By Sterling McGinn
Off road vehicles, or ORVs, are increasingly popular in the U.P. and, unfortunately, believed to be a root cause to damage on the side of Luce County roads.
When an ORV travels on the shoulder of the road, there’s generally only enough room for one side of the vehicle to travel off the road. The other side often chews up the edge of the asphalt.
Adjusting the current Luce County ORV ordinance was discussed at the April meeting of the Luce County Board of Commissioners.
“There has been a concern in what the ORVs have been doing to the shoulders, specifically on the county roads,” said Luce County Road Commission Engineer and Manager Stuart McTiver.
“Since we do not have wide enough gravel shoulders for them to run on, they are driving half on pavement, which has led to the deterioration of the edge of the pavement.”
The solution in some counties and townships is to allow ORVs to operate with all wheels on the pavement.
Deer Park resident Jim Brettner told the commission he is opposed to letting ORVs ride fully on the paved road.
Brettner represents ECORD of Luce County (Educating to Control Off Road Damage).
“We are not anti-ORV,” he said. “We saw a need to educate riders on the laws and ordinances of Luce County so they would not be fined for violations of those policies.”
Along with the occurring damage to the roads, Brettner listed safety concerns with ORVs travelling on paved roads.
“The manufacturers issue a safety warning in their manuals stating that driving on blacktop can cause serious injuries due to the off-road design of tires, their lower air pressure, and the fact that they have a live rear axle,” he said.
Then there’s the matter of speed. Currently, ORVs are limited to 25 miles per hour when on the shoulder of a blacktop road.
“The speed limit on most county roads for licensed vehicles—cars and trucks—is 55 mph,” Brettner said. “To approach ORVS in the traffic lane would be impeding the flow of traffic, especially when there are several in a row.”
The commission is considering a change that would force ORVs to travel to the right of center on maintained roads. Currently, they operate on the far right of the maintained portion. The commission is also considering increasing the speed limit to 35 mph, or lower in posted areas.
“For any of these changes, law enforcement would have to be on board,” McTiver said.
The last change would require ORVs be operate with all four wheels on paved roadways.
“This is merely suggested language just to get the conversations started,” said McTiver.
Though no board action was taken that evening, a committee including McTiver and Commissioner Brandon Wheeler will research the issue and discuss it again at the commission’s May meeting.
“I think we need a little more research in what the other counties are doing, and I would certainly like to get a law enforcement standpoint as well,” said Commission Chairperson Michelle Clark. “We need to get a concrete proposal before we even look at having a public hearing or anything like that.”
In other news, LMAS Health Department Director Nick Derusha presented the 2022 fiscal year annual report to the board. The fiscal year ran from October 1, 2021, to September 30, 2022.
“We did, at the department, focus a lot of our efforts at the start of the year on COVID-19,” said Derusha. “As the year went on, we were able to shift our resources back to our traditional public health programing.”
Derusha also highlighted some additions to the department, including expanded home visitation services to high-risk families, and launching a mobile laboratory unit.
“That unit will be out and about this summer providing services to some of our communities in the outlying areas,” Derusha said.
The health department also received funding to hire a social worker at Engadine Consolidated Schools.
Other additions to the services of the department included working with the jails in Alger and Schoolcraft counties, and working with the public opioid consortium.
In other business, the commission approved the 2023 equalization report and 2023 county millage rates.