ATV riders are now able to ride from Suncrest to Ione since the Stevens County Commissioners have voted to open all county roads north of Highway 291 to Off Highway Vehicle (OHV) traffic. This does not include state highways.
The amendment to Ordinance No. 05-2010, designating roads for OHV use, passed on Aug. 6 with a 2-1 vote. However, it will not go into effect until the draft is finalized and signed, which may take a few weeks.
District 1 Commissioner Larry Guenther opposed the amendment as written because he wanted to include an exemption for a road on the federal game range at Little Pend Oreille. He said he does not oppose opening the rest of the county roads, but wanted to be sympathetic to those against the one at Little Pend Oreille especially because it does not go anywhere. However, Guenther said if there are any issues with it, they could close it later.
The original county OHV ordinance, Ordinance No. 2007-02, was adopted in November 2007 to make recreational areas more accessible. It was repealed and replaced in July 2009 to add roads in the Loon Lake area, then repealed and replaced again in Dec. 2010 to add roads in the Waitts Lake and Springdale area.
The roads in Suncrest were left off the newest ordinance amendment because Suncrest is a highly populated area. Guenther said it is like a city without a police force and there are a lot of negative issues involved with opening that area.
The public hearing on the 2012 amendments began on June 4 in Chewelah and was continued twice more before its approval on Aug. 6.
District 2 Commissioner Don Dashiell said they had closed the comment period before the first continuance on July 10, but received some written comments that they decided to include. So they reopened comment period for the Aug. 6 meeting to make it fair for everyone who still wished to give testimony.
Dashiell said those in favor of the ordinance said it would strengthen the economy by bringing more people to the area. They also wanted the connectivity of roads to other parts of the county that are already open to OHV traffic.
Since the 2010 ordinance was approved, the Chewelah City Council also adopted an ORV ordinance to open all city roads except East Main Street from Highway 395 to Fourth Street.
Dashiell also said it makes enforcement much simpler for the Sheriff’s deputies.
Guenther said Sheriff Kendle Allen made a statement during the hearing to say they have had very little problems concerning OHVs, and the problems they do get have nothing to do with roads being open.
Those opposed to the new amendments wanted to include exceptions to their own road, but Dashiell said they decided to leave them all open to have consistency around the county. For those that were in favor of leaving a road closed, there were also those in favor of having it open.
Although Black Lake Road was not included in the 2010 amendments, Guenther said it will be included in the 2012 amendment because of new testimony.
Previously, a resident on Black Lake Road said no residents wanted it open but someone else testified during this year’s hearing to say the other person was not representing the majority.
OHV riders must be 16 years old or older, wear helmets and have a valid driver’s license to ride on any county road. A headlight and taillight is also required. However, riders do not need insurance.
The list of roads added to the Stevens County OHV ordinance will be made available when the amendment is finalized.
By Kellie Trudeau, The Independent Staff