WINTHROP — A group hoping open a new ATV route from Conconully to the Methow Valley wants Winthrop to open all its streets to ATVs.
The North Central ATV Club has official permission to ride on town streets in Conconully, Loomis and Okanogan, along with U.S. Forest Service roads on the Tonasket Ranger District and 85 miles of Okanogan County roads, said club president Spence King.
Now, they’re looking to ride from the Okanogan Valley to the Methow Valley, and are working with Forest Service, county and town officials on possible routes, King said.
The Winthrop City Council will hear from the public at its Sept. 19 meeting.
Mayor Dave Acheson said he’s expecting a large turnout and has set aside extra time to hear pros and cons on allowing the all terrain vehicles on city streets — including a portion of Highway 20, which runs through town.
“We’ve received a lot of comment and a lot of emails, and not much of that has been in favor,” Acheson said.
He said people are concerned about safety, noise, traffic, and disruption of wildlife areas that are outside the city limits and not within the town’s jurisdiction.
The town’s chamber of commerce endorses the concept, he said, but left the details up to the council to decide.
King said he thinks some people have a misconception about what opening the town’s streets to ATVs would mean. “People don’t want to be running up and down the streets,” he said. “They want to access the towns for fuel and food, and then return back to the woods.”
He said people who’ve seen ATVs on television or YouTube may think of them as hotrod vehicles that are noisy and fast. But the local club — which has an average age of about 50 years old — rides a four-wheel-drive ATV that he said is quieter than many road vehicles. “We enjoy going out and viewing the scenery,” he said, adding, “We have people in our group over 80, and that’s the only way they can still get out in the woods and see the country.”
He added that ATVs are limited to 35 mph on county roads.
“If you look at areas that have been doing this for years — in Idaho and Montana — yes, there are ATVs downtown. But there’s not a gob of them at once, and a lot of them are local because it’s cheaper to run an ATV than a pickup,” he added.
King said that the club is seeking approval from Winthrop first because there’s little reason to get county roads designated for ATV use if they can’t get to restaurants or gas stations. He said the club also plans to approach the city of Twisp with a similar request, but prefers Winthrop because it has two campgrounds in town.
He said that ATV riders can spend $200 to $300 per day in food, fuel and overnight accommodations, which can be a big boost for the towns.
As for routes over county roads, some have been discussed, but none have been formally chosen, he said, adding, “It doesn’t do any good to open the county road if you haven’t got anyplace to go.”
Acheson said the council may or may not make a decision at the 7 p.m. meeting, held at the Winthrop Barn. The council may also consider the input and make a decision at a later date, he said, adding, “Even the ATV club said at the last presentation, they don’t have a timeframe. They’re not in a hurry to get this done. They wanted to approach this as a discussion with the community,” he said.
K.C. Mehaffey: 997-2512