Stay on course with safety while off-roading

By: Eric Czarnik | C&G Newspapers | Published May 26, 2015

 It is important for drivers to stay on approved trails or your could be subject to a ticket.

It is important for drivers to stay on approved trails or your could be subject to a ticket.

The thrill of riding off road in a Jeep or truck might not have as many obstacles as some think.

Hollie Marlett, marketing assistant at Genesee County Parks, said The Mounds Off Road Vehicle Area in Mt. Morris Township is frequently used for off-road treks by Jeeps, trucks, ATVs and dirt bikes that fit under the umbrella of off-road vehicles, or ORVs.

She said the course is quite popular in the area and is one of the few larger areas with variety.

“People talk about either coming here or coming to Silver Lake Sand Dunes (in Hart, Michigan),” she said. “It is wooded, hilly and sand. There’s a little bit of everything.”

A scramble area with mud pits and moguls is set aside at The Mounds for the smaller vehicles like ATVs and bikes, she said.

Harry Rissley, vice president of the Great Lakes Four Wheel Drive Association, said the Michigan Department of Natural Resources issues out ORV permits to operators who want to drive on eligible county roads, national forest roads and other places that are not on private land. He added that the DNR issues ORV trail permits for using “designated and signed ORV trails, routes and scramble areas,” as mentioned on the state’s website.

Rissley said rock climbing on some ORV trails means that vehicles have to move at a crawl speed. Also, vehicles may suffer some surface damage while driving off road.

“Most of the trails are tree/bush-lined and you’re sure to get a scratch or two on your rig,” he said. “If you have a rig that is new and you don’t want to damage it, you may want to reconsider off-roading.”

Drivers should also stay on approved trails, he said.

“If you are caught on a trail that is not marked or designated for an off-road vehicle, you could be subject to a ticket,” Rissley said. “Tread lightly, leave the trail as you found it, don’t go off tearing up hills or areas beyond the trails.”

John Morey, ORV and snowmobile coordinator for the Michigan DNR’s law enforcement division, said ORVs typically operate on uneven, rough or wet terrain.

He said drivers should be familiar with the vehicle and should wear safety equipment such as seat belts and even a helmet. He also said passengers should know how to brace themselves inside the vehicle by placing feet flat on the floor, keeping their backs against the seat and gripping passenger handles above the window or on the dash.

Morey said novice operators would benefit from taking a training course. “Also, I would encourage riding with an experienced operator a time or two before they go on their own,” he said.

Find out more about The Mounds Off Road Vehicle Area in Mt. Morris Township by visiting www.themounds.org or by calling (800) 648-7275. Learn about the Great Lakes Four Wheel Drive Association by visiting www.glfwda.org. Learn more about off-roading in Michigan by visiting www.michigan.org/off-road-vehicles.