The Okanogan County commissioners are considering a proposal from the North Central ATV Club to open almost 50 miles of county roads in the Methow Valley to wheeled all-terrain vehicles (ATVs).
By state law, the county can open roads with speed limits of 35 miles per hour (mph) or lower to wheeled ATVs. Because some of the roads in the club’s proposal have higher speed limits or sections with higher limits, the county would need to reduce the speed to allow ATVs, Okanogan County Engineer Josh Thomson told the commissioners on May 2.
The county would have to do an environmental analysis of the routes before approving them, the commissioners said.
The commissioners eliminated one proposal — Rendezvous Road and Gunn Ranch Road — because there are already parking issues for the popular Lewis Butte trail, County Commissioner Andy Hover said.
Wheeled ATVs are a special class created in a 2013 state law. After the law passed, the Okanogan County commissioners immediately opened all county roads of 35 mph or less to ATVs. They were compelled to close the roads to the vehicles after a successful lawsuit filed by the Methow Valley Citizens Council and Conservation Northwest.
After an analysis, the commissioners opened roads in other parts of the county to ATVs, but they decided to wait to assess suitable roads in the Methow.
The Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest also initially allowed ATVs to use its roads, but reversed the decision because the change had to be considered as part of a larger transportation plan.
The county will consult with state and federal land-management agencies and then invite public comment.
Proposed routes: Cub Creek, East Chewuch and West Chewuch roads; Upper Beaver Creek, Balky Hill, Twisp-Winthrop Eastside, Twisp River, and Poorman Creek roads; Goat Creek Road (Sno-Park to Mazama junction); Bear Creek and Lester roads; Bill Shaw, Watson Draw and French Creek roads.