IRONWOOD — Local leaders spoke in support of a bill that would allow off-road vehicles to cross certain bridges and access state highways through a videoconference Thursday at Gogebic Community College.
State Sen. Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba, set up videoconference locations across the Upper Peninsula to allow citizens to weigh in on Senate Bill 50 during a meeting of the Senate Natural Resources, Environment and Great Lakes Committee.
Casperson introduced the bill with hopes that the legislation would help connect ORV trails and allow riders to reach tourist attractions and towns for food and fuel.
Wakefield Township supervisor John Cox spoke in support of the bill from GCC, saying that it would help “bridge the gaps” in the ATV trail system.
“Allowing the use of state trunk lines to connect these gaps in our trail system certainly will expand the use of the trails so that the ATV experience can be longer and more enjoyable by allowing loop itineraries, versus having to turn around and return on the same route,” Cox said.
County boards and the Michigan Department of Transportation would have to approve the improved ORV highway access provisions of the legislation.
To help boost the number of ORV riders, the bill would also create an ORV free sticker weekend and make changes to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ group event permit process.
“Our (Wakefield Township) Board (of Supervisors) strongly supports economic development,” Cox said. “Motels, ORV dealers, gas stations, restaurants and their supporting businesses will benefit from increased ORV use.”
Kim Kolesar, of the Western U.P. Trail Association, also spoke in support, and said that connecting trails and offering free riding weekends would allow ORV enthusiasts to “sample” area riding places and encourage return trips.
“We need to send a message that our area and state is ORV- friendly and open for business,” Kolesar said.
Cox cited declining populations across the area, and said this bill could help reverse those numbers.
“In addition to offering job opportunities, recreational opportunities are very important to people in where they may choose to live,” Cox said. “We want the very best working people and people that participate in the betterment of our area to locate here. Outdoor sports will offer another opportunity, and this legislation will give us the tools to make this area more attractive to potential newcomers.”
For more information on the bill, contact Casperson’s office at 517-373-7840.