ST. JOSEPH COUNTY, Mich. — St. Joseph County is looking into an ordinance to allow off-road vehicles and all terrain vehicles on county roads. The ordinance would put in place restrictions on speed limits, what types of roads can be traveled and how, and other safety and vehicle requirements.
St. Joseph County Road Commission manager John Lindsey said the development of an ordinance is in it’s initial stages right now, but there’s two groups of people they have in mind who would benefit from the ordinance passing: farmers and outdoor recreators.
“We know there's ORV traffic out on the roads, farmers use them a lot. It's just one of those situations we're looking at from the county level. I don't think we have any major objections," Lindsey said.
The decision will ultimately be up to the county commission on what restrictions to put in place, and then to pass said ordinance, but Lindsey and the road commission expect to have significant input.
“We have input for what will be good ORV roads and what will not,” Lindsey said. “There's always concern for safety, that is our single biggest concern is the safety of the motoring public.”
The commission is looking to model the ordinance after other similar ordinances in Michigan, like the one in Midland County passed in 2011. That ordinance requires anyone operating a vehicle to have a valid license, set the max speed at 25 miles per hour, require lights on vehicles and helmets on riders, and states that “an ORV may be operated only with the flow of traffic on the far right of the maintained portion of (certain county roads.)
County commissioner Alan Balog said the County is looking to allow ORVs and ATVs on all county roads, and allow them on state and federal highways for crossing purposes only. He said more than half of Michigan’s counties have ATV ordinances, mostly in the northern part of the state.
Riders like Randy Delley, 40, of Three Rivers, would love more freedom to ride his ORV closer to home.
"We have a nATV that we're not able to use too much in Michigan, unless we go clear up north, so if they were to legalize that on the road in some way, that would be great, I'd love it,” Delley said.
The ordinance is in its early stages of development, and no date for a public hearing has been set.