5/4/05 Draft VI
social conflict with other forest users and with adjacent private landowners and well as a perception that any way capable of travel by an ORV is open to ORV use. Even with “closed unless posted open” rules in effect, there are considerable problems with ORV damage to public lands and trespass and damage to private lands adjacent to public lands as reported by DNR field staff. Conversely, in the UP, there are significant regional differences that make it more appropriate to provide more flexibility with ORV use. First, population levels and density are much lower in the UP, reducing the potential for social conflict. Second, there are larger, contiguous blocks of public land further reducing the chances for social conflict and trespass. Third, UP vehicular traffic volume is less, therebypromoting operator safety.
Fiscal implications of maintaining this policy should be minimal.
Encourage compliance by local units of government with the current ORV law regarding designated ORV trail/route/area access along streets and highways under its jurisdiction (as described in section 324.81131 of Public Act 451 of 1994 as amended) that limits ORV use along locally managed streets and highways to that which meets the requirements of the state comprehensive ORV system plan providing access to the designated system.
Rationale is that of the 33 county road commission managers in the UP and the NLP that responded to a 2004 survey done as part of this ORV plan update effort, 17 did not allow ORV use on any road shoulders, 10 allowed ORV use on all county road shoulders and 6 on some road shoulders. Of those who allowed some or no access to county roads, key concerns were liability, safety of ORV and other motor vehicle operators and occupants and additional road maintenance costs. Of those who allowed full access to all county road shoulders, key supporting rationale was that it promoted tourism, assisted agriculture, had the support of many local people and it complemented road shoulders already open to snowmobile use. Based on many DNR field reports in the NLP, coupled with recent ORV damage pictures (submitted by DNR staff) on public lands away from the designated trail system, DNR field personnel assert that unrestricted ORV access to county roads and/or shoulders in the NLP significantly contributes to illegal ORV use of public lands away from the designated trail/route/area system. This is in contrast to experiences reported in counties with targeted links from the ORV trail system to goods and services in towns. There, positive tourism benefits were noted and environmental damage on public lands away from the designated system was less.
Counties need to be cognizant of the definition of gross negligence “conduct so reckless as to demonstrate a substantial lack of concern for whether an injury results” (324.81131.4 MCL) and the variable quality of county roadways and their shoulders in their designations.
How riding on road shoulders relates to rider safety is not fully understood. The Michigan Office of Highway Safety notes that during 1994-2003, a total of 2,528 ORV/ATV accidents occurred on Michigan roadways. Better data about ORV fatalities and injury accidents in Michigan is needed.