemakers prosecuted also! We work hard to get these trails going. They attract a lot of people and a lot of business to this area and it's important to the economy!"

Sheriff Kelly Lake concurred.

"I don't have a problem (with the proposed ordinance)," she said. "Some 99.9 percent of the riders are respectful, so we don't have a problem with most of them. The ones that we do would be a problem anyhow."

Commissioner Dick Brenner expressed concern about ATVs being allowed to drive on Big Lake Road due to high amounts of traffic and not enough space on the shoulder of the road between the stoplights and Carmen's.

The commissioners thanked the audience for their input and said they will take the information and digest it and put it on the agenda for the Aug. 8 meeting.

In other County Board news, there was back-and-forth discussion concerning the county's continued rental of a Moose Lake School District building, which the school district owns and is now up for sale. They clarified this is not the old school building, but one bought by the school district many years ago in downtown Moose Lake.

There are currently several businesses renting in that building, including a Lakes and Pines office, but Brenner said he doesn't think the county should be involved "in the rental business." After several minutes of discussion, the board agreed to have Dennis Genereau walk through and look for potential problems and explore the idea of purchasing the building. The bids, however, needed to be submitted by Wednesday, July 26.

Cloquet resident Sheila Lamb addressed the commissioners passionately at the end of the board meeting concerning the Enbridge Line 3 pipeline proposals making their way through state and federal agencies. Lamb requested two hours of board time for a future presentation because it's a huge issue, similar to a request she made to the Cloquet City Council July 18. The board agreed to a 30-minute presentation at the Committee of the Whole meeting 8:30 a.m. Sept. 5. The Cloquet City Council agreed to put Lamb on a future work session agenda, but has not yet set a date.