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Increased ATV traffic expected in Douglas County this summer

Helmets and reduced speeds on roads can prevent serious injuries.

An ATV crosses over a bridge along the Osaugie Trail in Superior in March 2021. (Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)

Off-road ridership spiked in Douglas County last year, as residents and visitors alike sought outdoors activities in the midst of the pandemic.

Sgt. Jake Engelman, recreation officer with the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, saw a huge increase in all-terrain and utility-task vehicle traffic in 2020 and sees the trend continuing this year.

“We’re expecting even more county park use, and then ATV/UTV trails and roads, we’re expecting a pretty good increase this summer again on top of last year,” he said.

PREVIOUSLY: Outdoor activity picks up in Douglas County Increases are being seen from sales to trails.
One indicator that ATV use is up is the scarcity of new machines, fueled by an increase in demand and a shortage due to the COVID-19 shutdown.

“We were looking to replace some of our older fleet machines for patrol and we had trouble finding them at our local dealerships,” Engelman said. “I had to search around many, many other dealerships just to find one to replace our fleet.”


To many, Memorial Day weekend signals the kickoff to summer fun. It's also a time when many organizations stress ATV safety. Engelman said before people get on a machine, the most important things they can do to protect themselves are to wear a helmet and take a safety course. He encouraged people to pay attention to speed limits, as well.

“The two major factors I would say that seem to be common with crashes is excessive speed and alcohol, especially on the road routes,” Engelman said.

The Douglas County Board opened all county roads to ATV traffic a year ago on Memorial Day weekend. The vehicles aren’t made for roads, however. Soft, low-pressure ATV tires are made to dig in for traction in soft muddy, sandy materials.

“When you put those soft, squishy tires on a blacktop surface or a hard-packed gravel road, it’s a very unsteady machine, and that only increases with speed,” Engelman said. “That is why we have a countywide 25 mph speed limit for ATVs/UTVs on county highways.”

PREVIOUSLY: New Douglas County ATV routes open for Memorial Day weekend The ordinance to allow ATVs and UTVs on county highways goes into effect May 22.
Complaints of speeding and reckless driving have increased on county roadways since they were opened up to ATV traffic, something to be expected with the increased traffic, the sergeant said.

Since 2011, there have been nine fatal off-road vehicle crashes in Douglas County, according to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources annual reports . The deadliest year in the county was 2017, when three fatal accidents were reported. The most recent fatal crash took place last weekend.

First 2021 fatality

A 49-year-old Superior man was killed in an ATV crash on CCC Road in the town of Highland on Saturday, May 22. William Posio was driving an ATV when he failed to navigate a sloped S-curve, according to a Douglas County Sheriff’s Office report. The machine he was riding left the gravel roadway and landed in the woods. The crash occurred about a mile north of Francis Willard Road, just south of the Brule-Highland town line at about 6 p.m. The people traveling with Posio started CPR and Mayo Ambulance paramedics attempted lifesaving efforts, but the Superior man died at the scene.

According to the sheriff’s office report and a Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources accident summary, Posio was not wearing a helmet. Speed and alcohol are listed as preliminary factors in the crash.

Maria Lockwood covers news in Douglas County, Wisconsin, for the Superior Telegram.
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