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Renville County considering opening roads to recreational vehicles

OLIVIA — Renville County is considering a proposal to allow recreational vehicles to share county roads with cars and trucks.  

All-terrain vehicles, small utility trucks, and golf carts would be able to drive on the right side of gravel or paved county roads, provided their owners obtain a free, county-issued permit.

The ordinance is being proposed by a county trail committee, Mark Erickson, director of the county’s Environment and Community Development Department, told the County Board of Commissioners at the meeting Tuesday.

One of the goals is to take advantage of the economic opportunity that the recreational vehicles represent, according to Erickson. The access to county roads would make it possible for people to drive the vehicles to county parks and businesses, such as convenience stores and gas stations.

He and the commissioners also noted that many people are illegally driving various types of off-highway vehicles on county roads to reach these and other destinations.

The ordinance is aimed at opening up county roads to the vehicles, but the commissioners would designate which of the roads are included. They could continue to ban the vehicles on roads that see heavy traffic.

The trail committee would like to see the ordinance adopted by the new year, but the commissioners said not so fast.

They instructed Erickson to contact municipalities in the county to get their input. Some communities might be opposed to the presence of the vehicles on city streets due to safety and noise concerns. In many of the county’s communities, the city’s Main Street is a county road.

Commissioners also noted that the county’s proposal may conflict with existing local ordinances. Bird Island currently issues annual permits for a $10 fee allowing golf carts on its city streets, according to Commissioner Paul Setzepfandt.

He and others also noted that many municipalities attempt to limit traffic by off-highway vehicles. They allow their use on city streets only if they are using the shortest route to a destination.  

The county’s proposed ordinance is based on a state statute that allows local road authorities to set rules and allow recreational vehicles on roads used by cars and trucks. The recreational vehicles would need to be insured, and meet safety requirements, ranging from proper lighting for night use to rearview mirrors.

Renville County already issues an agricultural permit that allows farmers to drive off-highway vehicles on county roads while engaged in farming activities. This proposed ordinance is essentially the same, except that it opens the roads to recreational users as well, noted Erickson.

The trail committee proposed that the county also impose a speed limit of 30 miles per hour for the vehicles while on county roads, but the commissioners voiced concerns. The 30 mph speed might present a safety hazard on county roads with 55 mph speed limits, they explained.  


Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

(320) 214-4335