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Jefferson says no to ATV trail request
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JEFFERSON TOWNSHIP - Discussion during a meeting of the Jefferson Town Board Wednesday to decide whether an ATV trail would be allowed to run through the township ended in a way similar to past meetings.

"We turned it down," Board Chair Harvey Mandel said.

An advisory referendum was included on the spring primary ballot asking residents of Jefferson whether all-terrain and similar vehicles should be allowed on town roads. Namely, Town Center Road, which would connect the trail running from Monroe to Brodhead. Residents passed the referendum on a 15-vote margin, 52 to 48 percent.

Mandel said prior to the vote, members of the board agreed that it had to pass by 66 percent or more to consider it. He noted that roughly 300 people voted within a community of more than 600 registered voters, leaving a majority of residents' opinions unrepresented.

"Apparently there's just not support," Mandel said, noting that on Wednesday, the small meeting room hosted "a full house."

One of the attendees was Brodhead Mayor Doug Pinnow, who said he was surprised that instead of voting to deny the request once more, "Harvey just said it was done."

"I was disappointed," Pinnow said. "I don't understand it because they're only asking for a trial."

In previous meetings, members of the Green County ATV Club and town board supervisors had discussed a year-long trial run to see whether it would be a successful idea to continue.

"In my opinion, the people that spoke at two different meetings, both times were mostly for it," Pinnow said, adding that a trial in Brodhead has led to adamant self-policing. "Everybody wants this to work."

Pinnow added that trails were important to local economies via tourism. He said in one year, Lafayette County took in roughly $14 million in tourism revenue. Even a small percentage of that could help Green County, Pinnow said. If people visited via routes, municipalities could see visitors eating in local establishments, visit during other times of the year and possibly even move to the area, he added.

Mandel allowed roughly eight people to speak during the meeting and said people who live along the designated trail were still opposed to the idea. Noise has been a factor in the board's decision to deny the request in the past and worry over safety along roads, which critics have said is unfair because other vehicles make noise. Both Mandel and fellow supervisor Lyle Samson expressed concerns about adding ATV riders to busy roads.

According to an archived newsletter from Wisconsin Towns Association Attorney Lee Turonie, townships are no more liable for accidents involving ATVs than bikes or cars. Turonie also wrote that the mixing of traffic could pose a greater chance of a town being sued.

"Well, the town or village is always potentially liable for its public highways whether a person is driving a car, truck, bicycle, ATV, UTV or out jogging," Turonie wrote. "Take reasonable care of your roads as your resources allow."

The Green County ATV Club has received approval from Clarno, Spring Grove, Decatur and Brodhead in the last three years. Jefferson has denied the request more than once within a span of nearly a decade.

Club member Dusty Kubly, who has been a staunch supporter of the creation of the trail running south of Monroe into Clarno before heading east on Town Center Road through Jefferson and Spring Grove before jutting north to Decatur and then farther east via Ten Eyck Road into Brodhead, has said in the past that if Jefferson did not agree to the use of Town Center Road the club would bypass it.

Mandel said a better option would be to utilize bike and recreational trails within the area.

The club still needs approval from the Green County Board of Supervisors to utilize county roads. Kubly has said bypassing Town Center Road may include the utilization of additional highways.