Assembly OKs ATVs on borough roads


The Haines Borough Assembly last week unanimously approved an ordinance change that will allow ATVs on borough-owned roads.

Member Diana Lapham raised concerns that some four-wheelers come mounted with a placard saying not to operate them on pavement. “They can tend to stop, flip, whatever,” she said. “I don’t know what liability the borough could be held to if ATVs are placarded, ‘Do not operate on pavement.’”

Member George Campbell responded: “The operator of the vehicle, it’s their responsibility. Some of (the ATVs) are not placarded in that manner. All we’re saying is we’re not making it against the law for you to motivate down the road with these vehicles. We’re not making judgments about safety.”

Member Jerry Lapp said he didn’t expect the change would lead to more use of ATVs, but would allow use for errands, like making a run to a neighbor’s house. ATV riders on Porcupine and Chilkat Lake Road currently are operating outside the law, he said. “I see it will protect us more than hurt us.”

Lapp said new ATVs handle better than most cars, even with low-pressure tires.

The borough ordinance requires ATVs be registered and for operators to be able to provide proof of insurance. Operators must be at least 16 years old, hold a valid driver’s license and can’t exceed 25 mph.

Lapp said he thought operators’ liability insurance “would cover the borough, too.”

The ordinance was approved by the borough’s attorney.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission says ATVs should never be driven on paved roads, and that because of the way they’re designed, turning on a paved surface is “difficult and dangerous.” The State of Alaska registers ATVs for off-road use only, state trooper Andrew Neason said this week.

Police chief Gary Musser said he thought he can make enforcement of the ordinance work.

In an interview, trooper Neason said this week that he would continue to enforce state law prohibiting use of ATVs on state roads and highways, except at intersections and along bridges. He said his understanding of ATVs is that they’re generally not designed to be operated on paved surfaces.

“As a state trooper I don’t have an official position (on the borough ordinance). What can be expected is that adherence to state laws will be enforced,” he said.

The push for the change started about three years ago but was stymied in part by police chief Gary Lowe, who opposed it.

Royce Dombrock, the only resident who spoke to the proposed ordinance last week, supported it and ATV trails downtown.


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