Miles of ORV ready trails – are you riding?

Schulz: Copper Country trails are every ORV riders’ dream. Don’t take it for granted.

The Keweenaw County ATV Club grader.

It’s a saying we have all heard throughout our lives, “you don’t know how good you have it, till it’s gone.”  Some use it as a reference to a parent or family member.  Some use that phrase for material possessions and some employers use it when they lose an employee.

In the Copper Country, it’s a phrase we could easily use for the recreational opportunities right outside our doors.  The phrase, “you don’t know how good you have it till it’s gone” is truly apropos when it comes to the off-road vehicle and snowmobile trails.

It’s a motorsport enthusiasts’ dream to have the trails we have, yet so many of those that live here take them for granted.  If only many of our Copper Country residents knew what our visitors know.  One would think it’s our residents that would be the first to talk about the beauty of the forests, the history of our area, and the quality of our trails.

Yet it is those that come up to the Keweenaw to ride, that are our area’s best promoters.  They are the individuals and groups that ‘brag’ about the ride and view from Brockway.  It is the riders from Southern Wisconsin that talk about the trek from Greenland to South Range, and the ride over the historic Bill Nichols trestles. 

It is common for the groups from the Twin Cities in Minnesota (not the Twin Cities of Houghton and Hancock) that are intrigued by an ORV trail right through the City of Hancock. Then they get the cameras out to take pictures of the “End of the World” signs and old Copper Mining buildings.

While our residents take all this for granted, those that live elsewhere trailer their ORVS many miles to reach a 10 mile loop.  It’s common for our visitors to be surprised by the feeling of seclusion while riding to Eagle Harbor, when their concept of a “forest” is the city park surrounded by skyscrapers and apartment buildings.

Some visitors may look at the shores of Lake Superior in Eagle River, as if they have never seen a lakeshore without 25 cottages 100 feet apart from each other.  While our visitors cross 10 bridges every day to go to work, they are intrigued by our historic Portage Lake lift bridge.

With all the work the volunteers of the Keweenaw ATV Club and Keweenaw Snowmobile Club does throughout the year, our visitors think the trails and trail signing was dropped out of the sky.  Those visiting and riding our trails often forget that they are enjoying the beauty and quality of our trails that are done by a few volunteers.  One has to remember that many visitors come from Cities that have more people in a few square miles than we have in 100 miles.

We take it for granted that we’ll always have the ORV and Snowmobile Trails, and that they will always be safe and fun to ride.  Many businesses actually assume that our clubs are making so much money that they don’t need to support the Trail Clubs.  They don’t realize that the Keweenaw ATV Club and ORV clubs throughout the State of Michigan are paid two times a year.

They get paid per mile of Michigan DNR designated ORV Trails to brush, sign, and get the trails ready for summer.  That work has to be done before Memorial Day.  They then get paid for a trail maintenance run in the fall.  That’s all they get paid.  Think about it, two times a year.

Yes, the DNR chooses certain sections of a trail to be graded.  This is a decision done by the DNR, however it is not every trail it is done by equipment/contractors approved under strict DNR guidelines. 

The Keweenaw ATV Club does have its own grader.  They maintain the trail above and beyond what the DNR reimburses the club for with the ads of volunteers.  They are able to afford this upkeep through money the club gets from fund-raising and through membership.  Funds are also made available through business sponsorships on sections of trail. 

It is some businesses that take this maintenance for granted.  It is possible some residents that ride the trails take for granted that those trails will always be there.  What is hard to believe, it is even some of those in local, county and state government positions that take for granted that the revenue generated by the motorsport community will always be there.

What will happen when the volunteers simply get too old to be able to dig holes for signs, or clear the trails after a storm?  What will happen when special interest groups opposed to motorsports suggest the government to restrict motorized recreation?  What will happen when large tracts of land are purchased by people that don’t want the ORV and snowmobile trails to go through their property?

While many of us take it for granted that none of this will ever happen, the actual chance of losing all that we have right now may become reality.  When it does, then our grandchildren will hear us say, “we didn’t know how good we had it, till it was gone.”

Get involved and join the Keweenaw ATV Club and Keweenaw Snowmobile Club.  You don’t have to do much, just volunteering a few days a year really helps. Businesses please join those organizations, sponsor a section of trail.  Government officials make sure you support keeping our trails open to Motorized recreation.

Don’t forget to take advantage of having some of the best ORV trails in the entire Midwest, by purchasing an ORV, or renting an ORV.


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