ATV Clubs want Vilas County to open mixed-use trails to riders as snowmobile trails are still unable to open

Vilas County has not been able to open its snowmobile trails at all this winter due to the lack of snow and cold temperatures.

Tourist organizations in the region say this unusual winter season is costing the local economy millions of dollars.

Some ATV clubs are asking the county to let them open their shared trails to ATV use to help give local businesses a boost.

Vilas County Parks and Recreation Supervisor Todd Bierman estimates there are roughly 50 miles of mixed-use trails that allow snowmobiles, ATVs, and other user-groups. But county ordinance doesn’t allow for snowmobiles and ATVs to use them during the same time of year.

“It’s just goes season by season. The ATV trails close October 31. They won’t open until after frost out and everything dries up,” said Bierman. “Then we kind of switch the shared trails over to the snowmobile clubs to take care of them, usually in December through end of March.”

Part of the reason for this is so that ATVs don’t rut the trails during the winter on days when its warmer and even the compacted snowmobile trail snow is softer.

Some places have found ways around that.

Neighboring Iron County allows ATV use on many snowmobile trails but only when the temperature is below 30 degrees. But it dropped that restriction when it closed mixed use trails to snowmobiles and opened them to ATV/UTVs at the beginning of the month due to the lack of snow.

Bierman says there’s a lot of logistics to work out to make it happen in Vilas County.

“We have some issues if we allow them on the shared trails. There’s a lot of trails that are just snowmobiling, trails that come off of them. How are we going to keep the users from going on those trails? Because it’s marked as a trail for snowmobile and not ATV at the time. Also, it’s going to take an ordinance change here at the county,” said Bierman.

Ina letter to Bierman and the Vilas County parks and recreation committee, the Landover ATV/UTV Club said they were only asking for permission on snowmobile trails that allow ATVs other times of the year. They wouldn’t operate if the conditions allowed for snowmobiling.

ATVs are allowed on many town and county roads in Vilas all year long.

But in its letter, the Landover Club said, “our user group does not want to travel (3-5 hours) up north to just ride only roads.”

Bierman plans to meet with clubs this week to start talking through the logistics and what an ordinance change might look like.

In the meantime, he reminds riders to stay off the snowmobile trails.