Range, ATV supporters pack public hearing

Jerry Burnes via  Mesabi Daily News  Duluth, Minn.

Supporters of a county-wide ATV ordinance packed the Duluth Courthouse on Tuesday, with a strong contingency from the Range making up the majority.

The regulation will allow ATVs to travel on all county roads and has drawn questions from the city of Duluth over how the new law cooperates with its city ordinance, which bans ATVs within Duluth’s limits. The city requested and received an additional public hearing Tuesday so residents and Duluth leaders had another opportunity to voice their opinion to St. Louis County Commissioners without driving to Hibbing on May 24.

But largely absent from the 34 individuals testifying to the board was Duluth, which was represented by one citizen in full support of the ordinance, the mayor and two councilors, with only the mayor speaking on the issue.

One resident from Hermantown and one from “just north of Duluth” testified in support, two residents from Solway Township expressed support and two city officials from Rice Lake expressed the same safety concerns as Larson, but generally supported the concept of the ordinance.

Jerry Larson, a Lakewood Township supervisor, was the only person vocally opposed.

“We feel it’s unsafe,” Larson said, referencing the county following state law and allowing ATVs to travel as fast as cars.

The strongest support for the ordinance came from traveling Iron Rangers and northern county residents.

If you really want to recharge the Range, this won’t do it alone, but it’s a big piece of the puzzle,”

They made up more than 20 of the testifying public, including Chisholm Mayor Mike Jugovich, representing one of several area city councils to approve a measure officially supporting the ordinance.

Jugovich took a common route for proponents of the law, saying it will help boost tourism in the region.

“If you really want to recharge the Range, this won’t do it alone, but it’s a big piece of the puzzle,” he said.

Duluth Mayor Emily Larson generally supported the ordinance, but balked at the county conferring with cities over allowing ATVs on county roads that run through city limits. Duluth bans ATVs on its roads and Larson said she wants the cities to have final say.

An amendment to the ordinance could be offered and approved by the board.

Public comments on the ATV ordinance remain open until Friday, May 20. Commissioners will hold another public meeting May 24 in Hibbing, where they could vote on a final decision on the ordinance.

Commissioner Keith Nelson of Fayal Township said the regulation is clearly stated and the county has an ordinance that clearly provides the safety for ATV riders, who would remain on the shoulder of the road and not on county roads.

“We have yet to hear from anyone who has a valid concern regarding the inability of the ordinance to provide safety and clarity on this issue,” Nelson said. “This will pass 7-0. I know all the commissioners understand this … all the commissioners are ready to move this forward.”