NO ONE LOVES the peace, quiet and solitude that places like north Wisconsin offer a person of the outdoors. Born in 1949, I am a product of the ’50s and ’60s, during which time I began not only my fishing and hunting careers, but also my lifelong career of finding wild places where I can escape the hustle and bustle, pardon the cliche, of everyday life.

Perhaps I am outdated, but I simply do not need mechanical devices of transportation to enjoy what the woods and waters of this place where I have lived all my life have to offer.

Perhaps the closest I came to being a motorsports enthusiast was during my junior and senior years in high school when I became the proud owner of a Honda 50 motorcycle. With that little bike, upon which I racked up 17,000 miles before it died a valiant engine death, I strapped my shotgun or fishing rod to my back, and rode old logging roads and railroad grades to reach trout spring ponds, partridge coverts, deer woods, and small bass and panfish hot spots.

I should note that even though I owned the perfect means of transportation through the woods, for the most part, I still only used it to reach a jump-off point for a fishing or hunting expedition. Upon parking, I would still use my own two hind legs to walk anywhere from a quarter-mile to several miles to reach my forest destination.

I am still a person of self-transportation in the woods. I relish the peace and quiet of the backwoods, and I am still of the persuasion that one other trout fisherman on a mile-long stretch of stream or one other deer hunter in a square mile of woods is too much company for me.

When it comes to motorized recreation such as snowmobiles, outboard motors and off-road vehicles, read that as ATVs and UTVs, I will freely tell you that I have no need or use for them, with the exception of a three-horse 1960 vintage Evinrude outboard which I use on my Old Town square stern three or four times a summer.

When it comes to travel through the woods, I simply do not see the allure of riding, slow or fast, down town, county or logging roads, snowmobile trails or what have you. If I want to travel such routes, I can roll the windows down on my truck and do the same thing.

I prefer walking, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing or mountain biking to see the woods and waters wherever I am. One thing I will guarantee, I will see, hear and enjoy more of what the woods have to offer during a 5-mile walk than any “motorhead” will see, no matter how slowly they travel, on a 100-mile ride. As Uncle Si would say “That’s a fact, Jack.”

All this said, I understand that in today’s world with today’s people who have grown up on texting, surfing the net and, more than anything, depending on motorized vehicles to reach the depths of forests, no matter whether in north Wisconsin, Michigan’s Upper Peninsula or the mountains of the west, the future seems to point to ATVs, UTVs, jet skis, high-powered ski boats and other such contraptions as the way of the future for outdoor enjoyment.

While I feel that is a sad, sad thing, I also understand that feeling that way may make me an outdated dinosaur. I have close friends who are on the side of the motorheads and know that some of them do both kinds of recreation. I see them on ski trails, bikes and walking back roads, and I know they enjoy those pursuits as much as they do riding their ATVs.

In the past few years, we have finally seen ATVs and UTVs come to Vilas County. While I have no use for them, I acknowledge that while I like chocolate ice cream, other people like vanilla. I like foot and paddle power. They, like Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor, feel the need for more power.

In my ideal world there would be no such thing as ATVs or UTVs, except for work purposes or recreation on private property, but in my world of reality I will concede that people who like those machines are increasing and that they are not going away.

As the town chairman of Plum Lake, I will soon be neck deep in a deeply divided community where the majority of residents, as has been the case in similar ATV-free towns like Boulder Junction, Manitowish Waters, Presque Isle and Winchester, oppose having ATVs and UTVS running around the Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest.

People who want ATV and UTV trails will exaggerate the benefit to our tourism economy while opponents will exaggerate, among other things, the noise such machines make; never mind that some of those same opponents own high-powered ski boats and the worst noise offenders of all: jet skis and Harley Davidson motorcycles.

I have seen how the issue of how best to use and regulate our natural resources can tear a community apart, and I have seen close friendships and even family ties torn apart, quite possibly never to be repaired. I am committed to prevent that from happening over this issue in my town, but to do it is going to take time, many meetings and yes, give and take from both sides, to come to any kind of resolution that is at least close to acceptable to both sides.

My guess, looking into the future, is that there will be ATVs and UTVs in Plum Lake. That has been guaranteed by legislative decree, not DNR resource management decision. 

I am not looking foward to seeing people, good people, on both sides fighting for all they are worth over this issue. Right now, the realist in me is seeing that there will be trails in the forest and that even the most anti of motorsports people will have to accept that. At the same time, the motorsports people will have to concede that there needs to be part of the forest that is a zone of peace and quiet. In other words, both sides will have to give a little.

There will be trails, but with town control over many roads that trails would have to cross, there will probably be some trail requests that will be denied. Business people and quiet-sports people will have no choice but to compromise, on both sides, with hopefully the end result that everyone will coexist without severing friendships and family ties. Only time will tell.