DARLINGTON—The city of Darlington will allow residents within the city to access the ATV trail via city streets.
On Wednesday, Jan. 25, the city’s policies, procedures and ordinance committee and the common council as a committee of the whole heard from citizens at a meeting in the municipal building concerning the ATV use throughout the city. More than 40 local citizens attended the meeting to weigh in on the topic, some for and some against, and hear the council’s decision, which allowed for the access.
Alderman John Sonsalla explained that if the council denied the ATV access throughout the city, the topic would die at that meeting and would not be pursued again.
Citizens requested the access to simplify the process to get to the trail. They currently have to load the ATV on a trailer and haul it across town and unload it to use the trail.
The proposal included:
• one year trial period
• Darlington property owners and their guests only
• direct access to the trail only
• if the trail is closed, the ATV routes on the city streets are closed
• units must be registered and insured and have proof of such on the machine
• hours of operation are from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.
• operators must possess a valid driver’s license
• signs on streets are to be paid for through grants and donations, not the city
• all state and federal laws apply as well, including helmets and mufflers
Some of the issues that were brought up were safety, noise, enforcement, loss of property values and identifying the offender if there is a problem.
Darlington Police Chief Jason King answered some of the concerns. He said the city can request that only local residents use the city streets for access between the ATV trail and their homes, but law enforcement can’t legally give people tickets if they aren’t local residents. However, offenses like speeding and misusing the trail are able to be ticketed. He said the streets should only be used to access the trail and not be used as a form of transportation to other places within the city.
“I don’t want to see ATVs at the pool,” King said. “It’s not another form of transportation throughout the city.”
He said he is not aware of any property damage caused by ATVs within the city. The current trail goes through a park in the city and no damage caused by ATVs has been reported.
Some citizens said they felt their rights were being taken away by allowing ATV access because they were afraid property values would decrease and the area would be more dangerous for children to play.
King said there are approximately 800 ATVs in the 53530 zip code and approximately 150 within the city limits of Darlington. Not all of the ATVs will be on the streets at the same time of the same day. The weekends may be a little busier, but ATV traffic will be spread out.
“At some point I think we have to give things a chance,” alderwoman Bev Anderson said.
At an upcoming meeting the council will act on an ordinance concerning the ATV access to the trail from the city streets. Sonsalla said signs will need to be ordered and reminded the crowd that the city is not responsible for the cost of those signs.
Alderman Steve Pickett said it would take time to draft an ordinance for the city.
The motion was made by Pickett and seconded by alderman Dave Gough. The motion passed with alderman Don Osterday the only vote against.
There were two different issues on the agenda. The main topic was discussion and action to allow local residents to access the ATV trail from their properties. The second topic was for discussion and action to create a designated ATV route from the ATV trail to Lafayette County Fairgrounds, which was denied by a lack of a motion. The council encouraged the county’s fair committee to pursue grant money through the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources for a bridge connecting the trail to the fairgrounds.