Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966


ATVs on roads? Ordinance back


Haines Borough Assembly member Jerry Lapp is resuming the push for relaxation of snowmachine and all-terrain vehicle laws in the borough.

An ordinance proposed by Lapp and introduced by the assembly Tuesday would allow ATV use on streets and highways within the borough. It also would allow snowmachine use on highway shoulders in the borough.

A similar ordinance failed in October 2011 after several rewrites and review by the borough attorney. Former police chief Gary Lowe also firmly opposed the ordinance.

Lapp said he previously voted against the ordinance because it contained a clause about the administration having to issue permits to those wishing to drive ATVs on roadways. The revised ordinance eliminates that clause, but requires ATV and snowmachine drivers to carry insurance and register vehicles.

Snowmachines already are allowed on streets in town, Lapp said. “I think ATVs could be just as safe,” he said.

Resident Thom Ely spoke against the ordinance, saying the issue already was settled after assembly consideration two years ago. Ely pointed to national studies documenting high incidences of ATV-related fatalities when the vehicles are used on roadways, saying the machines aren’t compatible with other uses like cycling and walking.

“There is no place for them (on the roads),” Ely said in an interview Tuesday. “They would be cutting corners across private property and tearing up public land. They’re dangerous.”

Ely also characterized the ordinance as retaliation by motorized recreation supporters for the recent closure of the Chilkat River beaches to motorized use.

In an interview Tuesday, Mayor Stephanie Scott said the discussion boils down to what forms of wheeled transportation can co-exist on the roads. Bicycles, for example, can be ridden in the middle of the road, she said.

“I don’t get what the problem with the ATV is. I don’t get what the worry is,” Scott said.

Resident Eddie Bryant also doesn’t see a concern. “There’s nothing wrong with four-wheelers,” he told the assembly Tuesday. The ordinance will have its first public hearing Feb. 25.