GRTA holds all-terrain vehicle safety course


June 17, 2019

Bryan Hellios/Daily Globe

CERTIFIED ATV instructors Deborah Fergus and Bill Lafond demonstrate the hand signal indicating the rider is slowing down. The safety certification class was offered courtesy of the Gogebic Range Trail Authority.


Ironwood - The Gogebic Range Trail Authority held an all-terrain vehicle safety course on Saturday at Gogebic Community College.

Deborah Fergus, certified Instructor through the Michigan's Department of Natural Resources, stressed to a class of 13 the importance of riding safely and respectively so trails will remain open.

"If you go downstate below the bridge, you can not ride like we ride up here," she said.

Many roads in the upper peninsula can be used by ATVs Fergus explained as she told the class about the advantages of living in an are where the trails are a real "jewel."

"If we disrespect that jewel, if we don't take care of the environment and we don't take care of the landowners," she said. "they can just say 'well, OK, no longer.'"

Issues arise when riders blaze their own trail to avoid hazards, which causes damage to the landowner's property.

Fergus said operating an ATV on public byways is a privilege that comes with responsibility.

The class learned outdoor ethics to preserve the environment by remembering the acronym T.R.E.A.D. (travel responsibly, respect the rights of others, educate yourself, avoid sensitive areas, do your part.)

Since children under 16 in Michigan need to have a parent present while riding, Fergus said she would like to see more parents attend the course.

"We would hope that more parents come and join their children," she said.

Bill Lafond, trustee of the GRTA and certified instructor, said new riders need to slow down and learn to abide by the rules.

"They have to use common sense," he said. "For the most part they all do it."

Lafond said the course allows students to see the overall safe operation of an ATV in a structured setting. He also said when experienced riders teach the course, they can share their own personal experiences with the class so new riders know to expect the unexpected.

"We've pushed a person (in a car) off a snowmobile trail last year," he said. "She was following the GPS in the ski hills and the GPS brought her on to our trail system."

Nevaeh Landon is 13-years-old and said she has been driving a four-wheeler since she was 10.

"I sometimes go out to camp with my family, but I don't ever drive out there," she said. "I just drive in front of my house."

Getting ATV certified will give Landon the opportunity to drive on trails with her family.

Landon said driving an ATV for a someone under 16 is kinda like driving a car because she can travel to places she wants to go.

"It just feels like I can get out and do stuff and be free," she said.


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