Prompted by an issue with signage for The Sno-Eagles Snowmobile Club on a trail in Vilas County, the county forestry, recreation and land committee began looking at changing its policy for ads on county land last week. If changes are approved, much of the signage currently in place throughout land owned by the Vilas County government would be on stronger legal ground in the future.
"The ordinance we have in place says any sign needs to be authorized before it is put up," Vilas County forest administrator John Gagnon said. "The second part of this ordinance says there can be no solicitation on county forest land and no advertising, it has been this way since '80s. The Sno-Eagles had their signs flagged as a violation and they asked to be put on the agenda for discussion at our meeting. So today, what we need to do is talk and see what needs to be done."
Club president Howard Wolf told the committee the club would be happy to adjust the signs on the trails they maintain in order to comply with county rules, but there was division within the committee on what should be done regarding signs and overall policy for advertising.
"We're a tourist area, we make the majority of our living from tourism," committee member and county board chairman Ron DeBruyne said. "If tourists can't find their way around our recreational opportunities, they're going to be very upset. I have no problem with this, we can either chastise these folks for putting up signs or we can change the ordinance to reflect the reality of our world."
"I appreciate this issue being brought forward," supervisor Jay Verhulst said. "I would like to see whoever is deriving revenue from this come forward and tell us how they think it ought to be and lets see if we can't come to some sort of mutual agreement. We need to have some kind of mutual understanding which is clear and concise for everyone."
Ultimately, the committee took no action on the signs for The Sno-Eagles Snowmobile Club and directed Gagnon and county parks and recreation administrator Dale Mayo to work with county corporate counsel to develop a new policy for the committee to review in the future. For Gagnon, this was the right call.
"This is county forrest land," he said. "When it is county land, we should be the ones to put forward policy."
Evan J. Pretzer may be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.