ORV group pleased with new statutes

MARQUETTE – An area off-road vehicle group is happy with laws recently signed by Gov. Rick Snyder that will help support ORV travel in the Upper Peninsula and across the state.

“Our club is pleased with the passage of these legislative bills,” said Don Heisel, president of the Michigan Trails and Recreation Alliance of Land and the Environment.

MI-TRALE was involved with the legislation from the first draft and worked closely with state Sen. Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba, to bring it to a successful conclusion.

“We are grateful that when asked for input on these issues, we were able to provide same,” said Donna Wolf, MI-TRALE communications coordinator in a news release.

Public Act 117 concerns the criteria and deadlines that the Michigan Department of Transportation will have to respond to local government requests for permission to allow ORVs to travel on the shoulders of state highways where necessary to connect existing ORV networks.

Upon approval of such right-of-way requests, local governments will be able to adopt an ordinance permitting that travel. Local governments across the state will now have the option of also opening their own roads to such access.

This also lets MDOT decide whether to allow ORV shoulder-riding on designated highways, not including interstates, and establishes criteria for the designation of highways. MDOT is able to designate right-of-way use on its own prior to Jan. 1, 2015, without receiving a local government’s request.

“We know that, in particular, the right-of-way legislation addressed in PA 117 will be of immeasurable help in connecting towns along, and close to, our trails,” Heisel said. “This will give our riding guests so many more riding options and access to additional services, such as food, lodging and fuel, provided by more of our western U.P. communities.”

Heisel said MI-TRALE expects the new law “will give a wonderful boost to the dollar total of tourism revenue.”

Wolf said it “is of the utmost importance to realize” that while the bill is now signed into law, this does not mean that ORV riders can travel along the side of any highway at will.

“Right-of-way passage rights must be applied for in specified areas, subsequently approved and signed for mixed traffic and routing, before any such travel is legal,” the release stated.

Public Act 118 allows all Michigan counties to seek ORV road access, where previously only select counties in the U.P. had that privilege. The bill also contains numerous requirements for safe operation of ORVs.

Public Act 119 allows the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to establish at least two free riding days per year, provides for interstate ORV license reciprocity and also allows the DNR to exempt certain events from needing a permit.

MI-TRALE officials said the law also provides liability reform allowing volunteers in ORV organizations to work on trails.

“The specifics of PA 119 that allow for the easing of event permit restrictions and the establishment of free riding days, grants more flexibility in the responsible promotion of tourism to the DNR,” Heisel said. “MI-TRALE is looking forward to working together with the DNR in this endeavor. We expect that these measures will also increase the influx of tourist dollars to our area.”

To keep posted on the progress MI-TRALE makes with the opportunities the new laws provide, visit the group’s website at www.mi-trale.org.

John Pepin can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206.