Ask an Official: Officials discuss trails and inner-city ATV/Snowmobile operation
This week’s featured question is unique in the idea of the answer applying to two separate entities; that of the Lincoln County Forestry, Land and Parks Department as well as local law enforcement. As a result, this week’s feature has been addressed by both Merrill Police Chief Corey Bennett and Lincoln County Forestry, Land and Parks Director Kevin Kleinschmidt.
This week’s question reads:
“I’m confused on how ATV laws and trails work around here and no one can give me a straight up answer. First of all, how do I tell the difference between a trail that I can ride my quad on and a trail that is for sleds only? The map isn’t very clear so I was wondering maybe someone could tell me which trails are open to ATVs. My other question is what are the real rules for riding my quad in town? I see people cruising around all the time and I’ve been told all sorts of things. I just want to have fun on my machine and not have to worry about any problems.”
Answer given by Kleinschmidt:
“The Lincoln County Snowmobile and Winter ATV trail map which is printed by the Lincoln County Snowmobile Council, shows the snowmobile and winter ATV trails that are open for use in Lincoln County.
“The blue-colored lines on the map are corridor trails which are trails that connect county to county and can be used to travel throughout the state. Odd numbered corridor trails generally travel north and south and even numbered corridor trails generally travel east and west throughout Wisconsin.
“The red colored lines on our map are regular county trails that enable snowmobilers to ride within the interior of our county and some of these trails will connect to adjacent counties as well. A solid red or blue line on the Lincoln County map indicates that this trail or corridor is only open to snowmobile use.
“A dotted blue or red line indicates that this trail or corridor is open to snowmobile and winter ATV use. While out on the trail, segments of snowmobile trail that are open to winter ATV use should be signed with a 6”x6” ATV marker. This sign is a white ATV symbol on a brown background and should be located at trail decision points and intersections.
“Portions of trail that are open to winter ATV use can be used during the snowmobile season, after announcements have been made to open these trails. Winter ATV trails also closed to ATV use when the temperature on the trail reaches 28 degrees F or above.”
Additional information regarding ATV operation within the Merrill city limits provided by Chief Bennett:
“I understand how these local regulations can be confusing. We tried to design them to be as consistent with existing State law as possible. Still, introducing lawful ATV/UTV/Snowmobile traffic to the City streets is a new concept to adjust to. The overall intent of the Merrill ordinance was to establish a cross-city route which would connect disconnected rural trails with a path through our city and simultaneously allow access for City residents. So let’s try to answer your questions one at a time.”
• The established and signed routes in the City are for use with both ATV/UTV and snowmobiles. This one route applies to all of the machines. However, use is limited to when the linking county trails are “open” or by order of the Chief of Police. To be frank, our city streets are not the best for snowmobile traffic because plowing doesn’t leave enough material to protect the contact components.
• There are three (3) roadways where use is absolutely prohibited within the City of Merrill. They include the State Highways 64, 107, and that portion of Center Ave between O’Day St. and E. 6th St. These areas are prohibited specifically due to restrictions in how state law allows us to designate trails and routes. However, a person can cross a prohibited roadway if it is a direct crossing. The intent and language of the ordinance was to allow route access from any other residential street in Merrill. Hopefully future signage additions will help to make this clearer. At the moment, the official route through Merrill, and a couple of spurs, are the only portions with signage.
General regulations for ATV/UTV are as follows: Sec. 36-252. – Conditions for operation.
(a) Speed. No person shall operate an all-terrain vehicle or utility-terrain vehicle within city limits at a speed in excess of 15 miles per hour.
(b) Place of travel. Shall operate on the far right portion of the highway or shoulder and shall not in the roadway/traffic lane, and travel with the flow of traffic.
(c) Single-file operation. All-terrain vehicles and utility-terrain vehicles shall be operated in single file and as far to the right portion of the street as possible.
(d) Headlights and tail lamps shall be on at all times during operations.
(e) All-terrain vehicle and utility-terrain vehicle operators shall yield the right-of-way to other vehicular traffic and pedestrians.
(f) Sidewalk operation prohibited. No person shall operate an all-terrain vehicle or utility-terrain vehicle on any sidewalk or pedestrian way within the city.
(g) Street crossings. No operator of an all-terrain vehicle or utility-terrain vehicle shall cross any street, except at its intersection and then only at right angles to the street crossed.
(h) Use of trailers or sleds. No person shall operate an all-terrain vehicle or utility-terrain vehicle upon any street within the city with any person, trailer or sled attached or trailing said vehicle, unless it is designed for such activities. Anyone operating such conveyance in an unsafe or reckless manner shall be deemed in violation of this section.
(i) Operation in parks. No person shall drive an all-terrain vehicle or utility-terrain vehicle in any park within the city.
(j) Permission of property owner required. No person shall operate an all-terrain vehicle or utility-terrain vehicle on any private property not owned or controlled by him within the city without the express consent or permission of the owner.
(k) All-terrain vehicle or utility-terrain vehicle crossing a bridge shall:
(1) Cross the bridge in the most direct manner practicable and at a place where no obstruction prevents a quick and safe crossing.
(2) Stay as far to the right of the roadway or shoulder as practicable.
(3) Stop the vehicle prior to crossing.
(4) Yield the right-of-way to other vehicles, pedestrians, and electric personal assistive mobility devices using the roadway or shoulder.
(5) Exit the highway as quickly and safely as practicable after crossing the bridge.
All-terrain vehicles or utility-terrain vehicles violating any of the above conditions would be subject to the underlying violation of operating on the roadway.
Have a question or concern you would like to address? Simply send your question or concern to firstname.lastname@example.org along with an indication of which entity your question or concern pertains to. Current participants are the Merrill Police Department, Merrill Fire Department, Tomahawk Police Department, Lincoln County Administrative Coordinator Randy Scholz, Merrill City Administrator Dave Johnson and Merrill Area Housing Authority Director Paul Russell. Please note: Those who submit to the ‘Ask an Official’ feature remain anonymous.