SPRINGFIELD — A plan to require special permits for most all-terrain vehicles in Illinois has been scuttled amid concerns the program wasn't ready for prime time.
The Illinois Department of Natural Resources announced this week it would not require off-highway vehicle owners to purchase the $15 stamp until further notice.
The last-minute delay is designed to give lawmakers time to consider tweaking the law to further clarify who has to buy the permits.
"This is a good faith move on our part to make sure all the rules are in place before OHV (off-highway vehicle) riders are required to purchase a stamp," Natural Resources chief Marc Miller said in a statement.
The change is the latest hiccup to occur at the department in recent weeks. Three top administrators have resigned or been placed on leave in the past month. A spokeswoman for Gov. Pat Quinn, however, said the governor stands by Miller's performance.
The new fee for all-terrain vehicles was approved by lawmakers last year and was set to go into effect April 1.
The law had called for the department to begin selling the permits on Jan. 1, but agency spokesman Chris Young said no stamps were issued.
The law had caused confusion because it exempted some types of off-road vehicles but not others.
For example, although John Deere Gator-type vehicles used on farms were not required to have permits, similar vehicles used for hunting or trail riding, including certain types of motorcycles, were covered under the law.
The law also covered golf carts used in certain types of situations, but the Department of Natural Resources had written rules designed to exempt them from the permitting system.
Money from the program — combined with an estimated $1 million in federal matching grants — tentatively was earmarked to develop parks and trails for use by off-highway vehicles. Unlike other states, Illinois does not have a designated riding park.
Miller said the delay will allow officials to better develop a plan to build a trail system.
"We also will use this time to seek additional public input as we begin to develop an off-highway riding program in Illinois," he said.
State Rep. Frank Mautino, D-Spring Valley, said he supports the delay because of the confusion and the need to offer riders a place to use their machines.
"There should be a closer tie to having a sticker and having access to a public area to ride," said Mautino, who sponsored the original law.
It is unclear how long the delay will last.