Weather Forecast


ATV group faces uphill climb, chamber told

Pierce County ATV Association members are working hard to establish the organization, the Ellsworth Chamber of Commerce heard Thursday.

Eric Markwardt of the association told the chamber the all-terrain-vehicle group, formed last September, has 160 members to date. They offer individual, family and business memberships (nine business sponsors have been obtained so far). Meetings are held the first Thursday of the month at locations around the county.

Presently, there's one main club (the association), but local chapters are possible, Markwardt said. Spring Valley is the site for one of these chapters, now in the process of being organized. The overall club is affiliated with the Wisconsin ATV Association.

Currently, there are approximately 300,000 ATVs registered in the state, recently surpassing snowmobile registrations. He said a 2004 study by the state's Department of Tourism put statewide ATV user spending at around $259 million annually.

The county association intends to promote safe, responsible family-oriented ATV riding, he said. Sixteen members attended safety instructor and trail patrol ambassador training held by the Department of Natural Resources in March. Trail patrol ambassadors have no law enforcement authority, but work with official agencies to help encourage positive ATV practices.

Trails and routes are designated on surfaced or gravel town roads, Markwardt said, as Wisconsin law doesn't allow riding on county or state roads, except to cross. Developing a trail network is difficult, especially in an area with high agricultural usage, such as Pierce County. Members have begun meeting with town officials here about designating trail routes; he said most of those who've already listened to their presentation have been receptive, but the effort will likely take two-to-three years.

He emphasized the association isn't trying to take over Pierce's snowmobile trail network. He also estimated there are several thousand ATV owners in the county.

In other chamber business:

--Community participation this summer in the National Night Out event is being planned by the Ellsworth Police Department, EPD Administrative Assistant Karen Meyer said. The 24-year-old annual event is normally organized by citizens, but local authorities will lead the effort here on Tuesday, Aug. 7, because it's the first time for Ellsworth. However, an open invitation will be issued to residents to become involved. Attractions will include: spotting suspicious vehicles, spying McGruff houses, a nighttime walk and lighting porch lights during the evening. Food and entertainment will be available at a local park yet to be identified.

--A DARE fundraiser will be held jointly with the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program and the Ellsworth Funsters on Thursday, May 17, Chamber President Raynee Farrell announced. There are 450 tickets available for the chicken dinner, to be served at the local rod and gun club. Sheriff Nancy Hove, the former area DARE instructor, has indicated she wants to keep the program going.

--Kids Day America is scheduled for Saturday, May 19, from noon to 3 p.m. at Ellsworth Middle School, Farrell announced. Dr. Kyle Kollbaum of Ellsworth is organizing the local event, intended to impact kids in a positive way.

--The chamber's new web site is nearing completion, Milt Helmer of the web site committee reported. The majority of the site is already up and running, and a link to Cheese Curd Festival information is in the works. The site will be simple yet professional, and easy for chamber office personnel to update.

--The pending resignation of Kim Johnson as chamber coordinator was discussed and her service to the group recognized.