DNR To Invite Public Comment For Plan To Open State Forest Roads In Michigan

Thousands of miles of trails previously closed to off-road enthusiasts may soon be open.

First, the DNR is asking what you think.

The DNR plans to open all state forest roads to anyone who wants to use them.

First, they are inviting the public to voice their concerns.

9&10’s Cody Boyer and photojournalist Jeff Blakeman ventured out on Wexford County’s state forest roads to see how this plan would change things.

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Soon enough, cars won’t be the only ones allowed on state forest roads like this one.

The sounds of four-wheelers and other ORV’s will be joining them soon.

“By opening more areas for ORV enthusiasts to ride will have both economic benefits to local communities and just a way to get that segment of the population that uses ORVs to the woods,” says Bill Sterrett, DNR District Supervisor for the Western Lower Peninsula.

The plan stems off of a law enacted last September, saying all regional state forest roads will open unless the DNR designates them otherwise.

It’s a plan off-roaders like Bill Lucas could sink their treads into.

“The economic impact of being able to take 10, 15, 20 ATVs into town to have lunch at the local favorite restaurant is a huge impact to that little community,” Lucas says.

Bill has been snowmobiling down Wexford County’s forest roads and trails since 1972.

He has his concerns.

“Snowmobiling, for example, have about 50-percent of their trails are on private property,” Lucas says. “Those private property owners do not want ATVs on their trail in the summertime. The snowmobile leaves no track, no indication to the property. ATVs damage the property."

“Part of this is a question of balance,” Sterrett says. “How much are there certain areas we want to keep quieter or keep more usable for the folks who want to get out and walk a trail."

To avoid issues with private property, the DNR says there will be three public comment meetings.

“The public comment portion, I can’t stress enough, is huge to this,” Sterrett says. “This is the only way we are going to find out if we are on the right track here."

“Listen. Listen. Understand the limits,” Lucas says. “Understand the difference between a county road, a state forest road and a national forest road, because they are all treated differently."

The first public comment meeting is set for next Monday in at 5:30 p.m. at West Branch DNR Post.

The next meeting will be at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, June 20th at the Carl T. Johnson Center in Cadillac.

Finally, the third meeting be at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, June 21st at the Jay’s Sporting Goods in Gaylord.

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