ESCANABA - The Sportsman's Off-Road Vehicle Association of Delta County welcomed spring by holding their first meeting of the year last week. They're excited and plan on making this their biggest year with several positive things happening locally in the off-road sport.
Beginning last year, SORVA joined with the USFS in the Hiawatha National Forest to provide courtesy patrols. Several members participated and rode the trail system within the Hiawatha to assist in the distribution of the new trail and route maps for the western complex.
Participants also advised other riders of new regulation changes and are trained in basic first-aid. All members of SORVA are encouraged to participate.
A highly visible vest marked with "Courtesy Patrol" is provided by the USFS.
This will be the first year anyone riding an All Terrain Vehicle will be able to take full advantage of the new County ORV/ATV Ordinance passed by the Delta County Commission last summer and reviewed for possible closures by the Delta County Road Commission.
The Commission has authority to close up to 30 percent of the road system for safety concerns.
So far, the only areas off-limits for riding along county roads are those in Wells Township east of County Road 426. That includes the roadway along and just north of New Page.
The Danforth Hill area is also closed to ORV/ATV use. It had been part of the total package but the south bound side of the roadway does not allow for safety concerns because it is too narrow to accommodate regular traffic with recreational riders, and it also creates a blind spot for south bound street vehicles that would restrict reaction time.
There are plans to expand access to the Danforth area. A new route from the Dump Road area through M.3 Lane in Danforth has been proposed as the alternate route.
The only other possible closure will be on 18th Road in the vicinity of the Soo Hill School. The Road Commission has some safety concerns with the use of ATVs in the area while school is in session.
There are also a number of cars angle parked along the road that would potentially have riders closer to traffic. A compromise has been tentatively reached that will restrict hours of operation in the area while school is in session.
Delta County SORVA has also again adopted the Norway Trail for maintenance and is planning on several monthly group rides. Here members are encouraged to include family and friends on rides and teach our young riders the proper riding technique and ORV etiquette. It is our duty to ride responsibly, stay on designated trails and routes, and take care of our environment.
The first ORV/ATV state sanctioned safety class of the season was completed March 22 with 38 students receiving certification. The next class is slated for late April or early May and will be posted two weeks prior so the public can register.
The safety training program is sponsored by the DNR and Michigan Sheriff's Association and is provided free of charge.
Rob Katona, Upper Peninsula District Trails Analyst for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR), made a presentation at the meeting updating the club on the progress of an abandoned rail corridor purchased by the Michigan Department of Transportation that may be considered for use as a multiple-use trail, possibly connecting Esscanaba to Hermansville, depending on the outcome of future public meetings and input from the public.
If the establishment of the multiple-use "Hermanaba Trail" occurs, then we will pursue the establishment of a trail head, possibly at the U.P. State Fairgrounds, where permission has already been obtained. Furthermore, trail construction such as bridge decking and surface improvements would occur after an engineering study is completed.
A public meeting has been scheduled for those who have interest in the "Hermanaba" to speak openly and express concerns. It has been slated for May 6 at Bay de Noc Community College at 6:30 p.m. The room location will be announced later.
Part of the long-term goals of the DNR and SORVA is to allow inter-city access points to motels, fuel stations and restaurants. They are working with the City of Escanaba on accomplishing this concept.
Anyone with questions about the planned trail can contact Katona (906-228-6561) or by e-mail: Katonar@michigan.gov.
Interested parties can also find information on the SORVA web-site: www.sorvadc.com. You can also register as a member of SORVA. Membership dues per year are: Single $10., Family $15. and Business $20 (and includes web-site link).
There is also a plan to construct a practical skills track near the DNR Education Center in the Pocket Park on the fairgrounds. It will follow recommended skill challenges outlined in the teaching criteria. SORVA will sponsor the track and provide adult assistance for Safety Rodeos.
The rodeos will be held periodically and will be open to the public. They will not be part of the required safety class.
Lastly, SORVA reminds the public that Michigan ORV/ATV license stickers expired March 31 and remain $16.25 annually.
Tim Kobasic is the outdoors editor for KMB Broadcasting and host/producer for Tails & Trails Outdoor Radio, aired on six radio stations over three networks, Charter Communications cable and the Internet on Saturday mornings.