City hears from public on UTV-ATVs use on Rhinelander streets, non-motorized use
BY KEN KRALL, WXPR News
Rhinelander officials held an extended listening session this week gathering input from citizens about motorized and non-motorized activities.
The first portion of the meeting heard support from a majority of the 65 people attending to open up Rhinelander streets to ATV-UTV’s. Several communities in the Northwoods have already opened their streets to the popular vehicles.
City administrator Daniel Guild laid out the many issues the city will need to examine before a decision can be made. He says last year the legislature passed a law allowing more access.
“Wisconsin passed ACT 87 which allows a municipality to pass an ordinance allowing this for the first time. This is a relatively new opportunity here in Wisconsin.”
Paul Hagen of the town of Pelican said he’s ridden all over northern Wisconsin.
“The economic value in a town like Hurley or Mercer, Park Falls…you go to these towns on Labor Day or another time, it’s incredible how many times these vehicles are in the city.”
Realtor Cecily Dawson says buyers from other communities don’t come here because there’s no city access.
“I was kind of curious so I took my last 10 sales for buyers that were over $300,000. Out of those 10, seven are ATV or UTV users.”
But Dan Baron of Elcho said he thought there are more issues to consider than economic.
“These machines go in excess of 60 m.p.h. They’re supposed to obey the speed limits that autos do. Many of them don’t, and I think that the younger kids driving these don’t understand the meaning of the word ‘yield’.”
Regarding sidewalks, bicycles and non-motorized recreation, Guild spent Thanksgiving weekend looking at the past plans of the city and Oneida county regarding walking and bicycling and outlined what the council needs to decide.
“How should the common council prioritize infrastructure investments and staff activities regarding the provision of public services related to bicycle and pedestrian accommodations?”
Guild said unlike motorized needs, what has to be addressed in this discussion is what he termed the “culture of slow.”
In 2003, the city completed a comprehensive plan called the Rhinelander Area Pathways Project. Oneida County also updated its recreation plan to include pathways, first in 2002 and 2010. There are other plans.
During public input, Jackie Cody of Newbold said west Davenport Street to Highway “K” is dangerous for walkers or bikers. That portion of the road is also under the control of the Town of Crescent.
“The workers walking from Petco are walking in an area where there are no sidewalks. It’s dangerous, it’s not the best lit part of town, either.”
Cody says non-motorized use is often overlooked as an economic driver, citing a state study showing $26.4 million dollars spent by users in northern Wisconsin. She says non-motorized recreationalists support a wide spectrum of local businesses. Officials said it is legal for the city to use PRAT funds, the Premier Resort Area sales Tax, to fund improvements to sidewalks along with streets.
“When we retired we could have moved anywhere,” said Nancy Richmond. “We chose to stay in Rhinelander partly because I can walk to the library. I can walk to the grocery store. I can ride my bike anywhere. I can get to all the places where I can do the things I love to do.”
The listening session was part of a meeting that took input from citizens on ATV-UTV access in Rhinelander and non-motorized use. No decision was made at the meeting and after more study, will be discussed later.