NEWPORT CITY — Local owners of all-terrain vehicles will be able to ride on their own city streets by June.

The city council on Monday unanimously adopted language in an ordinance amendment that keeps Main Street and other key routes open to ATV riders for a second year.

It also will allow local owners and their guests to ride from their homes to designated streets and trailheads around Newport City.

In practice, all streets in the city will be open to ATV traffic as of June 20, when the ordinance amendment goes into effect.

Newport became the first city in Vermont last spring to open access to ATVs, part of a wave of access across Orleans County. The ATV riding season will begin May 15.

Riders on city streets must wear helmets and follow state laws, register their vehicles with Vermont and be a member of the Vermont ATV Sportsman’s Association (VASA).

The council also included a change in the hours that ATVs are allowed in the city, moving the start time from 8 a.m. to 7 a.m.

The designated streets like Main that link to the trailheads leading to the city are on the state ATV map. The rest of the city streets will be open to local access but that will not appear on the map.

Mayor Paul Monette said during the remote meeting that the change will give city residents the access they have requested.

“I can tell you the biggest complaints I had were from residents who … could not access the trails from their home,” Monette said about the local response to the first season.

He said he didn’t realize how many local residents own ATVs.

Monette identified several well-known local residents, like former Fire Chief Bobby George, who lived just feet from a designated road but couldn’t ride to it.

Adding the amendment “would definitely help resident access,” Alderman Chris Vachon said.

It will also address most of the complaints about ATVs received by the Newport Police Department.

Chief Travis Bingham said the department received 25 complaints, with almost all about ATVs traveling on non-designated streets.

Eighteen complaints came in May and June last year.

The only concern during the discussion Monday came from former Alderwoman Jennifer Hopkins, who said she had no problem with opening access to all city streets.

She questioned the amendment language that says non-designated streets can be used for trailhead access by city residents and their “invitees.”

She suggested that invitees should be accompanied by a resident on ATVs. Or she said the city should just open up all streets and be done with it.

Monette said the language is designed to prevent someone from riding around in a circle all day on non-designated streets.

Former Alderman Denis Chenette asked if the council was “basically opening up the entire city to access the trails.”

Monette confirmed that but repeated that only designated streets will be on the state ATV trails map.

The changes open up Mt. Vernon Street so ATV riders can reach the new restaurant at the golf course from Western Avenue, Glen Road or Main Street. It also opens Sias Avenue, where Newport City Elementary School is located in a residential neighborhood.

Bingham confirmed that no ATV riders were ticketed for speeding. The presence of ATVs on city streets actually slowed traffic, he said.

And there were no noise complaints.

That pleased Alderwoman Melissa Pettersson, who said she had wondered about that but found last year that she hardly noticed ATVs. Motorcycles and other vehicles were louder, she said.

The local club will erect signs directing ATVs to designated routes and trailheads before the season begins, said local club president Scott Jenness.

Jenness thanked the council for its support.

A proposal by the local downtown development association to study the impact of ATVs is not needed, Monette said.

Aside from the lack of complaints, business owners were very supportive.

“Business owners I spoke to said it helped them quite a bit” during the height of the COVID-19 shut down in Vermont last spring, Monette said.

The council will hold another hearing on the ordinance amendment before it goes into effect.


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