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White Salmon City Council taking look at Bingen’s ATV-use ordinance

The City of White Salmon may be the next local government in western Klickitat County to allow the operation of wheeled all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) and utility-type vehicles (UTVs) on all city streets with posted speed limits of 35 miles per hour or less.

The City Council planned to hold a public hearing last night (Wednesday) to take public testimony on a proposed addition to the White Salmon Municipal Code titled Chapter 10.38, Wheeled All-Terrain Vehicles. The proposed ordinance is the same one the City of Bingen adopted in April. It took effect on April 30.

Former White Salmon city councilor Mark Peppel asked the White Salmon City Council during its March 19 meeting to move forward with consideration of the so-called ATV-use ordinance. Peppel also recently presented a petition to the County Board of Commissioners, requesting the same consideration for county roads.

In 2013, the state Legislature passed an Off-Road Vehicles bill that provides local governments (towns, cities, and counties) with statutory authority to allow and regulate the use of off-road vehicles on the streets and roads under their jurisdiction. Operation of such vehicles can only occur, however, with the approval of the local government’s legislative body.

White Salmon City Administrator Patrick Munyan Jr. said Monday the proposed ATV-use ordinance is not scheduled for action during the June 4 council meeting. Instead, he said, “the council will listen to both sides of the debate on Wednesday” and most likely hold a follow-up discussion of the information received during the public hearing at the next council meeting on June 18.

The earliest date the ordinance could take effect is July 1, or five days following publication of an ordinance summary in The Enterprise on June 26.

Munyan noted, “There seems to be much debate on whether or not to have an ATV ordinance out in the public,” and that there “seems to be a split between City Councilors as well as the public” concerning the wisdom of allowing ATVs and UTVs to share the city streets with other motorized and non-motorized vehicles.

In White Salmon, all streets within the city with speed limits of 35 miles per hour or less, including State Route 141, would be open to use by motorists operating ATVs (motorized off-road vehicles) or UTVs (vehicles with four or more tires designed for and capable of travel over designed roads) that fit the ordinance’s definition of a wheeled all-terrain vehicle. State Route 14 through White Salmon’s jurisdiction would be excluded because its posted speed limit is 40 miles per hour.

Under the proposed ordinance, any person with a valid driver’s license issued by the person’s state of residence “may operate a wheeled all-terrain vehicle upon a city street having a speed limit of 35 miles per hour or less…” subject to the restrictions and requirements set forth in the ordinance.

Restrictions would include the following:

Any person operating an ATV (passengers included) must wear a securely fastened motorcycle helmet while the vehicle is in motion.

Streets with speed limits in excess of 35 miles per hour (mph) are closed to ATV and UTV traffic. However, ATV operators may cross a city street that has a speed limit of more than 35 mph at controlled intersections (those that are approximately 90 degrees) if the crossing begins and ends on a street with a speed limit of 35 mph or less.

ATVs may be driven on any city street under the authority or direction of an agency that engages in emergency management, search and rescue, or law enforcement, provided such use occurs within the scope of the agency’s official duties.

Moreover, ATVs would have to meet 12 equipment requirements set forth in the ordinance (ranging from headlights to tail lamps, to mirrors and seat belts), comply with all state licensing and registration requirements, and obey all state and local traffic-control laws that apply to pedestrians and other motorists. For example, it would be unlawful under the ordinance to operate an ATV on a sidewalk or in a park; operating an ATV on a park drive or in a designated parking lot would be permissible.

Passengers, who must be at least 5 years old, would only be allowed to ride on ATVs designed for two or more riders. Towing of trailers, other devices, or individuals behind an ATV would be prohibited.

Violations of any of the ordinance’s provisions will be considered a traffic infraction, and violators could be punished by the imposition of a fine of up to $250. Criminal traffic offenses would be charged as such and be subject to the maximum penalties that the law allows for such offenses.

Enforcement of the ordinance, if adopted, would fall primarily on the Bingen-White Salmon Police Department.

Police Chief Tracy Wyckoff told The Enterprise after the Bingen City Council enacted its ATV-use ordinance in mid-April that local police would be looking out for and cracking down on violators of the law.

“From the police department’s perspective, I want the guys to be more attentive and restrictive to people who are going to violate the rules while they’re riding these so they understand from the onset that it’s not going to be tolerated to abuse the system,” Wyckoff said in speaking on the record for an April 24 cover story.

“This has become a privilege to do this,” he said of operating ATVs and UTVs on designated city streets. “It’s not something to go out and abuse, and if they’re going out and spinning cookies in the road, we will address the problem and they will be cited accordingly. I think we need to be very aggressive in the beginning so people understand that it’s not a toy, it’s serious, and if people are going to be on the roadway, they are going to have to follow the rules like everyone else.”


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