DNR urges boating and ORV safety over holiday weekend

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- DNR News -

May 22, 2020

As many people plan to enjoy the outdoors over the Memorial Day holiday weekend, the Department of Natural Resources is sharing some tips and guidelines for off-road vehicle and boating safety. More safety information on a variety of outdoor activities is available on the DNR's Education and Safety webpage. It's important to follow COVID-19 public health and social distancing guidelines, too, keeping at least 6 feet between yourself and those outside your household.

ORV riders reminded to stay on trails, other approved routes

ruts and damage caused by off-roading at wetlands in Otsego County

Keeping off-road vehicles on designated trails and routes is important throughout the entire season, but especially during holiday weekends when greater usage is expected. To help ensure rider safety and minimize possible damage to trails and surrounding areas, the DNR will increase conservation officer patrols along the trails, reminding riders to 'Ride Right.'

In past seasons, ORV riders operating in undesignated areas has been an issue that conservation officers are working to curtail. Last May, a group trail ride involving about 45 ORVs resulted in irreparable damage to state wetlands in Otsego County. The group leaders guided the participating ORVs off Geronimo’s Trail and through portions of Frenchman Creek and into surrounding wetlands.

Conservation Officers Charlie Jones (who patrols Kalkaska County) and Kyle Cherry (who patrols Otsego County) helped investigate that off-roading incident.

“In Otsego County, like in many other counties throughout the state, ORV riders can ride the shoulder of most county roads,” Cherry said. “It is critical – for their own and others’ safety, and for the protection of the environment – that ORV riders follow posted signs, stick only to designated trails and approved routes, and avoid areas that are closed to off-road use.”

DNR Law Enforcement Division Chief Gary Hagler said the department wants the public to enjoy the hundreds of miles of designated off-road trails, but to do so safely and responsibly.

“We know most ORV enthusiasts respect the rules and value Michigan’s natural resources,” Hagler said. “However, we cannot tolerate negligent behavior that puts people and the environment at risk. Every rider is responsible for knowing where they can and cannot ride. Our officers will be on hand to help answer questions and assist riders over the busy holiday weekend.”

Earlier this month, the DNR shared ORV safety tips and cautions related to limited trail maintenance, too. For more information on the "Ride Right" campaign and trail closures, maps and safety, visit Michigan.gov/ORVInfo.

Questions? Contact: Lt. James Gorno, 989-732-3541

The above photo shows damage caused by off-roading into a wetlands area in Otsego County last year.

Plan for safety on the water this holiday weekend

side view of a man kayaking

It’s a sobering statistic. The U.S. Coast Guard’s most recent boating safety data indicates that approximately 84 percent of people who drowned were not wearing life jackets.

As people get ready to take out their boats, kayaks, canoes and other watercraft for the Memorial Day holiday weekend, the DNR reminds everyone to brush up on boating safety before leaving shore.

“Make sure you have all of the appropriate safety equipment on board your vessel, including an appropriate life jacket for each person,” said Lt. Tom Wanless, who manages the DNR's recreational safety, education and enforcement programs. “Kayakers and canoers are also required to have life jackets.”

Michigan’s high water levels make the use of life jackets even more critical, because they can help someone stay afloat if suddenly stuck in a strong current or riptide or navigating through debris beneath the water’s surface, including rocks, downed trees or submerged piers.

Check on Great Lakes swimming and beach conditions, learn about the flag warning system and get tips on escaping currents at Michigan.gov/BeachSafety

Proper safety education is an important factor, too. The National Safe Boating Council reports that most boating-related deaths occurred on boats operated by people who had not received boating safety instruction. Operator inattention, improper lookout, operator inexperience, machinery failure and excessive speed rank as the top five primary contributing factors in accidents, while alcohol use is the leading known contributing factor in fatal boating accidents.

In Michigan, boater safety certificates are needed by anyone born after June 30, 1996, operating a motorized boat, or anyone born after Dec. 31, 1978, operating a personal watercraft – like a Jet Ski. Most states require a boater safety certificate for boat or personal watercraft rentals.

You can earn your boating, hunting, snowmobile or ORV safety certificate online at Michigan.gov/RecreationalSafety.

Questions? Contact: Lt. Tom Wanless, 517-284-6026

DNR COVID-19 RESPONSE: For details on affected DNR facilities and services, visit this webpage. Follow state actions and guidelines at Michigan.gov/Coronavirus.

Census 2020