Time to ride

Keweenaw motorsport trails gear up for summer season

Photo courtesy of Skip Schulz The ‘P’ Trail was originally built by the Michigan National Guard, US Army Reserve, US Forest Service, and one of the first ORV Clubs in the State of Michigan, TRALE-UP. When TRALE-UP disbanded in 2000, Mi-TRALE was formed in 2001. The P Trail goes from Greenland to Bergland.

While off road vehicle trails have been open for a month, this coming weekend is the first weekend where riders from all over the Midwest will be converging on the Copper Country trails.

This is the weekend that those fortunate enough to have reserved an ORV to rent will see why our area remains as one of the TOP ORV Destinations throughout the Midwest.

What makes our area such a popular place to ride is an inter-connecting network of trails. We have an ORV Trail System that one can actually start in Northern Wisconsin and ride clear to Copper Harbor. Our ORV Trail System provides the opportunity to do short ‘loops,’ or tour the area with 50-150 mile rides.

What some may not realize is that it is our area that was one of the leaders in ORV Riding, legislation, and signage. Not just signage of trails, but our area was the first to change ‘Snowmobile Crossing’ signs on Highways to ‘Trail Crossing’ signs. This is where both snowmobiles and ORV cross the highway.

Some trivia information for you…the first Road sign to change from Snowmobile Crossing to Trail Crossing is on the Norwich Road in Ontonagon County. It was the foresight of volunteers of Mi-TRALE that initially pushed the County Road Commission to change the road signs, then met up with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Michigan Department of Transportation to change the signs.

“This was done to warn those on the roads that an ORV Crossing and a Snowmobile Crossing is approaching,” stated one of the founders of Mi-TRALE.

It was 20 years ago that the same original members of Mi-TRALE patiently worked on a specific ORV trail signage program. With many snowmobile trails not open to ORV Riding, these volunteers wanted a positive approach to designating which trail are open to ORV’s, and which ones were reserved exclusively for snowmobiles.

That ORV trail signage program was based on the DNR black arrow on a white background. Using the same color combination, but using one or two letters. The letters are black on a white background. This has the best contrast from April through November.

With the Michigan Snowmobile (and now) ORV Association pushing for a law prohibiting the use of an ORV on any groomed snowmobile trail, when there is sufficient snow, the black on white is easily seen by ORV Riders. The ‘Alpha’ ORV trail signage program was to be initiated in the Upper Peninsula last year. It is in combination with GPS Markings at road crossings, and three different icons depicting which ‘type’ of ORV can legally be ridden on the trails.

The icons depict the ‘straddle seat’ ATV (50″ and less), the SXS, and the full Size 4 WD.

What many people also may not know is our area was one of the first to have County Commissioners and County Road Commissions allow ORV’s on county roads. A few years later, the State of Michigan opened up the right for county and local government to allow ORV’s on certain county and local roads. The state law did not open all county and local roads to ORV’s. One has to ask local authorities as to which roads are open and which roads are closed to ORV’s.

It was volunteers from the Western UP that worked closely with the late State Senator Tom Casperson to have a major change in Michigan state law. That was for MDOT and the MDNR to open select State and Federal Highway right of ways and bridges to be open to ORV’s. This is only in limited places and only for the ORV rider to connect to an ORV Trail.

In addition to all this, it was with the hard work of the volunteers of the Keweenaw ATV Club, Keweenaw Snowmobile Club, Keweenaw Trails Commission in working closely with the DNR, this area was able to get over 20 million dollars to repair trails damaged by the 2018 Father’s Day Flood.

That work continues this very moment. That funding would not have happened if it wasn’t for the different user groups working together.

On top of all the accomplishments our area has done to become a premier ORV trail destination, we have the excellent cooperation of The Nature Conservancy (TNC) in keeping ORV trails open on the recent TNC land purchase. All of us in the ORV Community cannot thank Emily Clegg of the TNC enough for keeping the Copper Country a trails destination.

Whom also has done so much to make our area such a great place to ride is Ron Yesney of the Michigan DNR. This reporter has known Mr. Yesney for close to two decades. During all the ‘up’s and downs’ of the Motorsport Trail Sport, Yesney has continued to be a solid voice in the DNR for ORV’s and Snowmobiles.

With all that this area has done to build an excellent ORV trail system, get out and ride this Memorial Day weekend!


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