New ORV Law Could Have Significant Impact on N. Michigan Tourism

A new law is going to give ORV users access to a lot more roads.

They’ll soon be able to ride on state forest roads in the Lower Peninsula, giving them free range to 500 miles more than before.

Governor Snyder just signed it into law a few days ago, and the ORV community is getting pretty excited about it.

“Our group has been talking about it for years in our meetings, that we wish we could get to use the forest roads,” said Mark Roper of the Benzie County ORV/ATV Club.

Now, ORV users won’t have to wish anymore.

“Anytime they can have a different trail and a more scenic route to do something, they’re always going to love to do that,” Roper said.

It’s a move that’s expected to increase tourism in Michigan.

The Benzie County ORV/ATV Club says they’re hoping to see signs designating what’s usable and what isn’t.

“We do have a state snowmobile trail in our community, but we don’t have a state ORV trail in our community,” Roper explained. “With that, signage creates a problem.”

As an ORV user, it can be pretty hard to tell the difference between county roads and forest roads, so the Department of Natural Resources is hoping to get more signage to help drivers know the difference.

“The biggest concern we have is that folks may go off these forest roads and go in areas where they shouldn’t be, such as wetlands and streams,” explained Todd Neiss, Recreation Specialist at Cadillac’s DNR post.

The DNR is working on signs to clarify what’s off limits.

“There will be some that will be closed based on habitat and wildlife considerations, so it’s up to us to map these forest roads and determine which ones are best suited to be open and which should be closed,” Neiss said. “It’s going to provide much more riding opportunity, should be clearer as to where you can and can’t ride, and I think it will promote the area.”

The state forest roads will not open to ORVs for general use until the end of 2017.

However, people can use an ATV or horse to recover game this upcoming hunting season if the road or trail is currently open, according to Bill Sponsor Triston Cole (R). People cannot ride to their deer blinds. 

Right now, the DNR is working to draw trail maps and add more signs to the trails.