JOHN DAY – The John Day City Council has approved a city ordinance allowing all-terrain vehicles to drive on certain streets within the city limits.
The council adopted the ordinance at its March 12 meeting, but don’t expect to see four-wheelers dragging Main Street – or any other street for a few weeks.
The ordinance goes into effect Thursday, April 11. It doesn’t allow ATVs on Main Street or South Canyon Boulevard, the main highways through town, except to cross the highways to access city streets.
The vote was 4-1 with Councilors Paul Smith, Don Caldwell, Steve Schuette and Mayor Ron Lundbom in favor and Councilor Doug Gochnour opposed. Gene Officer and Donn Willey were absent.
City officials warn that several rules apply and encourage ATV drivers to acquaint themselves with the city ordinance.
City Manager Peggy Gray and John Day Police Chief Rich Tirico emphasized some of the regulations:
• ATV drivers must be 18 or over and hold a valid ATV permit.
• Any passenger under 18 is required to wear a helmet, with the strap on.
• ATVs may not be operated on state highways, which includes Main and South Canyon Boulevard, except to cross.
• ATV drivers must follow the 20 mph speed limit.
• Drivers may operate ATVs only during daylight hours – a half hour before sunrise and a half hour after sunset.
• If an ATV has seatbelts – such as a Polaris Ranger – they must be used.
Gregg Haberly and his father Byron, owners of John Day Polaris, were pleased the ordinance passed.
They and other supporters brought the idea to the city council last year.
While pleased with the new ordinance, Gregg was quick to add that people riding ATVs will need to “self-police” so that no problems crop up.
He said the city of Pilot Rock has had a similar ordinance in place for about 25 years, and several other small towns in Oregon also allow the vehicles on their local roads.
“It’s a neat deal for John Day,” he said.
His dad echoed those thoughts.
“I think it was real fair,” Byron said. “I’m happy that they did it.”
Gregg said the benefits to allowing ATVs in the city include the ability to get around town with ease, good gas mileage and user friendliness.
“It’s easy to jump on your four-wheeler or side-by-side and go,” he said.
He hopes the ordinance will increase tourism to John Day, he said, adding this would be more likely if the state will eventually allow ATVs on highways within city limits.
Grant County Sheriff Glenn Palmer, who lives in John Day, supports the ordinance. He said that although there are some traffic concerns at times, John Day is rural enough for ATVs in city limits. The fuel efficiency is a plus, he added.
“I can ride around all day on an ATV and use just a gallon or two of fuel – in my truck it would be around $100,” he said.
Gochnour said he wouldn’t support the ordinance for five reasons. He said there’s a substantial portion of town where residents won’t be able to use ATVs because there is no access other than one of the highways. He also felt helmets should be required for everyone, not just the under-18 riders, and noted that most of the people he knows were opposed to the idea. He also said maintaining signs to indicate where riders can use their vehicles will be too costly, and he doesn’t think ATVs are designed to use on pavement.
He recalled an incident when he was a district ranger with the Forest Service.
“I had to tell a wife that her husband had been found dead, having rolled his ATV, not wearing a helmet,” he said. He added that an ATV commercial he’s heard on radio states that ATVs are not designed for pavement, and to always wear a helmet.
“I respect the fact that the other members of the council had a difference of opinion,” he said.
Lundbom said the city worked with city attorney Jeremy Green to make sure the ordinance would hold up legally.
“We were slow to do it and made sure every ‘i’ was dotted and ‘t’ crossed,” he said, adding, “We hope people will use some common sense and make it work.”
Tirico said he wasn’t always in agreement with having ATVs on the city streets, however, after talking with several people from towns where they are allowed, he’s warmed to the idea. He said that riders will need to abide by all the traffic rules a normal vehicle would – plus the added restrictions.
“If it’s respected, it will be beneficial to the people in the community,” he said.
A copy of the ordinance can be seen at the cities website www.cityofjohnday.com or pick up a copy at City Hall, 450 E. Main.Read more on bluemountaineagle.com.