260 people attend ORV workshop

January 12, 2015
dune meeting - 1

A massive crowd attended the workshop at the former Golden Elementary School in Mears regarding the Silver State Park ORV area.

By Allison Scarbrough. OCP Editor.

MEARS — Approximately 260 people attended a “Silver Lake Off-Road Vehicle Area (SLORVA) Workshop” Monday evening, Jan. 12, in the former Golden Elementary School.

The workshop was organized by state officials to gain input from dune users and local business people regarding the proposed changes to the sand dune voucher system at Silver Lake State Park that sparked an outrage last month.

Department of Natural Resources, local law enforcement officials, State Rep. Jon Bumstead (R-Newaygo) and State Senator Goeff

DNR Chief of Parks and Recreation Ronald Olson facilitates Monday night's workshop, which was aimed at gaining feedback toward improving the ORV area at Silver Lake State Park.

DNR Chief of Parks and Recreation Ronald Olson facilitates Monday night’s workshop, which was aimed at gaining feedback toward improving the ORV area at Silver Lake State Park.

Hansen (R-Hart) also attended the meeting. DNR Chief of Parks and Recreation Ronald Olson facilitated the workshop, which was aimed at gaining feedback toward improving the ORV area over the next few years.

The proposed voucher system changes, which were designed to eliminate the extremely long lines to get into the ORV area, were met with strong opposition by dunes users last month. It was initially proposed that dune riders would be required to purchase $10 vouchers for each vehicle 24 hours in advance for weekend and holiday use, but the price was later dropped to $3. A December vote by the Michigan State Parks Advisory Committee regarding the voucher system was tabled in response to the public outcry.

“The DNR is here to listen,” Hansen told the large crowd packed into the small school’s gym. “It’s a big deal to this area, and they want to make sure they’re doing what’s right.”

Bumstead said the main priority is “how can people enjoy themselves safely.”

Olson had the huge crowd divide into smaller groups to come up with three to five ideas to improve the ORV area. Some of the groups had to gather in the hallway, the building entrance and classrooms due to the large turnout in the small school building which is now the Golden Township Hall.

DNR Chief of Parks and Recreation Ronald Olson addresses the huge crowd.

DNR Chief of Parks and Recreation Ronald Olson addresses the huge crowd.

“You are passionate users — you care,” Olson told the crowd. “Why do you go on the dunes in the first place? Because you love it.”

He asked for a show of hands of how many people were from over 100 miles away, and nearly half the audience raised their hands.

“Any idea is a good idea,” Olson said. “This is not the place to argue. The hill wasn’t built yesterday — it has been here a long time. We’re here to make it better.

“We’re willing to pilot things,” the DNR chief said. “If it doesn’t work, we will change it. No one in this room wants to wait in a four-mile-long line. This is a big deal for the local community. Silver Lake is a big deal. We want to get this right, and it may take us a few years to get it right.”

Local businessmen Chad Coker, Chad Dumont and Albert Bancroft approached the DNR recently about adding more parking to eliminate the long lines. Olson said Monday night that adding more parking could be problematic, because the site is a critical dune area.

However, adding more parking was a priority that many groups suggested during the workshop. They also called for no vouchers and having a dune-ready entrance. Other groups suggested using the voucher center parking lot for trailer parking and adding bathrooms.

Of the many ideas suggested, the common theme was no vouchers and expanded parking.

After all of the groups’ ideas were shared, Olson said a task force will be formed. There were sign-up sheets for people interested in being on the task force. They could sign up for five different categories: (1) clubs and group representatives; (2) business community; (3) locals who live less than 20 miles away; (4) people who live 20-100 miles away; (5) and those who live 100 or more miles away. The “Friends of the Silver Lake ORV Area” will be comprised of about 15 representatives, Olson said. Names will randomly be drawn from a hat for each category to form the group that will work with local law enforcement to develop a “strategic plan.”

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