County amends ORV ordinance with new regulations

LAKE COUNTY – Off-road vehicle enthusiasts will be facing a different set of regulations this spring.

The Lake County Board of Commissioners has amended the county ORV ordinance. The new regulations went into effect on April 1.

The major changes include that a golf cart is now under the county ORV definition, that all ORV’s must have a lighted headlight at all times and ORV’s now have more freedom to drive on county roads.

The ordinance changes the definition of maintained portion of the road to be “ the portion of the road improved, designated or ordinarily used for vehicular traffic and does not include within its meaning the shoulder or right-of-way.”

The ordinance allows these activities during the period between April 1 and November 30.

Lake County Chamber of Commerce President Rick Delamater says the new ordinance will allow ORV riders more flexibility in getting to the trails.

“Before, riders would have to load up their ORV’s and drive them to these pre-designated parking lots and have to fight for spots,” he said. “Now they can drive on the main roads to get to the trails and that makes it easier.”

Lake County Sheriff Robert Hilts said in the few days since the ordinance has gone into effect, the Sheriff’s Department has not had any issues with it yet.

“All we’re asking is for people to ride safely and ride prudently,” Hilts said. “We just don’t want anybody getting hurt and don’t want people tearing up the roads.”

“We have a lot of injuries out on the trails, so we just want people to be safe.”

Accessibility to the trails has been an issue since a snow and windstorm in early March, but Baldwin/White Cloud District Ranger Les Russell of the Huron-Manistee National Forests said that should not be an issue.

“The condition of the trails change from week to week,” he said. “But most, if not all, are ready to go.”

“We are going to start soon systematically opening the parks and they should all be open by the middle of April.”

The ordinance continues to prohibit ORV riders from riding on any state or federal highway, including M-37 and US 10.

With the fact that now ORV riders will be able to ride on main roads, Hilts said that all drivers will have to be more careful.

“Now automobile drivers have to be more attentive,” Hilts said. “And of course ORV riders have to obey all traffic and safety laws.”

The whole Lake County ORV ordinance can be view at the county website, www.lakecounty-michigan.com.