By ANJANA SCHROEDER
Capital News Service
LANSING – Northern Michigan local governments may soon be able to authorize off-road vehicle (ORV) regulations and ordinances.
Rep. Joel Johnson, R-Clare, said he is trying to make it easier for ORV riders to use the designated trail systems within the counties in northern Michigan.
The proposal would allow local governments to adopt ordinances to permit ORV riders to avoid the long detours between designated ORV routes.
Riders could either drive on shoulders of state trunk line highways or local governments could authorize connections on dislocated segments of ORV trails in certain northern roadways, including ones in Mason, Gladwin, Wexford and Crawford counties.
Johnson’s bill would give the state Transportation Department 60 days to decide if local governments could authorize such ordinances.
Current law for ORV operation varies in the Upper and Lower peninsulas.
In the Upper Peninsula, ORV riders can use designated trails and forest roads unless the road is posted closed. In the Lower Peninsula, riders are allowed on designated trails but only some forest roads, according to the Michigan handbook of ORV laws.
Riders with ORVs less than 50 inches wide can ride only on trails statewide.
Rep. Jon Bumstead, R-Newaygo, introduced a similar bill that would allow all local government to authorize ORVs to operate on the side of certain maintained roads statewide.
The chair of the Gladwin Board of Commissioners, Josh Reid, said his goal is to get local jurisdiction over ORV regulations.
Reid said, “I expect Johnson’s bill to pass but I don’t expect to get our entire wish list.”
In Mason County, Road Commission Managing Director Gary Dittmer said an ORV law five or six years ago allowed counties to pass countywide ordinances north of U.S. 10. The highway runs through the middle of Mason County and the county turned down the option, Dittmer said.
Since then, nine out of the 15 townships in Mason County passed ordinances to allow ORVs on all roadways as long as there is agreement from the road commission. Dittmer said the road commission favors it and only a couple minor accidents have happened.
Gladwin County Sheriff Michael Shea said there are no safety concerns about the proposed change from the law enforcement side and doesn’t think there will be many problems if it passes.
However, Shea said he personally doesn’t promote ORVs because “there should be some sort of identification on the vehicles and there is no insurance requirement to operate on the roadway.”
Tim Kobasic, a member of the Off-Road Vehicle Advisory Workgroup, said the legislation would “further expand the quantity and quality for off-road vehicle riders,” and that connecting all the trails will allow for longer trail rides.
The House passed Bumstead’s bill and it is awaiting Senate approval. It is in the Outdoor Recreation and Tourism Committee.
Johnson’s bill is in the House Natural Resources, Tourism and Outdoor Recreation Committee.
By ANJANA SCHROEDER