Rice Lake City Council members voted unanimously July 28 to open city streets to ATV/UTV traffic, with the exception of some major roads.
The change does not take effect until roads are properly signed.
ATVs will not be allowed Highway O (South Access Road), Highway 48 (Hammond Avenue and Knapp Street), Highway SS (Haugen Avenue), and Main Street from Knapp Street to the south city limits. Speed limits will be the same as posted for vehicles, up to 35 mph. Riders must have a valid driver's license and the machines must have operational lights and stock exhaust.
This is the first expansion of routes since October of 2014. That year routes were established from the Wild Rivers Trail to Macauley Avenue, through an easement with a gas station, west on South Street to Pioneer Avenue and south to the end of Pioneer Avenue. There is also access to Rice Lake at Hospital Bay from the Wild Rivers via North Street and part of Lakeshore Drive.
Police Chief Steve Roux expressed reluctance in expanding the routes, citing safety concerns and a likely influx of complaints.
"We are always highest of comparable cities in traffic crashes," said Roux, referring to cities of similar size in Wisconsin. "I did not want to add to it by putting ATVs on roadways."
Roux encouraged all riders to complete a safety course, though he said requiring all to do so would be difficult to enforce.
"There’s also a lot of people who do not want louder ATVs and UTVs on the road, and they are going to complain to us," said Roux.
But he also said that there had been few complaints in regard to the existing routes.
Community Services Director Jim Anderson said he doesn't anticipate seeing much joy riding in the city.
"They don’t want to drive around town," he said. "They want to get to the trail."
Anderson estimated the cost of signing the routes as $8,500 or more.
A fee on ATV/UTVs registered in the city was floated as an idea, but rejected.
Pete Schneider, president of the Rice Lake Snow & Dirt Club, said the club has helped surrounding townships with installation of signs.
But Anderson said he will have Community Services crews handle signs.
"There's a lot of things buried in the city of Rice Lake," said Anderson.
He added that signs must have their own posts, rather than being tacked on to stop signs, which goes against traffic safety guidelines.
Anderson said expanded routes could be a stepping stone to a new trailhead in Rice Lake for snowmobile and ATV riders. He said Barron County is proposing a large parking area, warming shelter and restrooms on the north end of the city.