- Associated Press - Monday, August 1, 2016

ROCHFORD, S.D. (AP) - Karli Schelhaas of Sioux Falls says the number of ATV riders in the Black Hills seems to grow exponentially every time she comes out to ride the trails in the summers.

She has been coming out a couple times a summer with friends for the last five years, the Rapid City Journal (https://bit.ly/2a5jRXV ) reported.

“We run into a bunch especially at the stops,” she said. “You don’t really see a lot of people on the trails, but we do when we are in town.”

But that is putting some serious stress on the little community of Rochford, where up to 50 ATV riders can fill town at once on the weekends.

Several Rochford residents are upset with the traffic, which caused limits to be imposed on a proposed ATV rental business and emotions to boil over when the permit came before the Pennington County Commission on Tuesday.

A lack of available parking and the noise from ATVs are the top complaints. The age of drivers, possible lack of licensing and drinking and driving are also big concerns.

“You’re the county, you’re the government out there, but there is no control over anything,” said resident Bert Mason at Tuesday’s Pennington County Commission meeting. “People do whatever they want.”

Mason was testifying in support of an appeal of a conditional use permit approved by the county Planning Commission for a proposed bicycle and ATV rental business in the old schoolhouse in Rochford.

Mason lives across the street, and said in his testimony that, as one of seven full-time residents in the town, he is fed up with the lack of parking and law enforcement.

“Do you know what it’s like to have an ATV rev and gun his engine within a foot of your front window or have them do cookies in your driveway or have large groups block your driveway making it a hassle just to get in and out of your property?” he asked.

He also noted that he has seen 9- and 10-year-old kids driving ATVs too fast and beers in cup holders on the vehicles as riders drive in and out of town.

Mason acknowledged the majority of the ATV people are, “nice and just out to have a good time,” but said the “sheer numbers in Rochford can be overwhelming.”

Riders gathering at Rochford on Wednesday acted friendly and said they were just trying to enjoy their vacations to the Black Hills.

Dana Rehder of Waukee, Iowa, has been coming here for the last four years with her husband, Jim, and said the number of ATVs has “exploded.”

They first came to the Black Hills for their honeymoon and returned with her sister and brother-in-law, Deb and Charlie Peck of Calumet, Iowa.

“I’m amazed at how big this place is,” Charlie said. “The trails are awesome out here. There is just so much versatility and variety.”

“Back home we have trails, but they are like 21 acres so you just go around and around the same trails,” Deb added.

The families are staying at Terry Peak near Lead and were in the Rochford area for lunch and a drink at the Moonshine Gulch Saloon.

“We always have to come to the Moonshine Gulch every year,” said Dana. “We just love this place.”

Dan Harn, whose mother owns the Moonshine Gulch, was working at the family business Wednesday and said not everyone in Rochford is upset by the explosion in ATV numbers.

“There has been huge growth for here,” Harn said. “It’s doubled every year for the last five years, and we sell them food and drinks.”

He said some of the people raising a fuss over the new business are families that have lived in the area for a long time and simply “don’t like change.”

But the concerned residents of Rochford and owner of the proposed business, Tod Schuetzle, came to an agreement to limit the number of ATV rentals at his shop to two vehicles.

However, the Pennington County Planning Commission did not limit the number of rentals.

“Why in the world, if the applicant agreed to two and the people agreed to two, why did the planning commission throw that out?” Commissioner Ron Buskerud asked Tuesday.

Cassie Bolstad, assistant planning director, said the motion to limit rentals was a tied vote, so it failed during the planning commission meeting.

Commissioner Nancy Trautman expressed concern about some ATV riders not following Pennington County’s ordinance and noted the Forest Service also is having problems with people creating their own trails.

The county commissioners on Tuesday ultimately voted to add the two-vehicle limit in approving the business permit.

Schuetzle agreed that there is an ATV problem in Rochford but said approving or rejecting his business is not going to take care of it.

“If you read the letters of appeal, which I really appreciate because I’m up in Rochford as well trying to enjoy the quietness … but we do have an ATV problem, and we do have a lot of illegal activity going on up there,” Schuetzle said Tuesday.

“So I think we have to address that issue, but my proposal of doing bicycle rentals and ATV rentals and a retail shop, if it gets denied, it doesn’t change the problems that are still occurring in Rochford, S.D.”

He said a lack of parking is a big deal right now, but with his 4.5 acres on a hill above and behind the schoolhouse, he should have plenty of space.

“There is lots of things we can do as a community,” Schuetzle said.

“We can put up signs, saying ‘Hey, this is our community, we respect you and please respect us.’ The 40 to 50 of them that are coming into town, I’m not part of that, so limiting me to two is not going to solve that problem.”


Information from: Rapid City Journal, https://www.rapidcityjournal.com

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2021 The Washington Times, LLC.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide