Gathering information for a plan to guide outdoor recreation in Superior, one message came through loud and clear: Much of the city is inaccessible for motorized recreation.
While all-terrain vehicles and snowmobiles could use designated trails, access to businesses and cross-town connectivity was seriously lacking.
That was until the Superior City Council last week amended its motorized recreational vehicle ordinance to allow the use of certain streets and alleys to make those connections, pending the addition of signage to notify recreational users and motor vehicle operators of the new routes in the city.
Public Works Director Todd Janigo said the city ordered the necessary signs Dec. 20, the day after the Council adopted the changes. He anticipated it would be a minimum of two weeks before the signs are ready.
"The new routes won't be 'legal' until signing is completed," Janigo said. "We will issue a notice of some sort, similar to other trail announcements, when the signing is complete."
Changes to the ordinance included adding utility terrain vehicles to the motorized recreational vehicles allowed in the city.
The new routes will open access to businesses in Billings Park and the northern part of the city, said Bernie Conklin of the Superior Wisconsin Off Road Drivers. He said recreation riders can't access hotels and restaurants in the city without the connections.
"We've also decided as a club — we don't know the cost yet — we're going to help with the costs of the signs," Conklin said.
He said with about 320,000 registered ATVs in the state and another 70,000 UTVs registered, that's a lot of money the city is turning away without the connections.
Councilor Warren Bender made a motion to adopt the changes in the ordinance; Councilor Keith Kern seconded the motion.
"I fully support this issue," said Douglas County Board Supervisor Keith Allen, a member of the Douglas County Fish and Game League board. "This is something we needed, maybe even a few years ago."
Douglas County Board Supervisor Dan Corbin likened the use of city streets and alleys to make the connection from trails to businesses to steps the Douglas County Board took a few years ago to open county highways to motorized recreational vehicles to connect trails in communities in rural Douglas County.
"Over the years that we've done this ... we have never had an accident on an approved route," Corbin said. "We've had accidents on the highway where there is not an improved route."
Corbin said he was glad to see the city found a way to connect the three trails in the city because it gets riders to the hotels, restaurants and gas stations.
"It promotes safe driving," Corbin said.
"I encourage you to support this motion tonight," said Taylor Peterson, interim director of the Chamber of Superior-Douglas County. "It would have a significant impact on the businesses, not only in Superior, but in Douglas County ... you would have a tremendous impact on tourism as a whole."
Some councilors expressed concern about enforcement if problems arise and others questioned whether the public was even aware the Council was taking up the issue — a motion to refer the decision failed to gain a second.
Councilor Esther Dalbec said she talked to people in her 10th District who questioned what took the city so long to make the changes.
Kern agreed it was something that has been needed for a long time in Superior.
Councilor Brent Fennessey said it's been probably 20 years since he was on a snowmobile, but he could see the value of the project to connect the city's motorized trails.
A near-unanimous voice vote adopted the ordinance changes.
Councilor Jennifer Van Sickle, who put forth the motion to refer the matter to the committee of the whole, voted against the change.