Original article by The Northwoods River News (http://www.rivernewsonline.com/main.asp?SectionID=6&SubSectionID=59&ArticleID=73097)
By: Jamie Taylor - Lakeland Times Reporter
A request from the Three Lakes Nicolet ATV Club for a crossing over State Highway 45, an attempt to bring recreational vehicles into downtown Three Lakes, ran into intense opposition last week after town board members noted the crossing would impact the Three Eagle Trail which is used for pedestrian and bicycle traffic only.
Mark Kirby of the Nicolet ATV Club said the Department of Natural Resources road manager he consulted told him the spot where the club wants to cross the highway and trail was a "doable situation."
However, town chairperson Stella Westfall pointed out there would most likely be a conflict with the trail association.
"We would like to work with the bike people," Kirby replied.
Tom Rulseh, president of the Three Eagles Trail Foundation, expressed his group's opposition to the crossing.
He noted that the work on the trail, which all but connects Three Lakes with Eagle River, has been completed by volunteers and paid for with over $1.9 million in donations. These people have come to see the trail as a place where they can escape from motorized vehicles and enjoy the surrounding environment and all it holds, he said, adding that the trail has been an economic boon to the town as people visit many businesses before and after heading out on the trail from the southern end.
"A lot of these people will ask 'what did I donate my money toward building?'" Rulseh said. "Those people want to enjoy what they paid for."
Rulseh also said silent sports enthusiasts could start traveling to St. Germain or Boulder Junction to use their trails if the ATV crossing is approved.
"There has to be a better route than what has been proposed," he said, adding that the trail foundation board of directors voted unanimously to urge the club to seek another way into town.
"We don't need to see a little kid squished by an ATV," he said.
Another member of the ATV club then interjected that club members pay taxes and fees to be able to use their machines. Kirby also noted that the crossing is at a point where ATVs will not be able to pick up much speed before coming to a stop sign where pedestrians and bikes would have the right of way.
Westfall noted it would be in the best interest of both sides to sit down and work to make the crossing as safe as possible.
Supervisor Ed Volk said ATVs are an asset to the town and their safe use should be promoted. He added that he personally believes the proposed crossing would be unsafe.
Volk did, however, volunteer his services as a mediator between the two groups and area landowners to find another way into town that doesn't involve crossing the pedestrian/bike trail. One landowner on one proposed route turned out to be Rulseh. When Volk asked if he would be willing to talk about allowing ATVs to access a portion of his land, he didn't immediately shoot down the notion.
"It's always worth a discussion," Rulseh said.
The matter was tabled until the June 21 meeting to allow exploration of alternate routes.
The board also discussed a draft ordinance that would give the town greater say in placement of piers on town land and long-term tying up at town docks.
"This will come back many, many times again in the future," Westfall said.
Jamie Taylor may be reached at jtaylor@ lakelandtimes.com.