Saturday, January 28th, 2023
Saturday, January 28th, 2023

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ATV stickers stuck in storm of discontent

Springfield — The state of Illinois may have to buy some four-wheelers of its own if it wants to collect a new $15 ATV registration fee.

As a result of a new state law, Illinois will charge anyone who owns an ATV, UTV, golf cart, or just about anything else with four wheels and an engine a new fee to “maintain state parks.”

“I think most ATV riders won’t buy the sticker until they’re caught without one,” Karen Overturf, an ATV owner and dealer in Springfield, said.

DNR spokesman Chris McCloud said the $15 permit charge is simply a “user fee” aimed at improving Illinois’ long-ignored state parks. “In other words you [pay the $15] and you will reap some of the benefits of that money coming in,” McCloud explained.

But Overturf doesn’t see any benefit for most Illinois ATV owners, saying “I think it’s just a money grab.”

McCloud hopes the state will raise enough money to add ATV trails to state parks, or even build an ATV-only park somewhere in Illinois. Currently, ATV owners can only ride on private land.

“If I am riding on my three acres,” Overturf said, “who has the right to come on to my property and tell me I need a sticker?”

It will be complicated just to figure out who will need a sticker.

“This won’t include your ATV if you’re on private property that an individual resides on… If you use your ATV for livestock or farming work, you’ll be exempt,” McCloud said. “If you use golf carts for business. In other words, a golf course owner is not going to have to register his entire fleet of golf carts for this fee.”

But if you drive a golf cart around town, or around a campground, you’ll have to pay $15 a year. You’ll also have to pay if you ride you ATV on land you own if you don’t live there.

“There are a lot of detailed questions we will be able to answer once the rules are finalized,” McCloud added.

Lawmakers will have to write those rules, and public hearings could come as soon as this month.

ATV owners will have to buy their first stickers perhaps in January, or perhaps not until April, depending on the hearings and any changes to the rules. ATV owners will be able to by the ATV stickers at any store that sells hunting or fishing licenses.

“I think it’s going to come down that ATV dealers will have to collect the fees,” Overturf said from her dealership. “The state will [likely] have us collect the fee at the point of sale.”

Brad Young, owner of Good Guys Motorsports in Herrin, said he’s unsure where the revenue from the new fees will go. Young added the state doesn’t offer many DNR-maintained roads for ATV users in southern Illinois.

“Our primary concern, is we’re not sure where that money is going to go,” Young told WSIL TV in Carterville.

“There are sanctioned off-road riding areas, but most of the Department of Natural Resources land is off-limits to ATV use,” Young explained.

The new fee, which could bring in as much as $800,000 per year, is similar to programs already under way in Missouri, Iowa, Michigan, Indiana and Kentucky, McCloud said.

In Indiana, off-road vehicles, which includes all-terrain vehicles and snowmobiles, must be registered. The registration costs $30 for three years. The Indiana DNR issues two registration decals and a Certificate of Registration containing the vehicle number to each successful applicant. The pocket-sized Certificate of Registration must be carried on the vehicle and made available for inspection by Indiana law enforcement officers.

Illinois ATV permit requirement represents just one of a number of changes in fees targeted at the state’s underfunded outdoor programs. Lawmakers last year approved a $2 increase on Illinois license plates to help pay for maintenance and upkeep of state parks.

The $20 million raised from the license plate fee will be combined with specific user fees to generate as much as $33 million annually.

McCloud said proceeds from the permit fee will be spent on upgrading off-road trail areas and for law enforcement purposes.

Illinois Watchdog is a collection of independent journalists covering state-specific and local government activity.

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