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Renville County to open roads to off-highway vehicles

OLIVIA — Renville County will be opening its roads to most off-highway vehicles for recreational use.

By a 3-2 vote, the county Board of Commissioners adopted an ordinance Tuesday that opens all county roads to all-terrain vehicles, single seat and side-by-sides, mini-trucks, and utility trucks. Drivers must be licensed and must obtain a two-year permit from the county for a $10 fee.

The commissioners added an amendment to the ordinance restricting golf carts to those roads within roughly one mile of golf courses or the cities with golf courses. The original proposed ordinance would have allowed the golf carts on all roads.

Commissioners also adopted a change setting the speed limit at 40 miles per hour, rather than allowing off-highway vehicle drivers to obey the posted 55-mph limit on paved roads.

Voting in favor of the motion were Commissioners LaMont Jacobson, Bob Fox and Paul Setzepfandt. Voting against were Chairman John Stahl and Commissioner Randy Kramer.

Stahl cited the road safety concerns that have been raised in objection to the proposal. He noted that Renville County is currently ranked 84 out of Minnesota’s 87 counties for its per-capita death rate on roadways. He warned this action will push the county to worst in terms of road safety.

“I think we’re just putting more vehicles out there that are not that safe,” said Stahl. The commissioners had been told one week earlier that the ATV manufacturing industry does not recommend driving the vehicles on paved surfaces.

Kramer questioned whether the ordinance would benefit the county. He questioned the ordinance’s statement that the roads were being opened to off-highway vehicles to enhance economic opportunity. Mark Erickson, director of community development and environment, said he did not have any numbers to support the claim.  

Erickson told the commissioners that the ordinance was supported by the Minnesota Valley Trail Riders Club, which has members in both Renville and Redwood counties. The ordinance is expected to result in more riders coming into the county and that could provide economic benefit.

A dozen supporters of the ordinance attended the meeting to witness the vote.

The commissioners also indicated that they have heard from constituents on the proposed ordinance, both pro and con.

The ordinance applies to those who wish to ride the vehicles on county roads for recreational purposes. State law already allows the vehicles to be used on roadways by those engaged in agricultural activities, and that continues to be the case. Those using off-highway vehicles for agricultural purposes will still need an ag permit.

The commissioners expect the ordinance to go into effect by April 10. Erickson said his office should be ready to provide the required permit stickers by that date.

Tom Cherveny

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

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