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Renville County Board looking to open roads to off-highway vehicles

OLIVIA — For the price of a sticker, Renville County may soon be opening its county roads to off-highway vehicles.

The Renville County Board of Commissioners is looking at approving a special use vehicle ordinance. During discussions on Tuesday, board members indicated they are likely to move forward to open county roads by April 1.

The special use vehicle ordinance would allow off-highway vehicles to legally be used on all designated county roads, including all-terrain vehicles, mini-trucks, utility task vehicles and motorized golf carts.  

The county has 710 miles of roadway, of which 395 miles are paved.

The ordinance would not apply to state highways, municipal or township roads, although municipalities or townships could adopt their own versions of it, according to Mark Erickson, director of environment and community development for Renville County.

The vehicle owners would be required to obtain a county-issued permit and meet certain requirements. Drivers must be 16 years of age and have a Minnesota driver’s license if using an all-terrain vehicle or mini-truck.

Drivers must be 16 years of age and have completed a certified training course if using a motorized golf cart or utility task truck.

All of the vehicles would be required to have rear-view mirrors and golf carts must also display a “slow-moving vehicle” sign.

The permit price is still to be determined, but discussions on Tuesday indicated that a $2 fee would be charged to cover the county’s costs for a sticker that must be displayed on the vehicles.

All county roads are expected to be designated as open to the vehicles, although the commissioners are asking the communities of Olivia, Renville and Danube whether they are willing to allow the vehicles on their Main Streets. The communities each have two- and three-block Main Streets that are officially county roads, but are not connected to other township or county roads where off-highway vehicles are otherwise allowed.

Discussion on the possible ordinance began in October, and the current version is the seventh draft of the proposal, according to Erickson.

The only concern raised with the proposal during Tuesday’s discussion concerned speed limits. The vehicles would be required to abide by the posted speed limit and may not exceed “a speed greater than is reasonable and prudent under the conditions.’’

“From a safety perspective … I’m still a little bit leery on the speed limit,’’ said Sheriff Scott Hable when asked for law enforcement’s perspective on the proposed ordinance.  

“To ride a four-wheeler at 55 miles an hour, I don’t know if that is safe or not,’’ he said.

Renville County already issues an agricultural permit that allows off-highway vehicles on county roads while engaged in farming activities.

A county trails committee proposed opening the roads to recreational vehicles as well. One of the stated goals is to take advantage of the economic opportunity that the recreational vehicles represent. Access to county roads will make it possible for people to drive the vehicles to county parks and businesses, such as convenience stores and gas stations.

Tom Cherveny

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

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