OKANOGAN — An Okanogan County ATV club wants county commissioners to open more than 300 new miles of roads to all terrain vehicles before a new law kicks in, banning them on roads with speed limits above 35 mph.
The state law allows counties and other jurisdictions to open roads with speed limits under 35 mph to four-wheelers and other off-road vehicles. It also requires them to be licensed and display a plate, and to be equipped with safety features, such as mirrors and headlights.
But ATVs will only be allowed on roads with speed limits between 35 and 50 mph if they are already open to them before the law goes into effect on Sunday.
“They gave everybody until July 28 to open the roads that are 50 mph or less, and then after the 28th, the only roads you can open are the 35 mph and less,” said Gary Allard, board member of the North Central ATV Club, based in Conconully.
On Thursday, Okanogan County commissioners will hold a public hearing on the club’s petition to open about 324 miles of roads with speed limits over 35 mph.
Then on Monday, they’ll consider opening roads with speeds under 35 mph.
Commissioners have not indicated whether they will make a decision at a meeting Thursday, said Verlene Hughes, senior engineer technician for the Okanogan County Public Works Department.
Allard said he’s hoping commissioners approve their request. “It will be good for the local economy,” he said.
About half of the county roads near Tonasket, Riverside, Okanogan and Loomis are already open to ATV use, Allard said. Some of them are roads with 50 mph speed limits.
But, he said, he’s hearing some negative comments on their proposal from residents in the Methow Valley.
“Everybody always said if it was street legal, they wouldn’t be opposed to it. Now, they will be street legal,” he said. “I don’t know why they’re against it.”
The Winthrop Town Council voted not to allow ATVs in town, while Twisp tabled the request.
But club president Spencer King said towns of Okanogan, Conconully, Loomis, Tonasket and Riverside have opened their streets to ATVs, he said. Oroville is waiting for more information.
He said they’ve gotten a lot of support from towns in the eastern part of the county. “I feel that there’s a lot of area out there that we could share,” he said.