ELKO — Outdoor enthusiasts in northeast Nevada may soon be able to drive their all-terrain vehicles on county roads in Elko County.
Despite safety concerns, the county commission is moving forward with an ordinance to allow ATV travel on designated roads, but not on city streets or state highways.
The panel voted unanimously in favor of the proposal during a first reading of the ordinance on Wednesday. Final approval requires another reading, which has not yet been scheduled.
Commission Chairman Charlie Myers said expanding ATV travel in the county will draw visitors to the area.
“I think this is a good ordinance for Elko County. I really, really do,” he said, according to the Elko Daily Free Press. “I think you could go all day and shoot holes in it and find problems with it. But . we’re a rural county with a lot of recreation opportunities, ranching and agricultural opportunities. This just makes a tremendous amount of sense for our communities.”
Critics include Gerene Denning of the National ATV Injury Prevention Coalition, who said 60 percent of ATV deaths occur on roads.
“Isn’t the cost of a single life too high a price to pay for the promise of tourist dollars when the most effective economic development plans have been shown to involve creating dedicated off-road vehicle parks and trails?” Denning wrote.
Commissioner Glen Guttry said the criticism is misplaced. He said the county’s intent is to allow ATV drivers access to off-road riding by traveling on the county’s dirt roads.
“They were focused more on the ability of a four-wheeler to function property on pavement as opposed to gravel or dirt,” Guttry said.
“Most of ours are dirt anyway. . They didn’t really understand what we were trying to do. They thought we were going to open up all of the county’s paved roads, Highway 93 from Wells to Jackpot, going 35 miles an hour and exiting the roadway and flipping over. And that’s just not the case,” he said.
Carlin Mayor Cliff Eklund said he’s been to other cities and counties in the West, which allow ATV use on roads. “There doesn’t seem to be an issue,” he said.
Assistant County Manager Randy Brown said he looked at ordinances passed by other local governments, including Wendover and West Wendover, and he used them as a framework for designing the county’s proposal.
Chief Civil Deputy District Attorney Kristin McQueary said if passed, the county would be required to designate roads through a mapping and signage process. The county would also have to draft code segments for violators.
“If you violate, it’s a $250 fine,” she said.