A statewide collaborative consisting of ORV riders, sportsmen, environmentalists, law enforcement, rural city managers and land resource managers fought for several years to pass HB 1632 (regulating the use of off-road vehicles), which was signed into law on 7/3/2013 and became effective on 7/28/2013.
What is a WATV? HB 1632 created a new class of vehicle – a wheeled all-terrain vehicle (WATV) – and expanded the ability of WATV operators to drive on Washington state roads with speed limits under 35mph. WATVs are street-legal in Washington state, but are restricted to <35mph roads for safety reasons.
- WATVs are adult-sized all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) or utility terrain vehicles (side-by-sides) which have been modified with safety equipment and subjected to a dealer inspection certifying that the vehicle meets the equipment requirements. Further, the WATV operator must be a licensed driver, must file a release exempting the state from any/all liability and must display a metal identification tag (license plate) on the vehicle. The process actually changes the title of the vehicle, and is not done without effort or expense.
- By definition, WATVs cannot be dune buggies, go carts or youth vehicles of any type, nor are they unmodified ATVs or side-by-sides.
Where can you drive a WATV? HB 1632 gave counties and cities the authority to open roads under their jurisdiction to WATVs via ordinances that declare the roads open and under what conditions. Sultan, East Wenatchee and Cashmere have adopted ordinances that open all their roads to WATVs; other nearby towns have initiated the process. Chelan and Okanogan counties have many roads open: Chelan map & Okanogan map.
Most city councils have adopted a three-touch process so there is ample public involvement:
- The informal process starts with citizen requests to the Mayor, the City Council, or both.
- The formal process starts with an issue introduction, followed by a draft ordinance which receives a first reading, a second reading and a vote; the issue has to be approved by the City Council at each stage in order to move forward. Some councils schedule detailed presentations on major issues at a “committee of the whole” meeting, held just before the city council meeting.
What is the goal? Our goal is to build a route that connects off-road riding areas through a system of roads and trails in order to stimulate recreation-based revenue for Washington’s rural communities and to enhance the quality of life for residents.
- Locally, we’re working with Snohomish County on a route that will connect the Sky Valley (Wenatchee to Snohomish) up to Arlington and, possibly, into Skagit County.
- Duvall is a test project in King County. We hope to connect Duvall to the Sky Valley/Arlington route.
- We’re also working with the US Forest Service and the Department of Natural Resources for access to roads/trails under their jurisdiction, but it won’t happen overnight and it will require citizen involvement.
- It will also require the development of a new culture of off-road riding:
- A culture that keeps riders on the trails
- A culture that keeps riders from trespassing and from illegal trail building
- A culture that corrects or reports riders that do not follow these rules,
just like sportsmen don't tolerate animal poaching
What do we get in return for this new culture? Motorized access to public land.
If you believe in motorized access to public roads and public land, we are asking for your help. There are upcoming meetings that you should be aware of:
- Gold Bar’s WATV ordinance recently failed.
- Duvall’s City Council appointed a subcommittee to draft a WATV ordinance (Thomas, Nixon and Ockerlander). Look for a community meeting on WATVs in early December.
- Watch the City Council website and attend meetings with WATVs on the agenda. Note the new City Council meeting location: Duvall Visitor Center, 15619 Main Street NE (former library).
- Monroe’s Mayor, Geoffrey Thomas, has been approached by several local businesses for a WATV ordinance, but is waiting for citizen requests before moving forward.
- Similarly, Snohomish County is currently working on a mapping project to identify the Sky Valley/Arlington route, but is waiting for citizen requests before moving forward.
We hope this will provide information so that you can get involved with issues that affect you and where you can ride. Keep watching for updated WATV information and attend these City Council meetings if you can. Legislation is a messy business; those that show up tend to get what they want.