Certain Vilas County highways are open to ATV/UTV travel and are closed Dec. 1 for the winter months, but the Vilas County Forestry, Land & Recreation Committee approved allowing those county highways to be open all year to the recreational vehicles.

According to committee member and Vilas County Board Chairman Ron DeBruyne, the county Highway Committee would have to amend the existing ordinance eliminating the Dec. 1 closing date and forward it to the county board for approval.

“I talked with Highway Commissioner Nick Scholtes and he has no problem with them being open in winter,” DeBruyne said. “He sees it as a limited issue with very few persons driving ATVs in winter, but there are a few local persons who just like to use them in winter for travel.”

Committee member Art Kunde said many people currently use ATVs and UTVs in the winter for accessing public boat landings to go ice fishing. Another person suggested ATV/UTV users would also be able to access Iron County and Upper Peninsula of Michigan trails.

Landover ATV Club President Roger Flaherty said the club is still learning about the popularity of ATV/UTV use.

“Some years in December we have little or no snow and when we close Dec. 1, we don’t know if we’ll have good snow conditions to open snowmobile trails for the Christmas season,” Flaherty said, “and if we didn’t, then ATVs could help fill the gap.”

Committee members indicated there are currently only three small areas where ATVs/UTVs and snowmobiles use the same trail — on the former railroad grade in Eagle River, a bridge in Conover, and another bridge in Phelps. Snowmobilers do not use county trunk highways as trails.

Vilas County Recreation Administrator Dale Mayo said he wanted to move slowly with this latest idea for using the machines.

“The protocol has been that towns come to the county with requests to use county highways for ATV/UTV travel and the county does not force ATVs on towns that don’t want them on county highways,” Mayo said.

Committee Chairman Steve Doyen agreed, saying, “The county needs to get the OK from towns and then the county can say ‘yes’ or ‘no.’”

That brought an immediate reaction from DeBruyne, who pointed out, “We (the county) don’t have a say on town roads being open to ATVs so why should the towns have a say on county roads?”

The committee adopted a motion by DeBruyne, seconded by committee member Holly Tomlanovich, to pass the request on to the highway committee to open county highways that are currently open for ATV/UTV travel until Dec. 1 to be open all year.