ATVs/UTVs About to Roam Presque Isle. Here’s How to Help Fight Back!
In our beautiful Northwoods, where thousands of you invest millions of dollars to buy property or visit so you can slide your canoe in a pristine lake, hop on hundreds of miles of bike trails and perfectly paved roads, listen to howling wolves and loons under a star-filled night sky, or hike forested and wetland-filled miles, we have a new problem. And unless you actively add your voice to the debate, this problem will forever reduce these joys to memories of a past era.
The problem here is a new pattern, a planned strategy. That is a new group of elected officials who have been running on the singular position that allowing ATVs and UTVs on your favorite roads and wilderness lands is what the majority of people want. And it’s under the guise of improving an outdated business model insisting that going from bar to bar in some sort of motorized vehicle is a good idea.
Northwoods bars can be fun, sometimes lively places, full of interesting characters, good food, and, more often these days, good brews from all across the nation. What these communities are missing is that it’s 2021, not 1971.
These days nearly every community that has gone all in on serving silent sports enthusiasts have discovered the economic benefits that awaits that pro-active decision. One only needs to visit places like Duluth, Marquette, Copper Harbor, and, more recently in my backyard, Ironwood, rising from the ashes like a phoenix on a commitment to silent sports. These communities have built an economy for people like you and me and they are thriving. It’s time we help turn on a new light bulb for our local business owners and tell them why we really live and visit here.
I’m asking you to speak up now. Otherwise, from here on out your quiet retreats will shortly be run over by ATVs, UTVs, and wake boats. This is a plea for help from those of us who have lived here forever. It’s changing and not for the better.
Want Proof? Then please hear me out.
Last March, the Winchester Town Board followed the example of Boulder Junction and Manitowish Waters, which had the decency to follow a democratic process, and polled their property owners on the question of whether or not to allow ATVs/UTVs on all their town roads. In those two towns, the property owners said a resounding NO.
When the Winchester survey came back with the majority of polled property owners also saying no, the town board did a crazy, un-American thing: they ignored the will of the people. They passed an ATV/UTV ordinance anyway, putting ATVs/UTVs on the town roads of the people, the majority of whom didn’t want them.
Luckily, the election for the town board was less than a month later. Two supervisors who ignored the will of the people were voted out by the same people whose voices they ignored. The new town board rescinded that ordinance. A lesson was learned here, but unfortunately not just by the town of Winchester.
Fast-forward to the June 3, 2021, town board meeting in the town of Presque Isle, “Wisconsin’s Last Wilderness,” as it has been aptly named for most of my life. At this now infamous meeting, the new town chair, just elected by a 2-1 margin of local voters on the promise that he would “listen to every person about every issue,” and a companion town supervisor decided — without any public discussion — to replace an existing ordinance prohibiting ATVs/UTVs in Presque Isle, with a new ordinance allowing them on every town road. Their very own Presque Isle Ordinance Committee which, for as long as anyone can remember, has always researched, held public hearings and written all town ordinances, never once saw this new ordinance before the June 3 meeting. Along with the sole opposing town supervisor, they still have no idea who wrote it.
To see this ordinance for yourself, please use this following link: https://piwi.us/CMS/files/502.6.3.21.pdf, which also identifies the people who signed off on it. See in particular, on page 2, par. 2 (C), which reads: “… persons may operate an all-terrain vehicle or utility-terrain vehicle on any road, freeway, or highway and designated parking lots on Town properties.”
On the Presque Isle website, https://piwi.us/, language on this reads as follows:
ATV Ordinance: At its June 3 meeting the Town Board adopted an ordinance that has opened all town roads to ATV’s/UTV’s. You may read the text of the draft ordinance here [https://piwi.us/CMS/files/502.6.3.21.pdf]! NOTE: THIS ORDINANCE WILL NOT BE IN AFFECT ON COUNTY ROADS IN THE TOWN UNTIL THE VILAS COUNTY BOARD APPROVES THE REQUEST FROM THE PRESQUE ISLE TOWN BOARD.
This process has predictably enraged many in the North. It’s one thing to have opposing ideas about such things, but it’s an altogether different animal when the public, landowners, and you, the visitors to this beautiful place, are not allowed a single word of input on the matter. The lesson this town board chair and one supervisor learned was simply this: Don’t give the public a chance to weigh in as they might say no, and then use your majority position to push your personal agendas.
Action & Calls to Action
There is some serious organizing going on up here right now by some very accomplished and powerful people. An alliance of local and non-resident property owners has formed to deal with such an abuse of power. People in Manitowish Waters, Boulder Junction, and Winchester have already banded together, and we have Presque Isle’s back.
This means we have your back too but, in kind, really need your voice.
The effort to preserve this place is for you and your children. It’s for all of us. And it isn’t just about ATVs. It’s also about clear cutting, hazardous wakes from weighted-down wake boats, a declining loon population, zoning changes that allow anyone to build whatever they want wherever they want if they have enough money. It’s about any issue threatening the peace, quiet, and wild character of the Northwoods. We are at a tipping point.
I know from experience and by nature that silent sports people are generally quiet, kind-hearted people. It’s what I love most about being a part of the silent sports community. I’m letting you know how things are working right now up here because I’m hoping, once you hear what’s happening, that you will be as outraged at this situation as we are. Also, to see how dangerous this has become to the survival of this place as a pristine region.
I know how much you love it here.
Now I’m asking for your help to preserve it. Here’s what you can do right now:
- Call (715) 686-2910 or email info@PresqueIsle.com the Presque Isle Chamber of Commerce. Tell them why you come to Presque Isle, why you bought a house or land here, why you might buy a house or land here, how you recreate here, how much money you spend on vacations in the Northwoods, what your expectations are, safety concerns when you recreate, anything to let them know what it is you love about the area. Don’t be afraid to tell them you want to spend money here, or that you might spend your money elsewhere if it’s going to become an ATV/UTV mecca.
- Call or email the Town Board Chairman or town supervisors (click on, for names and contact information: https://piwi.us/officials.php (where there will be names matching those signing the ordinance) and let them know how you feel about the importance of the democratic process in decision-making. Ask them to poll their property owners about allowing ATVs/UTVs on their town roads. Ask them to poll visitors. Ask them to abide by the will of the people, not the special interests of a few people.
- To stay informed of new developments and efforts of the Last Wilderness Alliance, or offer your expertise to help, send an email to email@example.com to be added to our email list.