Letter to the Editor:

Chapter 26, the Vilas County ordinance covering ATVs, snowmobiles and similar recreational vehicles, is deeply flawed.

This is not just my opinion; it is the opinion of Vilas County Highway Committee members who have had to deal with it. Perhaps the most apparent flaw is that it has been used to allow an individual to make a request to the highway committee which, according to the Vilas Corporation Counsel, must be forwarded to the county board.

On such a contentious issue as ATVs, there will clearly be many individuals who will want to open or close ATV routes in any town or other unit of government in Vilas County.

To follow this process would mean the highway committee and county board would have to be continually formally dealing with requests. Some members of the highway committee saw this coming and set up a reasonable set of criteria to follow for approving or disapproving such requests. They approved that set of criteria and then blatantly failed to follow them.

Further, while their legal advice was that they must forward all requests to the county board, they have not done so. Instead, they have only forwarded requests that they voted to approve.

Either the corporation counsel gave incorrect legal advice to the highway committee or the highway committee is violating the law if they don’t forward all requests to the county board. Finally, the highway committee seemed so confused with handling Chapter 26 during their meeting Jan. 11 that twice the media members covering the meeting interrupted to point out errors with their actions.

I have every confidence that the county government will correct Chapter 26. Perhaps it will require a number of attempts and a new county board before they get it right, but it will happen.

Meanwhile, the town boards of Boulder Junction, Manitowish Waters, Plum Lake and Winchester have all taken formal actions demonstrating they do not want ATVs on their roads. There also have been formal surveys/referenda in each town proving the majority of the residents, property owners and businesses do not want them. Yet, tourism is setting records. Why rock the boat?

County board members ought not, in good conscience, try to use an admittedly flawed process, fraught with legal questions, to try to override the clearly expressed will of the town boards, people and businesses of these four towns.

Chapter 26 must be corrected and a better process followed before the county board considers any action. To do otherwise would start a war with adversely affected property owners, voters (a majority by the way) and those businesses which are thriving without ATVs.

Steve Halverson

Boulder Junction