CANYON CITY – All-terrain vehicle riders got the green light last week to ride on county roads.
The Grant County Court approved an ordinance allowing ATV use on county roads, paved or gravel. The vote came Nov. 21 at the close of a second public hearing on the topic that drew about 20 people.
The ordinance has drawn support from ATV users and merchants who see convenience for residents and a potential for ATV tourism.
Supporters outnumbered the critics in both hearings, each drawing one property owner in opposition. Both cited safety concerns.
Mary Walker urged the Court not to be like “a bunch of sheep” in following other communities that have legalized ATV use on their roads.
She said that living on a rural road, she already sees plenty of illegal use of ATVs that should be addressed by the sheriff’s department.
“You see kids, little tiny kids, not old enough to have a driver’s license, running around on four-wheelers,” she said. Other users don’t signal for turns or follow traffic rules, she said.
However, Bob Phillips said he felt the ordinance would be good for the county, and he didn’t find the concerns about ATV safety to be legitimate.
County Judge Mark Webb, who has supported the idea, said the ordinance allows ATVs on the road, but the drivers are expected to follow laws regarding licenses and insurance.
Andy Day said people will need to be insured and should follow the rules, or face citations.
Others testified that similar ordinances have worked well in other areas, and provided a boost for tourism.
Sheriff Glenn Palmer noted that if it became a problem, the Court has the power to review and even revoke it.
He addressed a criticism raised in the Nov. 7 hearing that ATVs could be a hazard in ranch territory.
“We’ve had more problems with ranchers and their hay wagons riding across the road and causing serious accidents than we have had with ATVs,” he said.
Webb said it will be incumbent on the operators to drive responsibly and follow the rules of the road. If the new ordinance becomes “a big wreck,” he said that future courts can review it.
“Per legal counsel, this doesn’t open us up to any more legal liability,” he added.
Commissioner Scott Myers said the county’s liability likely is reduced by adopting an ordinance that defines legal use of ATVs, rather than the previous situation, where ATVs may be out there illegally and the county could be found to be allowing that to occur.
Myers urged the supporters to work to make the ordinance a success.
“Be very safe, be very careful – Don’t make us look foolish,” he said.
The ordinance went into effect on passage. It affects only county roads, but cities including John Day and Canyon City also are considering allowing ATVs on their streets.Read more on bluemountaineagle.com.