Lyon County officials to retool proposed ATV ordinance

A proposed ordinance banning ATVs on unpaved Lyon County roads is on hold for now.

After a public hearing, the Lyon County commissioners voted Thursday to have the district attorney and sheriff work out some kinks. All four commissioners in attendance felt the ordinance as proposed was incomplete. Commissioner Leroy Goodman was absent.

Residents on both sides of the ATV issue attended the meeting to voice their opinions.

Sheriff Sid Smith said he requested the ordinance after a barrage of complaints about people, particularly minors, racing ATVs and dirt bikes on roads in neighborhoods causing dust and noise problems.

He wanted to ban ATVs on all unpaved county roads and post signs on roads where they could be permitted, such as roads with access to U.S. Forest Service or U.S. Bureau of Land Management property.

"Our problem isn't with the people going out to BLM; our problem is with kids who ride on county roads in front of their neighbor's home," Smith said.

But Dayton native Stacie Paterson said her children often rode their ATVs to visit friends in the neighborhood whose homes were too far for the kids to walk.

"We have enjoyed ATVs, dirt bikes and horses in Dayton forever," she said. "That is what a lot of people move to our area for."

Though she acknowledged that some riders do speed and kick up dust clouds, Paterson asked the commissioners to find a compromise so responsible riders could still use the roads.

"It's really not fair to punish everyone for the acts of a few," Paterson said. "There is no entertainment in Dayton for these kids. There's no swimming pool, no movie theater and no bowling alley."

Paterson said she also knew of ranchers who use quads to get from one field to another, and they sometimes have to ride on county roads.

"This is a family sport and we've been kind of cornered with all the growth," she said. "You can't get out to the BLM land without going on county roads."

District Attorney Leon Aberasturi reminded the commissioners that it was already illegal for people to operate unlicensed or unregistered vehicles on public roads, but the sheriff said a county ordinance would aid in enforcement.

"Ninety percent of our contact with ATVers is based on citizen complaints," Smith said. "We don't have time to go out on dirt bike patrol."

Commissioner Chet Hillyard added that small "pocket" motorcycles also posed a problem and should be included in any future ordinance.

Darrell Percival, a local farmer, said he uses ATVs on his farm because "at 3 bucks a gallon, it's a little cheaper to run a quad than a vehicle."

Percival suggested that the commissioners copy laws in Idaho that provide for licensing off-road vehicles, but the commissioners were concerned about creating another government department.

Linda Mortensen, of Yerington, said she supports an ordinance of some kind.

"We do need this ordinance," she said. "There has been problems with ATVs on newly graded roads. It only takes a minute for an ATV to destroy it."

Commissioner Don Tibbals called the ordinance "ambiguous." Commissioner Phyllis Hunewill agreed, but said she believed some kind of ordinance is necessary.

"I hope we don't throw this out," she said. "I think it does need some polishing. I think we need to find a way for this to work."

• Contact reporter Karen Woodmansee at or 882-2111 ext. 351.


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