More discussions of the recent proposal for Phelps County to issue ATV permits took the forefront at Tuesday’s commission meeting.

More discussions of the recent proposal for Phelps County to issue ATV permits took the forefront at Tuesday’s commission meeting.


Acting on a request from two residents who initially proposed the county issue permits for all-terrain vehicles, commissioners received feedback on the issue from several sources.


“We’ve been reluctant to issue permits in the past because of safety issues arising from mixing ATV and other vehicle traffic,” Presiding Commissioner Randy Verkamp said. “In the meantime, ATVs have grown in popularity.”


Two representatives from the U.S. Forest Service, Charlotte Wiggins, with Public Affairs, and Tom Giles, acting district ranger, told commissioners many numbered U.S. Forest Service roads within counties are available for public use with ATVs, but only in those counties that issue permits.


However, some designated U.S. Forest system roads are off-limits to ATVs, especially those located in wilderness areas. The agency attempts to barricade the roads not open to the public, Giles said, and a major initiative is planned this summer to block access to the restricted roads by the placement of boulders.


Law-enforcement measures levied against ATV operators who operate illegally within the Mark Twain National Forest system range from ticketing with penalties to actual ATV seizures.


Wiggins cited two areas in the Mark Twain National Forest that have designated motorized trails, including 80 miles of trails at the Chadwick use area in Christian County and at Sutton Bluff, in Reynolds County, which has 23 miles of trails. Both ATV trails require a Forest Service permit, available for $7 a day. Eighty-five percent of the money collected from permit sales are used to maintain the trails, Wiggins said.


Giles said he did not advocate any side of the debate on whether the county should issue permits, he only wanted to share his observations of ATV usage on Forest Service roads.


“On the plus side,” Giles said, “ATVs increase recreational opportunities.”


The most recent Mark Twain National Forest Plan, implemented in 2005, did include some new ATV standards, Giles said, including a provision that ATVs would not be allowed in the forest unless vehicles and drivers were in compliance with federal, state and county laws.


Giles said one drawback to increased ATV activity is some people drive their ATVs off-road, which damages the forest.


“For the law-abiding public, this is not an issue,” Giles said. “We welcome them."


In addition to Forest Service clarifications, the commission reviewed a written response to the ATV issue from Phelps County Prosecutor Courtney George.


George stated in her communication that, according to the Revised Statutes of Missouri, ATVs are considered motor vehicles and should be titled and registered within 30 days of purchase. Owners of ATVs also should maintain financial responsibility, she said.


Other resident opinions concerning ATV permits included some comments from the attendees of a recent Rosati Community Neighborhood Watch meeting.


Commissioner Larry Stratman said, “By and large, it seems most people are in support of the permit.”


However, Stratman said, he did receive an e-mail from one resident who opposed the permit because permits would make it legal for people to drive ATVs on neighborhood streets. The resident said he presently calls the Sheriff’s Department to get the ATV stopped whenever it’s operating late at night on Country Club Road, Stratman said.


The commission did not take any further action on the ATV permit proposal.