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Sheriff's Survey Backfires, Bringing ATV Proponents One Step Closer to Repeal

HERNANDO – The results are in and residents opposing a ban on ATVs are one step closer to taking back their rights to travel on certain roadways.

Last month, Commissioner Steve Champion went to bat for residents living in Royal Highlands and northwest Weeki Wachee in support of repealing an ordinance that prohibited ATVs from being operated on unpaved roads.

During a Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) meeting in April of 2023, Commissioners Beth Narverud, Jerry Campbell, Brian Hawkins, and John Allocco voted to ban ATVs on unpaved roadways due to complaints about some riders destroying property. Despite the decision, Champion made it very clear that the ordinance did not coincide with conservative values and that it was an attack on basic freedoms.

Following the decision, Sheriff Al Nienhuis began an operation to stop riders and issue citations to anyone caught violating the ordinance. But residents became furious when Nienhuis began using the agency's helicopter, UTVs, and drones to issue non-criminal citations, so they decided to speak out.

During a BOCC meeting last month, Champion once again raised concerns over the ban and requested a reconsideration of the ordinance. Several residents also spoke publicly in favor of repealing the ordinance.

Sheriff Al Nienhuis openly supports the ban and even touted efforts to stop and issue citations to young operators who normally would be allowed with adult supervision. During last year's meeting, Sgt. Matt Lillibridge spoke on behalf of Nienhuis, telling board members that 90% of the ATV operators are causing problems.

To try and justify his enforcement efforts, Nienhuis mailed out 13,857 surveys to residents living in northwest Hernando County. Despite several technical issues with a QR code and numerous residents claiming they never received the survey, Nienhuis collected the data and released it this evening.

The questions were as follows:

𝗤𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻 𝟭 – 𝗔𝗧𝗩 𝗘𝗻𝗳𝗼𝗿𝗰𝗲𝗺𝗲𝗻𝘁

...is exactly where it needs to be (no change needed). 253

...needs to be decreased (there should be less ATV traffic stops/citations). 888

...needs to be increased (there should be more ATV traffic stops/citations). 585

I have no opinion on this subject. 73

Total Responses: 1799

𝗤𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻 𝟮 – 𝗣𝗲𝗿𝘀𝗼𝗻𝗮𝗹 𝗦𝘁𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 𝗼𝗻 𝗔𝗧𝗩 𝗢𝗽𝗲𝗿𝗮𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻

...should be allowed on certain county unpaved roads (legal from 2017-2023). 1180

...should NOT be allowed on certain county unpaved roads (current law). 566

No opinion on whether off-road vehicles should be allowed on county dirt roads. 53

Total Responses: 1799

Today's survey does not change the law, but it is a step towards persuading commissioners to reconsider their earlier decisions and repeal the current ban.

The BOCC is expected to vote on the ordinance in the coming weeks.

R News reached out to Sheriff Nienhuis and Commissioners Allocco, Narverud, and Campbell, and Hawkins, but Commissioner Champion is the only one to respond. Champion said, "This is exactly what I expected. Americans cherish their freedoms."


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