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Off-road vehicles approved for limited paved use

Drivers of off-road vehicles will be able to use county paved highways to access trails, after passage of an amendment to Nye County Code by county commissioners Tuesday.

Nevada Revised Statutes allows county commissioners to designate any portion of a county highway permissible for operating off-highway vehicles to reach a private or public area open for use by those vehicles. That vehicle category can include all-terrain vehicles or motorcycles, dune buggies, a snowmobile or any motor vehicle used on public lands for recreation.

The off-highway vehicle driver may use it to cross the highway, coming to a complete stop before crossing and crossing as close to perpendicular to the direction of travel as possible. Any off-highway vehicles that need to be loaded or unloaded should be as close to the area of off-road use as possible. In an emergency an off-highway vehicle can be used if it’s impossible to use another vehicle. The vehicle may not be driven more than two miles on a highway designated as a trail connector for a trail authorized for use by off-highway vehicles.

Pahrump Public Lands Advisory Committee Chairman Bob Adams spoke in favor of the bill but didn’t have to, commissioners quickly made the motion to approve. Adams said one benefit is it will reduce dust pollution from drivers using the side of the road.

The bill codifies what off-road motorists have already been doing, Adams said, but it relieves someone with a security clearance or a commercial driving license from getting penalized. It will also help bring tourists into town, who won’t worry about having to return to pay a ticket, he said.

Commissioner Frank Carbone reminded drivers they’re limited in the distance they can drive on a paved highway. He wanted a provision inserted requiring adult supervision of drivers under 16 years old.

The Pahrump Regional Planning Commission endorsed the plan last March and directed county staff to prepare the bill. Adams told the commission it was part of the town tourism advisory board campaign which designates Pahrump as “the Base Camp to Adventure.” The only concern was raised by town board representative Bill Dolan about off-road drivers crossing busy Highway 160 where the speed limit is 65 mph near Mountain Falls subdivision.

A letter in support from the town of Pahrump cited a 2002 Arizona State University study that said off-road use contributed $3 billion to the state of Nevada’s economy, creating 36,951 jobs. When the Paiute ATV trail system opened in 1980 in Marysvale, Utah it tripled the seven businesses operating in that town that is the center of the trail system, including an 80-space recreational vehicle park, the letter said.

State law was recently changed to allow off-highway vehicles to be driven on local roads in Nevada.

The plan is to post signs for ATV drivers alerting them to local businesses. The county decided to draw up a blanket bill rather than designating certain highways for off-highway vehicle use.

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