Sen. VanderWall’s bill would allow non-certified police to patrol ORV trails

September 30, 2022

Sen. VanderWall’s bill would allow non-certified police to patrol ORV trails

By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief

LANSING — The Michigan legislature is currently considering a bill, introduced by Sen. Curt VanderWall (R-Ludington) that would eliminate the need for police officers to be certified in order to patrol state off road vehicle (ORV) trails. 

The bipartisan Senate Bill No. 1003 was introduced on April 12, 2022 by senators VanderWall and fellow Republicans Douglas Wozniak and Kevin Daley and Democrat Adam Hollier. It would amend Public Act 451 of 1991, known as the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act and would add language that would authorize enforcement of the law by a sheriff’s deputy who has completed at least 40 hours of law enforcement training, including training specific to the ORV law or a village or township marshal. 

Currently, the act does allow for non-certified police officers to patrol waterways and snowmobile trails, but not ORV trails. A certified police officer is someone who has completed the training standards established by the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards. 

“I realized the need to change this law after speaking with Sheriff Rich Martin of Lake County,” VanderWall said. “It makes sense that the law be consistent with patrolling of snowmobile trails and waterways.” 

Sheriff Martin said Lake County has a full-time recreational patrol sergeant, Robert Meyers. The remainder of recreation patrols are reliant on seasonal and/or part-time deputies. “It’s always a problem finding part-timers,” Martin said. “We have recreational deputies but it’s a challenge to hire part-time certified officers.” 

Mason County Sheriff Kim Cole, who is the president of the Michigan Sheriffs’ Association, testified Wednesday, Sept. 28, in front of the Michigan House of Representatives’ Judiciary Committee. Cole said while there are only a few miles of state motorcycle trails in Mason County, the law impacts other counties, especially Lake County and several counties in the Upper Peninsula. 

“ORV trails are busiest in the summer,” Cole told MCP. “This is also the same time most Michigan roads are busiest. Pulling certified deputies off the roads to patrol ORV trails reduces the amount of deputies who are keeping the citizens safe on the roadways. At any given time, there are only two to four deputies patrolling Mason County and I know our neighboring counties are similar. In the UP, there are some sheriff’s offices that only have a total of four or five deputies to patrol those areas seven days a week and ORV patrols occupy a lot of their time.” 

Cole said Mason County is able to add 60 hours of waterway coverage each summer because it employs four non-certified deputies. 

The bill passed the Senate, 351-38 on June 23 and is going through committees in House of Representatives. If it passes, it will require ORV patrol deputies to take a minimum of 40 hours of training, which is typically conducted in-house. The bill is expected to reach the House floor in November. 

Sheriff Cole said Mason County Sheriff’s Office conducts a 40 hour in-house academy for marine patrol each year. The academy is mandatory for returning and new deputies who will be working marine patrol. Sheriff Martin said Lake County Sheriff’s Office also plans to hold its own marine patrol academy and would likely have an academy that would cover all the aspects of recreation patrols: marine, snowmobiles and ORVs. 

Martin emphasized that one of the key roles of a recreation deputy is to educate the public about following the laws and about operating their vehicles safely. 

“Non of us want to hand out tickets,” Martin said. “We want people to follow the rules. They were put in place to keep people safe. We have worked with the Manistee Forest ORV Club that spends a lot of time educating the public. They help offset many of our patrols, which has been great.” 

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