By Kellen Olshefski
At its Jan. 3 meeting, the City of Elkhorn Common Council further discussed the use of ATVs and UTVs on city streets, requesting more information before the topic comes back to the council at its Feb. 5 meeting.
At the meeting, City Administrator Adam Swann said staff had done some research and got some updates, receiving even more information as recent as earlier that day.
While he said there’s unfortunately not a lot of information when it comes to economic impact for individual cities, there is information on its impact statewide.
In his memo to the council, Swann noted that a July 12, 2022 Spectrum News article by Nathan Phelps reported the Wisconsin ATV/UTV Association estimated ATV/UTVs in the state had increased from 192,000 in 2003 to about 495,000 in March 2022 and that the association estimated the statewide economic impact to be about $1.1 billion, an increase from $295 million in 2003.
Swann noted he had reached out to chamber of commerces in five jurisdictions that had recently approved the use of the vehicles and had heard back from one, Prairie du Chien. While a smaller community in a more rural, recreational area in the western part of the state, the community has had its ordinance in place for about 5 years.
Swann said Prairie du Chien had positive feedback on its experience with the economic impact of allowing the recreational vehicles on its streets.
Looking at safety, Swann said City of Elkhorn Police Chief Joel Christensen had done some research and found there hadn’t been any reportable accidents in Walworth County with the use of ATV/UTVs in the past 10 years.
Christensen clarified that reportable would refer to accidents on public highways or in public right of ways, for example, but noted that there weren’t any that he came across.
Additionally, Swann noted a comprehensive statewide safety report was included in the council packet for review.
Swann noted that report claims 38% of ATV/UTV accidents occur on highways and public road routes, while 52% of all fatal crashes occur on highways and public roads.
Additionally, he noted crashes have been decreasing the last 10 years, though UTV numbers have gone up.
Swann also noted Christensen had received more information from the DNR earlier that day on what kind of roads the council could approve use on.
Christensen said the DNR has a recreational warden based out of Waukesha who would be open to attending a council meeting to answer any questions the council might have, though he wouldn’t be available until the Feb. 5 meeting.
Christensen also said that streets 35 MPH or less that are under the city’s jurisdiction are up to the city’s decision, though the city can establish routes on streets greater than that, but only if it’s under the city’s authority or control and maintained by the city. So, for instance, while Highway H out by Gateway Technical College is within the city limits, since it’s maintained by Walworth County the city could not designate that as an ATV/UTV route.
Christensen noted he believes crossing these roads is fine, but the city wouldn’t be able to create routes on roads it does not maintain or control.
For the full story, please see the print edition of the Elkhorn Independent.