Michelle Walker, known as “the caffeinator,” zips around Monroe in June in an ATV delivering coffee for the Original Pilot Coffee House. (Julia-Grace Sanders/ Herald file)

Michelle Walker, known as “the caffeinator,” zips around Monroe in June in an ATV delivering coffee for the Original Pilot Coffee House. (Julia-Grace Sanders/ Herald file)

Snohomish OKs WATVs on city streets, county could add areas

Snohomish councilmembers approved a year-long pilot project allowing WATVs on city streets 35 mph or under.

SNOHOMISH — Hot on the heels of Gold Bar, Snohomish is the latest city in the county to allow all-terrain vehicles on its streets.

The county also is making moves to open up more roads to the vehicles.

The Snohomish City Council unanimously approved a year-long pilot project Tuesday night that permits ATVs on city streets with speed limits of 35 mph or less. That includes nearly all of Snohomish’s streets, city administrator Steve Schuller said.

The council had been discussing the ordinance since April, with passionate public comment both for and against.

Those in favor said ATVs are a fuel-efficient mode of transportation and provide the same open-air thrill that attracts motorcycle riders.

Some residents were wary of increased noise and speeding issues.

But “there was a recognition that any vehicle that is allowed today can cause noise problems or speed,” Schuller said.

Snohomish’s ordinance will mirror state requirements. Those include wearing a motorcycle helmet, unless the ATV has seat belts and roll bars or an enclosed compartment for the driver and passengers. The state also requires safety features such as headlights and turn signals.

Drivers must be licensed, and their ATVs need to be registered.

There will not be any additional cost to the city, Schuller said.

The council expects to revisit the ordinance next summer to decide whether to end or extend it.

“We proposed it to figure out what the pros and the cons are,” Councilman Steve Dana said.

Sultan, Gold Bar, Darrington, Granite Falls, Monroe and Lake Stevens have passed similar ordinances.

The new rules are part of a statewide effort to boost tourism in rural areas and expand recreation for the estimated 25,000 ATV owners in Washington. By law, cities can create local rules allowing quads, side-by-sides and four-wheelers, with a 35 mph speed limit. Otherwise, ATVs remain illegal.

Snohomish County has also begun to open some roads through unincorporated areas to ATVs.

Last year, the County Council approved expanding a program to allow ATVs on some east-county arterials with speed limits of 35 mph or less. The routes —Mann, Old Owen and Ben Howard roads— connect unincorporated areas between Sultan and Monroe, two cities that had already passed laws to legalize ATVs on some city streets.

“We haven’t had any issues since we implemented this,” Councilman Sam Low said.

Now, the council is looking to extend access. Members voted unanimously Wednesday morning to hold a public hearing on opening up all 35 mph roads east of Highway 9 to ATVs. The hearing is set for 10:30 a.m Sept. 11 in council chambers on the eighth floor at 3000 Rockefeller Ave.

Low said previously he’d like to see residents of Gold Bar be able to get to popular trails in Reiter on their ATVs. That would involve opening up the county-operated portion of May Creek Road.

There is currently no legal way to ride an ATV from Sultan to Gold Bar, since U.S. 2 is the only road connecting them.

Julia-Grace Sanders: 425-339-3439; jgsanders@heraldnet.com.

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