New Itasca County ATV Ordinance Released

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The first draft of an ordinance allowing ATV travel on all county roads was presented to the Itasca County Board on Tuesday. Commissioners also scheduled a public hearing on the draft ordinance for June 27, at 2:30 p.m.

On March 21, a summary of comment received regarding changes to the ATV (all-terrain vehicle) Ordinance and Policy were provided to the county board which then directed staff to draft an ordinance that allows ATV travel on all county roads, subject to conditions within city limits.

As stated in the materials provided to the board, Minnesota statute authorizes counties to allow operation of all-terrain vehicles on the road right-of-way shoulder, or inside bank or slope of a county highway or county state aid highway if safe operation in the ditch or outside slop is impossible and the county posts the appropriate notice. The draft document also states that

“Itasca County has a general interest in allowing expanded use by all-terrain vehicles of public road right-of-way… to make connections to businesses, residences and trail connections and because most ditches and outside slopes contain numerous and extensive lowlands with brush, trees and other vegetation rendering them impassible.”

Ryan Sutherland, with the Itasca County Transportation Department, presented the draft to the board Tuesday and explained that “significant discussion,” over the past few months resulted in language that allows travel on all county roads with a provision to allow cities to opt out. Sutherland asked that, following the public hearing on June 27, that the board allow county staff at least a week to contact cities before a map is created and provided to the public.

Commissioner Burl Ives expressed concern about the amount of time the process has taken.

“Can we contact the cities now so at least they know they can choose to opt out at their next July meeting? So we’re not playing around until August on this and the season is almost done,” Ives asked.

Board Chair Commissioner Terry Snyder said many cities already allow for ATV travel, “so it may be a mute point.”

With Grand Rapids one of those cities, Ives commented that “the list is short.”

Chair Snyder recognized Ives’s concerns but also called the decision one of the “biggest recreation changes” in his time on the board, “so we want to make sure it’s done right.”

Sutherland assured the board that a decision could be made immediately following the public hearing and the new ordinance could go into effect as early as July 1, allowing time for the county attorney’s office to review final language. The official map will be posted on the county’s website.

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