Linn County supervisors vote in favor of ordinance allowing ATVs on some roads during first reading

“ATVing on Blackcomb Mountain” by Traveloscopy via Flickr

Linn County is a step closer to allowing individuals to drive all-terrain or off-road utility vehicles on secondary roads.

The Board of Supervisors voted 2-1 in favor of the ordinance during its first reading on Tuesday. The supervisors need to approve the ordinance during two additional readings in order for it to pass.

Almost half of Iowa’s counties have passed an ATV ordinance. The vehicles are currently not allowed on Linn County roads, but there are eight parks around the state where riders can go, including Lakeview OHV park in Johnson County.

This is the second time the ordinance has been brought up this year. The board held two public hearings in early March 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. Those in support brought up economic benefits to small towns in the county, while those against the ordinance cited safety concerns.

In order to address the concerns residents brought up, the supervisors decided to delay the vote. Supervisor Brent Oleson, who has worked on this ordinance on and off for about a year, supported the delay “because we want to get it right.”

“I want to amend this in a few ways to make it as palatable to both my colleagues, to the public and to address the concerns that some people have. It needs a little bit of work, but I think it could get passed if we can do that,” Oleson said in March.

The ordinance was brought up again during the board’s meeting on Tuesday, May 26. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the ordinance was “put … on the back shelf because of other important issues before us,” Oleson said during the meeting.

The main addition to the ordinance is that operators and passengers 18 years old and younger must wear an ATV safety helmet when driving on secondary roads in the county.

Oleson also highlighted that in order to operate an all-terrain or off-road vehicle, 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 would allow all-terrain vehicles or off-road utility vehicles to be driven on secondary roads, which are typically gravel or asphalt. There would be 28 restricted roadways, which are listed following the ordinance. Violating rules outlined in the ordinance would result in a misdemeanor fine of $65 to $625 and/or up to 30 days in jail.

Linn County Board of Supervisors Meeting May 26, 2020.Comments are not moderated.

Posted by Linn County, Iowa on Tuesday, May 26, 2020

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Oleson, along with Supervisor Stacey Walker, voted in favor of the ordinance during the first reading on Tuesday. Supervisor Ben Rogers voted against.

“I do appreciate the amendments that have been made,” Rogers said prior to the vote. “When I think of this issue, really the fundamental question we are being asked to consider is, ‘will having ATVs on the road make our public road systems more safe, equally as safe as they are now or less safe?’ And I still maintain that having ATVs on public roadways will make our road system for both [sic] vehicles, motorcyclists, cyclists and ATV riders less safe. They are designed to be off road.”

The ordinance’s second reading will take place during Wednesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, which begins at 12:30 p.m. Because of the pandemic, the public is asked to participate virtually by calling 866-576-7975 and entering the access code 218839#. Residents can also email questions or comments to

Changes can be made to the ordinance during its second reading, but no changes can be made during the third reading, which is expected to take place next week.

During Tuesday’s meeting, the board also extended the lease of Linn County’s overflow shelter for people experiencing homelessness. The shelter will be open through the end of June.

The overflow shelter opened last November at the county-owned Fillmore Center, 520 11th St NW. The shelter’s services are provided by Willis Dady Homeless Services. The overflow shelter has been open 24/7 since mid-March in response to COVID-19.