Sophia council members have been trying to deal with the influx of ATV riders for months, especially because of the newly opened Burning Rock Off-Road Park.

Thursday, council members passed a first reading to make Sophia more “ATV friendly” despite the fact the town recently learned it can’t reap too many benefits from more riders on the Burning Rock trail.

By becoming more ATV friendly, the ordinance will be amended to allow the vehicles on town streets as long as they are on designated streets traveling at a speed limit of 5 mph. The ordinance prohibits joyriding on streets and riders must still obey all state and town traffic laws. A second reading will be held at the next council meeting.

“It was unanimous with the council to make (Sophia) ATV friendly,” council member John Fanary said. “With southern West Virginia being an ATV friendly place, we didn’t want to look like the outcasts.”

The town ordinance still enforces almost all state ATV laws, including the use of safety equipment for riders, titles for all ATVs, adult supervision for riders under the age of 16 and operation of ATVs only from sunrise to sunset.

Sophia Police Chief Tim Sweeney said the amendment has nothing to do with Burning Rock because the trail, an approximate 8,000-acre area located near Tams Mountain, has its own ordinances that are enforced by Burning Rock rangers.

Sweeney added what people don’t know is that there are several entrances to Burning Rock from different areas, but trail officials are not allowing the entrance or exit of riders to the trailhead unless it is at the Tams entrance, meaning little access to Sophia.

Because of these trail rules, Sweeney said the town attempted to work with Burning Rock to gain access to the trail but was shut down. Still, he said allowing ATVs on Sophia’s streets would benefit residents who wish to operate ATVs in city limits.

“As long as they obey the law, which is basically what the state law is, riders will be fine,” Sweeney said. “We want it to be where you’re not scared to ride.”

Sherry Hatfield, Sophia town recorder, presided over the meeting in the absence of Mayor Harry Taylor, who was sick throughout the day. She said the complete amendment would be available to residents at the Sophia Town Hall in the next few days.

In other business, a motion was passed to hand over the operation and management of the sewer plant in town to the Crab Orchard Public Service District until a special town election to sell or to keep the sewer plant. No date for the election was given.

Council also said it would look into getting signs posted throughout town keeping trucks from using jake brakes because of the noise it is causing.

— E-mail: bdalek@register-herald.com

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