Courtesy of Tim Kobasic (HTA's Resource/Political Representative)
All Rights Reserved

“2014 ATV/ORV Riding Season Underway”

While a lot of people had already been out enjoying riding their Off-Road Vehicles (ORVs) since the snow has subsided, the historic jump in use happens in May. This year it means more than usage as the regulatory side (a work in progress) implements changes for 2014.

There have been a lot of inquiries about the new license structure.
The base rate for an ORV, used on public land open for use, has been raised from $16.25 to $26.25. If you ride state forest roads, county roads and now the “M” highways, the base sticker is required.

If you also travel on the designated trails, an additional $10.00 license is required. You must purchase both if you ride both, although the trail license can be obtained at a later date, again provided you had previously purchased the base tag. Neither license is transferable.

The revenue generated from license sales goes to a protected fund and can only be spent under specific criteria, reinvested into the trail system. All but $1.25 per license sold is earmarked for the account that deals with riding improvements. $1.00 is set aside for safety education and $0.25 as a vendor commission.

The rest of the money is set up for trails improvement and maintenance grants (for the clubs that sponsor the individual trails), damage restoration grants, law enforcement (including contracted patrols) and trail improvement (expansion) grants. The percentage of distribution is the same as it was at the former rate. The actual dollars realized this fiscal year are projected given that some sales took place before the legal change and there was a slow end to winter.

It is also anticipated that there may be as much as a 10% drop in sales for 2014, reflecting an historic trend seen in the first year of a license fee increase. The study also indicates many of those number rebound in the second year.

Michigan has four times done an analysis of the ORV use and users statewide. The last one, completed in 2010, was done by the Department of Community, Agriculture, Recreation and Resource Studies of Michigan State University, under the leadership of Dr. Charles M. Nelson, Associate Professor. The study detailed the demographics of ownership and breakdown of vehicle type.

According to the Executive Summary, All-Terrain Vehicles (ATVs), single passenger straddle seat vehicles, make up approximately 67% of licenses sold. Two-wheeled motorcycles make up 14% with the remaining 19% classified as multi-passenger vehicles that include the side-by-side (S/S) ORVs and combine Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs) of which most are also street legal. It should also be noted that most recent industry new sales numbers indicate that the use of the S/S-ORVs are now at par with the straddle seat version.

The study also indicated that the primary reasons for users to purchase ATVs/ORVs was for trail/scramble area riding (38%), hunting (trapping) and fishing (26%), use as a utility vehicle on private land (25%), non-prioritized combination of these uses (5%), local transportation (4%) and compensation for disability (4%).

ATV/ORV users generated approximately $1.1 million in state motor fuel taxes annually and $700,000 in state sales taxes. No fuel or sales tax revenues directly fund the Michigan ORV program. This is a point of contention for many users and will require a statutory change by the legislature for it to happen.

Over half (54%) of the ORV riders who use public land were from out of the region of residence, with 83% being Michigan residents and 17% non-residents. An intriguing number of the (1.8 million) trips by residents is that 93% were by license from the southern Lower Peninsula (SLP) going to the northern Lower Peninsula or the Upper Peninsula (UP).

This equates into big tourism dollars locally with $143 million (22%) in trip spending which includes $31.46 million in travel expense and $111.54 million in the local area where motorized riding occurred. In destination areas, grocery, lodging and restaurant/bar expenditures accounted for 64% of the destination area spending.

The State of Michigan is also in the process of not only expanding the motorized trail system, there is also an equal effort to connect existing trails and make our state an end destination for those who use their vacation/recreational time and money to ride.

The detailed focus changes of the motorized riding sport and management in Michigan continues to evolve. The intent is to improve what we have and keep ATV/ORV riding as a self-sufficient, safe and environmentally friendly activity so it can remain a key part of outdoor recreation for future generations to enjoy.

This aspect of the MDNR budget proposal is currently under consideration by the Michigan Legislature. It is supported for passage by the thousands of volunteer sponsors that play a significant role in maintaining the ability of motorized riding sport in our state.