MARINETTE — The Titletown Jeepers, a club based in Abrams, wants to establish off-highway vehicle (OHV) trails on portions of Marinette County land for the first time, a letter from a representative of the organization told the county board’s Infrastructure Committee last Wednesday. 

“This letter is to inform you that our club, Titletown Jeepers, is fully committed to making public OHV trails succeed in Marinette County,” Garrick Roland, the club’s secretary, said in letter to county officials included in a presentation to the committee. “Titletown Jeepers has been building trails on private property for years putting our time, money and resources in to trails that can only be accessed during events.

“We are ready to commit everything we have  to make public OHV trails a reality. Minnesota and Michigan have OHV trails and sticker programs. OHV trails in Wisconsin are long overdue and Wisconsin is missing out on a recreational opportunity. Titletown Jeers would love the opportunity to partner with Marinette County and build the first public OHV trails in the state.”

Bob Heroux of Titletown Jeepers explained to the committee that OHVs are a vehicle designed for off-road use, but can be driven legally on highways. He said they include Jeeps, SUVs and pick-up trucks, and not ATVs, UTVs or snowmobiles, and are street legal, registered and insured with no tractor tires, open heads and tube buggies.

“These aren’t monster trucks, they’re identified by stickers, you’ll see these everyday dropping kids off at school,” he said.

Heroux said trails can range from a quarter-mile to miles, include obstacles such as rocks and elevation changes, and are approximately 10-feet to 30-feet wide. He said because of the obstacles and challenges, they have bypasses for less capable vehicles. 

“We build and maintain trails with volunteers,” he said. “We have years of experience in building trails.”

Heroux said the club carries liability insurance for work days, that trail builder Jeeps are identified by stickers and that chainsaw users are certified.

He said he has been meeting for about two years with Forestry Administrator Pete Villas and his assistant, Marcus Isaccson, looking over possible sites for OHV trails and said that “we’re looking for 400 to 1,000 acres.”

He said a possible location for a parking and camping site was found on Shrine Road, east of Goodman and north of U.S. 8 that would require “little to no work.”

Heroux said rangers, wardens and volunteers could enforce rules and regulations, keep non-OHVs of off the trails, keep OHVs on the trails and maintain communication between the user group and law enforcement. He added that the trails could be easily identifiable with maps available to everyone.

He said the main benefit to Marinette County would be tourism such as attracting more people to gas stations, bars and restaurants, campgrounds and forests and utilizing unused quarry rocks.

Heroux said there would be very little cost to the county, outside of assisting with maps and website updates, that allowing trails on land would be easily reversible and that the club would supply preliminary signs before metal ones are installed.

“Some will get shot, some will get vandalized,” he said. “The Jeep club will pay for it (the new signs). It doesn’t have to come out of the county’s pocket.”

He said that public OHV trails are are “long overdue, Michigan and Minnesota have OHV programs, Wisconsin is missing out. We want to put in public trails that everybody can use.”

Heroux said there’s no set size to trails, that they can be looped back and forth. 

“The whole section across Shrine Road, we could weave miles and miles of trails through there, and it doesn’t close it off to everybody else,” Heroux said. “This is open to everybody. We just access to our trails.”

“There’s some pristine trout fishing and some of the best deer in Marinette County in that area,” said Supervisor Al Mans, committee chairperson. “How do you think that OHV trails would affect those sites?”

Heroux said the club stays away from wetlands, creeks and rivers and noted that some club members are certified by the DNR to create trails.

“If a trail starts to get too worn out, they shut it down and they don’t use that section of trail (until its repaired),” Villas said. 

Heroux said the Titletown Jeepers Club would be open to the trails being closed during deer hunting season.

“We have nothing as a bargaining chip, we’ll take six to nine months of trails versus no trails,” he said. “If you want to close the trails for hunting from September to January we’re fine with that.”

The committee voted 5-0 to authorize the Forestry Department to identify specific areas to create OHV trails on forestlands to present to the committee for further consideration.

“This would be a very good economic builder for the county,” Mans said. “If you wanted to have a national or some other kind of event this would be a very good economic builder.”