Beginning Tuesday, wheeled all-terrain vehicles (WATVs) are allowed on certain county roads after a year-long advocacy effort by local riders.
The Cowlitz County commissioners, following a public hearing Tuesday, approved the ordinance allowing WATVs on unincorporated county roads with a speed limit of 35 mph or less.
A handful of local ATV users spoke in support of the ordinance, saying it would generate revenue in the county and state.
In March, some agencies sent letters opposing the ordinance to the county, citing maintenance and safety concerns.
Multiple riders told the commissioners Tuesday the state law regulating WATVs requires licensing and safety requirements.
In 2013, the Legislature passed a measure defining WATVs as a unique class of vehicle and setting specific rules for use. The law allows counties with populations more than 15,000 people to adopt ordinances allowing WATVs on county roads with speed limits of 35 mph or less.
State law requires WATVs to be licensed and meet certain requirements to legally operate on roads, including having turn signals, lights, mirrors and seat belts. Operators must also have a valid driver’s license. All operators must wear a helmet unless the vehicle has roll bars and seat belts or an enclosed passenger compartment.
All surrounding counties except for Clark allow WATVs under state requirements, including Skamania, Wahkiakum, Lewis, Thurston, Pacific and Grays Harbor counties.
Jerry Harris, local rider, said he asked Wahkiakum County Undersheriff Gary Howell about the frequency of accidents, citations and extras patrols since WATVs have been allowed and was told the county hasn’t had one accident.
Harris approached the county about allowing the vehicles about a year ago. He said it’s been a long road, but he was happy about the outcome.
Multiple members of the Cougar Area Trail Seekers group also spoke in support of the ordinance. Mike Richart, president of the organization, said the change will support the area’s economy by bringing new recreation opportunities.
Cougar resident Steve Pettit said because he is disabled, riding an ATV allows him to get out into the wilderness.
“It’s just a blessing to get out and do things,” he said.