Learn more about the ATV law
ATVs must be street legal to use on city or county roads, and drivers licensed.
WENATCHEE — Chelan County commissioners appear to be close to opening most all county roads to street-legal all-terrain vehicles.
Commissioners Tuesday hosted a public hearing that drew about 20 ATV enthusiasts eager for more access.
A new state law that took effect in July lets cities and counties open roads with speed limits of 35 mph or less to street-legal ATVs.
After listening to a half-dozen public comments in favor, as well as staff concerns about cost and safety, commissioners expressed willingness to allow it.
They could vote on the rule change in a couple weeks.
Up to 475 of the county’s 505 roads have speed limits of 35 mph or less, Mitch Reister, the county’s public works director, told commissioners.
Reister cited statistics from other states that he said showed that most ATV accidents happen on paved roads.
He also cited concerns that ATVs are less maneuverable on paved roads because of their high-center design with a solid rear axle.
A state ATV-safety website says 150 people died in ATV accidents between 1982 and 2011, but it doesn’t distinguish between on-road and off-road deaths.
Enthusiasts in the audience said that few traffic accidents involve ATVs. Most riders don’t seek to ride on pavement, they said, but only use paved roads to connect to trails that cross county lines and connect towns and communities.
“We’re just trying to connect pieces of dirt,” Spencer King, president of the North Central ATV Club, said after the hearing. “We don’t want to run them on asphalt, especially at the price of ATV tires.”
He added, “We feel this is going to be an economic plus for all counties.”
King and others pointed to states like Montana, Idaho and Utah, which already allow ATVs on most roads and are considered destinations for ATV rallies and events.
These events draw hundreds of people who stay in local hotels and restaurants, they said.
Okanogan, Stevens, Ferry and Pend Oreille counties already give ATVs virtually full access to roads, King said.
The East Wenatchee city council has also voiced preliminary support for opening city roads to ATVs. Lori Barnett, the city’s community development director, said the council will likely vote in a couple of weeks.
Douglas County staffers are still analyzing how increased ATV access would affect county roads and which roads would qualify, Doug Bramlette, county engineer said this morning.
It could be several weeks or more before staffers compile the information that commissioners requested, he said.