It’s off-road vehicle season, and the Silver Lake Sand Dunes are open.
But you will notice some changes if you go to the state park to ride on the dunes. The first change comes as soon as people pull up to the state park. You will notice an entrance experiment.
“This experiment is a change in our traffic flow different from what we’ve normally done for many years,” said Jody Johnston, Park Manager of Silver Lake State Park.
You probably sat in a long line to get onto the dunes if you’ve ventured to Silver Lake State Park, especially on the weekend.
“Nobody wants to sit in a traffic jam or wait any longer, especially when it’s 90 degrees outside the sun, beaten down, you’re in a jeep with the top off and the air conditioning is not working very well for Jeep with the top off,” said Johnston.
The DNR is trying to change that. If your vehicle is dune ready, meaning flag in the right spot, tire pressure down, and the proper stickers, you will go to the safety checkpoint in a fast track lane.
“The goal of the visitor here is to get up into the sand dunes, enjoy the dunes, the beach, the water, the things we have out there, not wait in line,” said Johnston.
Once you’re on the dunes, you will also notice something new emergency identification markers.
“In the past, individuals, especially first-timers, that have come here not knowing the layout of the Off-Road Vehicle area would call, and they would say things like, “we’re over by the water, we can see the water from where we’re at by the big dune,” and really you can see Lake Michigan for many high points in the Off-Road Vehicle area. So that led to a lot of confusion over the years,” said Caleb Davidson, Lead Park Ranger, Silver Lake State Park.
There are 43 markers throughout the dunes, specifically in areas where most ORV accidents happen.
“We want to provide a safe and enjoyable recreation opportunity for all of our visitors, and that’ll help us to expedite our response times and other first responders’ response times.
ORV riders agree with the emergency identification markers.
“It’s a really good idea, obviously, with kids, you know, being as safe as possible on the dunes,” said Alan Raymond, ORV Enthusiast.
The changes come as DNR says there has been an uptick in visitors over the last couple of years.
“My favorite part is the people meeting new people, talking to new individuals about their machines, and just providing that experience to our guests and hoping that they pass that on to their children. So their children can enjoy this, too, in the future,” said Davidson.
“It’s just getting away from work, you know, spending quality time with the people we love and it’s beautiful here,” said Raymond.
The DNR says if the entrance experiment goes well this season, they plan to add a permanent dune-ready express lane.
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