Riders asked to ‘tread lightly’

With the increasing use of off-road vehicles as a fun, summer activity, conservation officers are encouraging riders to observe the “TREAD Lightly” program to promote responsible riding.

“The TREAD Lightly program promotes outdoor ethics for ORV riders,” said Lt. Andrew Turner, who leads the Michigan DNR’s recreation safety program. “Conservation officers are out on the trails on public land to enforce the ORV laws, and many of those laws and regulations are in place not only to protect the riders but to protect public land as well.”

The program encourages riders to:

Travel responsibly on roads and trails in permitted areas.

– Stay on designated trails. Don’t blaze new trails.

– Travel only in areas open to your type of vehicle.

– Drive over obstacles to avoid widening trails.

– Do not cross streams or operate in wetlands.

– Comply with all signs and respect barriers.

– Don’t mix riding with alcohol or drugs.

Respect the rights of others, including private property owners and all recreational trail users, campers and others.

– Slow down around crowds and in camping areas.

– Never operate on private land without permission.

– Yield the right-of-way when you meet others on the trails.

– Steer clear of wild animals and avoid disturbing livestock.

– Minimize noise and avoid creating dust.

Educate yourself by obtaining travel maps and regulations from public agencies and knowing how to use and operate your equipment safely.

– Get maps that show the area where you plan to ride.

– Learn about the regulations governing ORVs in the area.

– Make sure your ORV is properly licensed if operating anywhere off private land. A Michigan ORV license costs $26.25. If riding on state-designated trails, a $10 trails permit also is required.

Avoid sensitive areas such as meadows, lakeshores, wetlands and streams.

– Stay on designated trails and routes.

– Avoid sensitive habitats.

– Stay out of designated wilderness areas.

Do your part to leave the area better than you found it – properly dispose of waste, minimize the use of fire, avoid the spread of invasive species and restore degraded areas.

– Practice minimum-impact camping.

– Equip your vehicle with a spark arrestor.

– Before and after you ride, wash your vehicle to reduce the spread of invasive species.

“If all riders could make an effort to follow the TREAD Lightly program, we would have fewer violations and less damage to Michigan’s natural resources,” Turner said. “That means more dollars could be invested in growing the trail system rather than repairing damaged areas.”

To legally operate an ORV in Michigan, drivers under the age of 16 are required to have a safety training certificate and be under the supervision of an adult. Students who are unable to attend traditional ORV classroom instruction may take an online safety course. Michigan students have two options for an online course: www.atvcourse.com/usa/michigan/ or www.offroad-ed.com/michigan/. More details are available on each site.

For a complete overview of ORV rules and regulations in Michigan, go to the Michigan ORV Handbook online at www.offroad-ed.com/michigan/handbook/book.html. For more information on ORV license fees in Michigan, go to www.michigan.gov/dnr.

In Wisconsin, ATV and UTV operators born on or after Jan. 1, 1988, who are at least 12 years old for ATV (and at least 16 years old for UTV) must complete an ATV and UTV safety certification course in order to operate on public ATV/UTV trails and areas. More information is available at dnr.wi.gov/topic/atv/.