Open the roads
Last week's deliberation by county and township officials, police departments, tourism related businesses and dealers of off-road vehicles in regard to opening county roads to ORV use was constructive if for no other reason than that concerns were aired. Of all of the concerns aired we didn't hear of any that should necessarily prevent the county and townships from opening more roads to ORV use.
In the Upper Peninsula all of the woods roads and trails are open to ORVs, and that is a big draw for tourism. At one particular park we are familiar with, it is not unusual to see camps with 10 people and 10 ORVs per site. The Lower Peninsula ORV riders are restricted to designated trails; a person living a block off the lake is breaking the law if an ORV is ridden to the lake for ice fishing. In the Upper Peninsula ORVs can be ridden along the edge of the road to get to frozen lakes for fishing.
ORV riders enjoy their sport just as much as snowmobilers, but unlike snowmobilers they are restricted to designated trails. We understand the reasoning for some restrictions, but there must be an avenue for compromise that would enable ORV riders to enjoy some of the freedoms their snowmobile enthusiasts enjoy. Designating certain roads for ORV use that would allow ORV riders access to both trails and conveniences like gas stations or restaurants, could help the local economy while also protecting the natural resources. Cooperatively working to designate the routes as well as opening up new areas for ORV use could be a big stimulus to the local economy.
Proper signage and maps of trails and roads open to ORV use as well as relaxing some of the rules for riding to the ice in winter would be welcomed by many residents and visiting ORV enthusiasts. It is necessary for the county to become as appealing as possible to attract new businesses, and new revenue in our communities.
Roscommon County has an opportunity that should receive serious consideration. Developing an advisory committee to study increasing ORV trails and access to the communities should be a priority.