We love our city and we want to see it move forward not be stuck in the past or frozen by fear. Our recent experiences with city hall processes have us wondering what has gone wrong.
As President of a Rural Roads ATV Club, our goals include promoting the preservation of natural resources, encourage the responsible use of rural roads and gathering of like-minded people to positively impact our community. ATV recreation is a growing activity that allows one to have an experience similar to a motorcycle but with more stability and lower speeds. It is the new fresh air activity for those of us who don’t ride horses or can’t ride bicycles.
The state has already made provisions driving ATVs in towns since the speed limits are low and these vehicles are quite visible as they flow with traffic. ATV recreation on public roadways is highly regulated and far from the unsupervised and sometimes unsafe practices people use on private land. Many cities have had ordinances in place for years without significant incidences or annoyance. On the contrary, positive economic impact has been proven.
New London is at the edge of miles of rural roads accessible to ATVs in Waupaca County and an ordinance would allow movement in and out of town to ensure access to New London businesses. It would allow New London resident to take advantage of those routes without hauling trailers through town and secondly it would allow people from outside of New London to come into the city. Residents and non-residents would have accesse to recreation and local businesses. That seems like a win-win situation.
The advantage of riding on public roadways in and outside the city include: a fresh air experience similar to a motorcycle but with slower speed and less risk for older riders, accessibility to people with disabilities that cannot take riding on rough terrains, and little to no environmental impact since we use paved roads and the noise level is similar to a moped.
Unfortunately, instead of encouragement to become a constructive part the social fabric of New London we have experienced opposition, primarily from the mayor’s office. Most of the arguments are the same as those used at the beginning of the 20th century when cars began to appear on roads. We have heard things like “They are noisy, they are dangerous, they will be driven by lawless people who run all over the city creating chaos”. There could be a few unlawful drivers, like those who break the law with cars, motorcycles, mopeds and bicycles, but the majority of recreational riders do not see themselves in this description. Experience over 10-15 years in communities having ATVs on city streets has even proven the opposite.
I congratulate council members and residents who have been in discussions and meetings on this subject. They have objectively reviewed the data, and many have changed their opinion as the facts have been presented. We agree with city officials that safety and the tranquility of life in New London is very important. We want to work with the city to ensure public safety and serenity while reaping social and economic benefits.
To show you how serious we are, many of our club members will participate in training to become Trail Ambassadors. People program supported by the Wisconsin ATV Association and the DNR act as examples and observers who can remind other riders of current laws and reporting any unlawful activity to authorities. We would also like to participate in search and rescue training so that in an emergency the city of New London can count on help from an number of ATV and UTV owners. You may have seen a few of us helping neighbors after last year’s tornado.
The whole process of months of meetings with city committees has given us a look into the way the city runs. It was disappointing to learn that decisions were made outside of meetings so a plan of evaluation was never offered. We were asked for a proposed ordinance and then the details were not discussed in committee.
The mayor has clearly painted a picture of lawlessness and fear. He will not accept what the State has decided, so his greatest tools are half-truths and fear. For example, he was quoted in a New London Press Star article from Nov. 14, 2019, “The state allows 12-16 year old to operate ATV’s on public roads”. What is missing is that they are not allowed on the roads unless accompanied by an adult and nobody under 16 can drive a UTV on public roads. Later in that article he was quoted as saying “But to have them running all over town, not while I’m mayor”.
The negative opinion of the mayor has led to a general lack of action, and a lack of due process. We have been sent from committee to committee with no real direction other than a clear desire than for the issue to go away. Perhaps 9 months is a normal time period for some cities to treat a subject but cities like Waupaca were able to consider and vote on an ordinance in 3 months.
The fear mongering has created an issue when it could be a non-issue. There is no evidence that any community in Wisconsin has had any significant problems. On the contrary, many have seen positive economic impact. Why would people be afraid of an ATV if they are not afraid of mopeds, bicycles or motorcycles on the streets? We are bigger than all of them and flow with traffic.
We need our local businesses to thrive after these difficult weeks, and being able to ride into New London, to stores and restaurants is one way that we can help. We are committed to paying for signs so that this project costs the city little or nothing. We are asking all residents of New London to give us a chance to prove that there will not be negative impacts and that any concerns that arise can be dealt with. If residents can open the city roadways to us, we know that they will open the city to visitors and new business. Isn’t it worth a try?
Let’s move forward together.
If you have more questions you may find answers in the article “Issues and Answers” https://ruralroadsatv.org/2020/01/atv-issues-and-answers/
We would be happy to answer any other questions you might have.