GRANTSBURG, Wis. – Ask any DNR conservation warden lucky enough to work in Burnett County and you’ll hear about this northwestern county’s abundant natural resources, great neighbors and incredible outdoor recreation opportunities.

Count the Gandy Dancer State Trail Southern Segment high on the most popular outdoor areas around. As more of us are finding fun near our homes during the pandemic, the trail remains a go-to trail for outdoor enthusiasts.

In recent weeks, I have received some trail-user complaints about the illegal operation of some ATVs and UTVs (all-terrain and utility-terrain vehicles). As you likely know, the southern segment of the Gandy Dancer State Trail is closed to off-highway motorized vehicles from April 1 through November 30. This is the segment that stretches through Burnett and Polk counties.

This is the only trail in the county that is not open to ATV/UTV traffic, and there are signs along the trail stating this prohibition. It is important to keep this trail free of ATVs and UTVs so people can safely use it for walking, biking and running.

DNR conservation wardens and Burnett County Sheriff Office deputies have also found areas along the Burnett County trail system where the ATVs and UTVs have made doughnut holes in the sand.  This particular area of sand pictured above was flat at the beginning of this spring and is now four to six feet deep. This degrades our natural environment and can dangerous to riders.

I know the majority of our ATV and UTV operators obey the rules and honor safety guidelines. However, sometimes the actions of a few may reflect poorly on the majority operating responsibly. If operators continue to break laws regarding operating where closed and speeding the trail system could be shut down.


All-terrain vehicle and utility terrain vehicle riding remains a popular outdoor activity and on the upswing in Wisconsin.

It is the operator’s responsibility to know the regulations and the safety tips to keep every outing safe and fun for all on the trails. A great place to start is taking the online safety course and know the routes and trails where you can legally operate your vehicle.

  • Any operator born on or after Jan. 1, 1988 who are at least 12 years old must complete a safety certification course to operate an ATV on designated public trails and routes in the state.
  • Any operator born on or after Jan. 1, 1988 and is at least 16 years old must complete a safety certification course to operate a UTV on any designated public trail and route in the state. 


Operators and riders are strongly urged to use your helmets, buckle up, keep speeds in check and stay sober for the entire outing.

Also, please remember the new law which states you cannot operate an ATV with a passenger on a machine which was not originally manufactured for two or more people. One good way to know if your ATV was manufactured for two or more people is to look at the safety warnings on the machine or to look in your manual.

Operate with safety uppermost in your mind and have fun out there!

Last Update: Sep 06, 2020 1:38 pm CDT

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