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Vilas County Forest Planning Brings Up ATV/UTV Concerns in Communities

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The 15-year comprehensive forest plan for the 40,000-acre Vilas County Forest is close to completion after the county forestry, recreation & land committee approved a number of chapters motorized recreation trails and routes ordinance and recreation, parks and facilities, but only after discussion on a request received from the town of Presque Isle for ATV/UTV travel on county trunk highways in their town was removed.

A number of Presque Isle residents addressed the board. They claimed the adoption of a town ordinance “did not do any due diligence” in creating the ATV/UTV ordinance and saying it was an “underhanded action by the town board.”

Forest administrator Al Murray said their ordinance referred to all roads, so he created two versions for the committee to consider; one that “all roads” included a request for county trunk highways in the town and the second version that did not.

After discussion the committee voted 4-1 to remove sections that referred to county highways in Presque Isle since it was not a specific agenda item. Murray said he has received a direct request for the county highways which could be on the next committee agenda but indicated after the meeting he asked them to make the request directly to the highway committee. The highway committee’s next meeting is scheduled for Aug. 17 at which time they could approve a resolution to the full county board for consideration.

The complete 15-year plan will be available on the forestry department web site and there will be a public hearing on the completed plan.

Another ATV/UTV issue was dust on the trail north of the Highway 17/45 bridge in Eagle River. A number of solutions were suggested including recreation administrator Todd Bierman directing machines onto Michigan Street to Illinois Street then to Adams Road.

With the bridge over the Wisconsin River in Conover being replaced, the ATV/UTV trail and bridge on the south side of the construction remains open but apparently being abused by persons driving regular licensed vehicles over the bridge.

“People are using the bridge illegally,” supervisor Ron DeBruyne stated. “We need to place gates to stop this.” A trail camera shows a number of vehicles using the bridge. Forestry staff placed posts and signs limiting user width to 60 inches which were removed so trail cameras were placed. Murray indicated bridge planks are being loosened and will need to be secured. The committee voted to put in a gate with keys to Conover emergency personnel.

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