Find Your Michigan State Representative - click here
Find Your Michigan State Senator - click here
Senate Bill 68 - Bad News for Michigan's ORV Trail System
April 1, 2013 There is something very important going on in Lansing right now that may drastically and forever change our motorized trail system as we know it.
On January 24, 2013, Senator Geoff Hansen (firstname.lastname@example.org) introduced Senate Bill 68, a bill that has become known as the "Polaris Bill." In short, one of the objectives of SB 68 is to change the definition of an ORV as currently defined by Michigan statute 324.81101, and to change the width of our designated trails from 50 inches to 65 inches. The end goal is to hog out our trails to accommodate larger units, primarily the Polaris Razor.
There are several critical concerns we have regarding Senator Hansen's proposed changes:
1. Safety. With increased trail width comes increased trail speeds. And since our designated trails allow for two-way traffic, the potential for high speed head-on collisions will be greatly increased. And for reasons that can only be described as self-serving, Polaris is resistant to having their Razor relegated to using the already established 7000 miles of ORV Routes that are 72 inches in width, and forest roads and county roads now open under PA 240. Polaris is concerned about its Razor sharing trails with larger vehicles like Jeeps and full-sized trucks, but is not at all concerned about their 1400 pound Razor sharing trails with kids on units weighing less than 150 pounds!
2. Money. The time and expense needed to convert existing 50 inch trail to 65 inches. The way trails are currently laid out would also change. Meandering, winding trails would be made straighter and many trees would need to be cut down to accommodate the much longer wheelbase of the Razor and its limited turning radius. The trail riding experience many have come to know and appreciate will forever be gone. Our motorcycle-only trail will also be in jeopardy.
Manpower. Another significant challenge will be manpower. Currently the DNR issues grants to clubs and organizations who maintain designated trails throughout the state. It is then up to those clubs and organizations (like the CCC) to provide the manpower needed to complete the work. The work required to make the necessary changes to widen the trails would be both financially overwhelming and beyond the means of our current collective group of trail maintainers and volunteers.
4. Closures. Abundant trail riding opportunities currently exist with our roughly 3,600 mile trail system that was championed by the CCC beginning in 1969. This trail system has worked and improved over its 45 year history, offering a riding experience like no other. New trail has recently been opened in the Upper Peninsula specifically for larger UTV and side-by-side units, and with the enactment of PA 240, even more riding opportunities have been created for all riders, including those on the larger units. However, all this may be in jeopardy if our current trail system is changed. Increases in ground speed will increase the potential for serious injuries and fatalities and lack of grant money and manpower to maintain trail may become legitimate reasons for trail closures.
These are the most pressing concerns with SB 68, though not all of our concerns. If you also have concerns about Senator Hansen's Senate Bill 68, please contact your Senator and House Representative as soon as possible as this bill will be scheduled for hearing in upcoming months. If passed, irreparable changes to what many consider the greatest trail system on the Earth will soon begin. You may also wish to let Senator Hansen know your thoughts on his proposed legislation, and possibly Polaris, as they are the driving force pushing this legislation forward through its lobbying efforts. If this information about widening trails sounds familiar, you are correct. Polaris has been pushing to change legislation in many states for many years with the intended purpose of creating trails to accommodate their interests instead of manufacturing units that complying with existing state laws and regulations. Lastly, please also consider letting the Senate Outdoor Recreation and Tourism Committee know your thoughts as their decision will determine whether this bill proceeds for a vote before the state Senate.
Our collective voices can make a difference and preserve the greatest trail system on Earth and we encourage you to act soon!
Various links are provided below:
Link to Senate Bill 68:
www.legislature.mi.gov/ Search for SB-0068 (Please see page 6, line 2 for the language in question)
Senate Outdoor Recreation and Tourism Committee:
email@example.com Harrison Twp.
If you have additional questions or comments, please contact the CCC's Executive Director, Lewis Shuler, via email firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 517-781-4805.
Public Act 240 Information
Specific rules from county to county may vary. It is every ORV user's responsibility to know the date of implementation, which roads may be open to ORV travel, ORV speed limits or other details associated with each county and their respective ordinances. GET LOCAL INFORMATION BEFORE RIDING!
BASIC QUESTIONS REGARDING PA 240
Now that Public Act 240 is law, does that mean I can now operate an ORV on the road?
No. You may not operate your ORV on a public street or road until your county, city, village or township adopts an ordinance allowing it.
What roads are covered?
County and municipal roads and streets. State and federal highways, roads and trails are not included.
What counties may open their roads to ORVs?
Only counties in the northern Lower Peninsula and the Upper Peninsula may open their roads to ORVs. This includes Mason, Lake, Osceola, Clare, Gladwin, Arenac, Bay and any county to the north of those counties. Roughly, this is any county including or north of M-10. Huron, Midland and Isabella are not included.
Are existing county ORV ordinances still valid?
The law providing for access routes established with the consent of the DNR or unilaterally established by some counties is repealed. Consequently, local governments must re-adopt ordinances under the new law if they wish to provide for the operation of ORVs on their roads or streets.
Does the bill include golf carts?
FOR LOCAL GOVERNMENTS
What is the process for adopting a county ORV ordinance?
The county clerk must send notice of a public hearing on a proposed ordinance by certified mail to the county road commission and to the DNR (only is state forestland is located in the county) at least 45 days before the public hearing held by the county board of commissioners. However, the county board of commissioners is not obligated to abide by any recommendation of the county road commission or the DNR in adopting an ordinance.
What authority does the county road commission have?
A county road commission may close up to 30% of the linear miles of roads in the county to ORVs in response to a particular and demonstrable threat to public safety or to protect the environment. The 30% applies to the total linear miles of county roads, not 30% of the linear miles of roads open to ORVs.
What authority do cities, villages and townships have?
A city or village may open or close its streets to ORVs at any time. No notification to other agencies or units of government is required. A township may close its streets or roads to the operation of ORVs that were opened by the township or county at any time with no notification to other agencies or units of government. If the county does not adopt an ORV ordinance including a particular township, that township may adopt its own ORV ordinance no sooner than 1 year following the effective date of the act. Notification is the same as required of the county except that the notification period is shortened to 30 days.
What liability do local governments have?
Local governments do not have a duty to maintain roads or streets in a condition safe and convenient for the operation of ORVs except as otherwise required by law. Local governments are immune from tort liability except for gross negligence (conduct so reckless as to demonstrate a substantial lack of concern for whether an injury results).
What is the ORV fund?
The treasurer of the local unit of government adopting an ORV ordinance shall establish a fund to receive fines and damages imposed as a result of violations of the ordinance. The legislative body of that local unit shall appropriate 50% of the revenue in the fund to the county sheriff or local police department for ORV enforcement and training. The legislative body of that local unit shall appropriate the remaining 50% to the county road commission or local public works office (city and village only) for repairing damage to the environment, roads, streets or other public property caused by ORVs and/or to post signs indicating ORV speed limits or whether a road or street is open or closed to ORVs.
What are the general operating standards?
Operation must be to the far right of the maintained portion of the road or street. An ORV may not be operated against the flow of traffic. The maximum speed of operation is 25 mph unless a lower speed limit has been posted. An ORV may not interfere with other traffic on the road or street. ORVs must travel single file except when passing.
Are headlights/taillights required to operate an ORV on a road or street?
Prior to January 1, 2010 a person must display a lighted headlight and taillight when visibility is reduced. Beginning January 1, 2010, any ORV operating on the road at any time must display a lighted headlight and taillight.
What are the permitted hours of operation?
Operation is permitted at all hours. A lighted headlight and taillight must be used from 1/2 hour after sunset to 1/2 hour before sunrise.
How old does a child have to be to operate an ORV on a road?
A person under age 12 may not operate an ORV on a street or road. A child age 12, 13, 14 and 15 may operate an ORV on a road under the direct visual supervision of an adult and has in their immediate possession and ORV safety certificate. Children younger than 16 may not operate a 3-wheeled ORV or an ORV wider than 60" on a road. A child age 16 or 17 may operate without direct visual supervision provided they have a valid drivers license and an ORV safety certificate in their possession. Michigan will recognize an ORV safety certificate issued by other state or a province of Canada.
Who is at fault in the event of an accident?
In the event an ORV is in an accident with another vehicle legally permitted to operate on the road or street, the owner of the ORV shall be considered prima facia negligent. The owner of an ORV does not qualify for no-fault/PIP benefits in the event of a single vehicle accident or an accident with another ORV.
What is the penalty for violating an ORV ordinance?
The penalty is a municipal civil infraction with a fine of not more than $500 and/or damages to repair any damage to the environment, street, road or other public property. The fine and damages shall be deposited into a local ORV fund.
What is the penalty for creating an erosive condition or violating state environmental law?
The penalty is a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for not more than 90 days and/or a fine of not less than $250 or more than $1000 for each violation.