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As warmer winter continues, some want ATVs on state trail in Oconto County

Posted at 6:42 PM, Mar 04, 2024

Some want ATVs to be allowed on the Nicolet State Trail in Oconto County if a future winter brings warmer weather like this year.

  • ATV trails are not open in the winter in Oconto County
  • If winter is warm again, some want the Nicolet State Trail to open to ATVs, so riders can help struggling businesses with lack of snowmobiling
  • Watch the video to hear one business owner's story, and details of the County's ATV policy

(The following is a transcript of the broadcast story.)

I'm Jon Erickson in Suring in Oconto County, along the Nicolet State Trail. We're talking with an Oconto County business owner about what this snowmobiling season has been like and why he'd like to see this trail open to ATVs if there's another winter like this in the future.

Mike Richling says in a normal winter, his bar and restaurant parking lot in Mountain fills with snowmobilers.

"Sometimes 100 to 200 at a time, and we have none [now,]" [said Richling, who owns Animal's Bear Trail bar-restaurant.]

With the warmer winter and lack of snowmobiling, he says business at Animal's Bear Trail is down by at least 50 percent.

"My employees will get paid, my bills will get paid. But I will not get paid for five months, so I have to take out of my savings to pay my bills," [Richling said.]

Richling is behind Becky Vossekuil's push to open the Nicolet State Trail in Oconto County to ATVs.

"Hopefully if we have another winter next year like this, or in the future, we can have a plan of action where we can get ATVs and UTV's using the railroad grade, which is the Nicolet State Trail, and go to establishment[s], have our tourists back," [said Becky Vossekuil of Mountain.]

Monty Brink is the Oconto County forest, parks, & recreation administrator.

As far as what Becky and Mike want:

[Reporter Jon Erickson asked:]

"Is that possible?"

[Brink replied:]

"Opening the ATV trails right now is not possible. Oconto County has a policy of, our ATV operation is the last Saturday in April, to the first Sunday in November."

He says a County committee has the power to change that policy.

Becky says they only want ATVs on the trail in the winter if there's not enough snow for snowmobiling.

"We don't want to mess with the snowmobile clubs," [Vossekuil said.]

Monty says one potential issue would be ATV riders who veer onto snowmobile-only trails. He says private landowners could end their cooperation with snowmobilers.

"The risk is too great to lose 500 miles for a little section of ATV trail in the winter time," [Brink said.]

Winter weather that went missing this year, something Mike's never seen.

"Never anything this dramatic," [Mike Richling said.]

And we'll let you know if that County committee here in Oconto County makes any changes to the policies as far as the Nicolet State Trail.