Douglas County is not a destination for ATV riders, but that could possibly change.

Members of the Runestone Off-Road ATV Riders club, known as ROAR, presented information to the Douglas County Board of Commissioners at their Tuesday, Oct. 5, meeting.

There are many rules and regulations for ATV riders when it comes to riding in Douglas County, but after hearing from the group, the commissioners are looking into new ordinances or changes to current ordinances that may help.

The first step, however, is the formation of a committee, which would include two county commissioners and then a representative or two from the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, Douglas County Public Works, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and ROAR.

Douglas County Commissioners met for the first time in their new board room at the Douglas County Administration building Tuesday, Oct. 5. The building, at 822 Douglas Street, was a former church.  
Celeste Edenloff / Alexandria Echo Press
Douglas County Commissioners met for the first time in their new board room at the Douglas County Administration building Tuesday, Oct. 5. The building, at 822 Douglas Street, was a former church. Celeste Edenloff / Alexandria Echo Press

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Nothing has been set in stone yet, but the plan is to take formal action on the committee at the next county board meeting.

Todd Powers, ROAR president, asked the commissioners if they could “open up the county” for ATV riding at Tuesday’s meeting. Powers said riding on county roads is off limits.

Mitch Lawler, a DNR conservation officer who was also at the meeting, said, “It’s a tough county to ride in.”

Lawler said that the county can change that with ordinances.

Having so many restrictions in place, said Powers, puts riders in a position to either break the law or just not ride and neither is a good idea. Powers always emphasized the importance of education.

He said the group doesn’t necessarily want just anyone on ATVs driving around the county. Powers said they would have to be at least 16 years old with legal drivers license, insurance on their ATV and be a certified driver.

ROAR provides ATV training and instruction and in fact, Powers said there are 22 members in the group who can certify drivers. Members of ROAR, while riding, will wear yellow vests that indicate they are volunteer trail ambassadors.

Powers said, “If we see something, we say something.”

According to the group’s website, ROAR's mission is to provide off-highway educational training and certification opportunities for youth, maintain and build youth skills training course(s) and public trails in cooperation with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. The group also wants to stimulate and strengthen the community by promoting a positive image and encouraging safe, social and fun family activities while respecting the environment.

“We want to get the county to a point of accidents without hospitalizations. We want to educate people and we want people to be safe,” Powers told the commissioners. “And we want kids to put helmets on; we want it to become natural, a habit.”

Commissioner Keith Englund said that people should be able to cross county roads without getting a ticket.

County Board Chairperson Jerry Rapp said ATV riders should be able to ride their ATVs in the winter to the lake to ice fish without having to haul the ATV to the location on a trailer.

Douglas County Sheriff Troy Wolbersen said it would be a good idea to form the committee to get different perspectives.

Douglas County Public Works Director Tim Erickson agreed with Wolbersen about the committee and said he would be willing to help as he has worked in two counties – Lake of the Woods and Roseau – that have gone through the same thing.

The next county board meeting is set for Tuesday, Oct. 19, at 9 a.m. at the new administration building, 822 Douglas Street.

In other action

The county commissioners approved the following other items:

  • Donations to the Douglas County Honor Guard from the Kensington Lions Club ($100), from the 9/11 Memorial ($100) and from Georgia Nelson ($50).

  • Six-month leave of absence for Jake Turner from the Douglas County Veteran Services Office.

  • Final plat of Gracies Addition, a two-lot plat in Lake Mary Township.

  • Final plat and developer’s contract for Stor Smart North Second Addition, a storage facility in Carlos Township.