County adopts off road vehicle ordinance changes

LAKE COUNTY - There were sure to be changes.

When local officials discussed opening up roadways to Off Road Vehicle (ORV) traffic last year, there was largely support for the move, promoted by the state legislature as a means to generate more interest in local recreational tourism around the state.

There also were also plenty of detractors for the plan.

Whatever the case, a panel of Lake County residents and officials spent months figuring out the ‘how,’ ‘why’ and ‘where’ of the proposed ORV ordinance.

The result of months and months of discussion and consideration was the Lake County ORV Ordinance unanimously approved by County Commissioners with language and map laying down just where ORV owners can ride their machines and the enforcement policy backing up this new law.

“I believe the results of what we have in the ordinance today largely reflect what would have happened if the county had left the discussion wholly to the townships,” reported commissioner and ORV panel member Larry Collier in an interview last year upon passage of the ordinance.

“The biggest advantage there is in the county being involved is that there is now one ordinance with common language county-wide, and that single ordinance will be policed and enforcement by the Lake County Sheriff’s Department.

“The other option, not having a unified ordinance, would have meant there would be 15 different ordinances needing to be individually enforced.”

The approved ordinance was the first legislation the county ever had to regulate the use of ORV’s

At the time it was noted the ordinance would be reviewed throughout the winter and again later to see how things actually worked out and where there may have been issues or problems.

In the first version of the ORV ordinance, roughly half the county was closed to ORV riders - Sweetwater, Cherry Valley, Yates, Pleasant Plains, Lake, Webber and Elk were closed.

Sauble had two roads open to ORV riders.

In the remaining townships, county roads were open to ORV use with the exception of 22 individual roads that were closed by the Road Commission because of safety or environmental issues.

U.S. 10 and M 37 are closed to ORV use and were never under discussion.

It’s very important to note that all U.S. Forest Service and DNR tracks and trails remain closed. County officials have no jurisdiction over those roadways.

The Lake County ordinance only covers county roads.

After a review of the past year and how things worked out on the roads, a number of changes have been made to the LC ORV Ordinance.

“The amended ORV Ordinance and map was approved by the Board of Commissioners at the March 23 meeting,” reported Collier.

Major changes for 2011 are:

•The minimum fine has been reduced to $175;

•Throughout the “open” townships parts of roads previously closed are now open;

•Irons Road from 7 Mile Road to 7 1/2 Mile Road is now closed to ORV traffic. (It had previously been open) and;

•Most roads in Cherry Valley, Sauble and Webber townships are now “open.”

“The 2011 ORV Ordinance and map will be posted on the Lake County website www.lakecounty-michigan.com and the Lake County Road Commission website www.lcrc-roads.com,” said Collier.