The Linn County Board of Supervisors approved an ordinance on Wednesday that allows the use of all-terrain vehicles and off-road vehicles on certain county roads.
The ordinance had been under consideration since early March, when the board held two public hearings to get feedback from residents.
More than 100 residents spoke during the first public hearing in Central City, and another 15 residents spoke at the second public hearing in Cedar Rapids. Supporters cited economic benefits to small towns in the county, while opponents of the ordinance voiced concerns about safety.
In order to address the concerns residents brought up, the supervisors decided to delay the vote. Supervisor Brent Oleson, who worked on the ordinance on and off for about a year, supported the delay “because we want to get it right.”
The ordinance was brought up again during the board’s meeting on Tuesday, May 26. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was “put … on the back shelf because of other important issues before us,” Oleson said during the meeting.
The main addition to the ordinance when it was brought up again in May was that operators and passengers 18 years old and younger must wear an ATV safety helmet when driving on secondary roads in the county.
The ordinance allows ATVs and off-road utility vehicles to be driven on secondary roads, which are typically gravel or asphalt. The driver must have a valid driver’s license and be at least 16 years old. Drivers 18 and younger will be required to pass an ATV education course from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and carry a valid safety certificate.
The ordinance lists 28 restricted roadways, as well as other conditions drivers need to follow. Violating rules outlined in the ordinance would result in a misdemeanor fine of $65 to $625 and/or up to 30 days in jail.
During each of the ordinance’s three hearings, Oleson and Supervisor Stacey Walker voted in favor of it. Supervisor Ben Rogers voted against it, citing safety concerns.
“One of the things that I hope this board and other boards across the state will start thinking about is what the future of ATV use in this state might look like, and it would be my hope that we could all move toward specific designated spaces and parks, ATV parks or ATV trail systems, but we can only get to that point, we can only start down that path, if we begin the process of allowing ATVs to be used,” Walker said before the vote on Wednesday.
Oleson noted that the ordinance can be amended if issues arise or additional roadways need to be restricted.