Equestrian Right to Ride Laws – Pigeon River Country

Proposed Equestrian Access for Pigeon River CountryBy John Gonway, MMBA Director of Advocacy
 

May 5, 2010 - Director of Advocacy John Gonway and other members of the MMBA leadership attended a meeting at the Department of Natural Resources & Environment Offices in Grayling, Michigan on Monday, April 26, 2010. The meeting was the first of several required under the Equestrian Right to Ride Laws–Public Acts 45 and 46 of 2010.  Representatives from a number of user groups attended the meeting, including fishermen, hunters, cyclists, hikers, snowmobilers, equestrians, and geocachers.

The purpose of the meeting was to discuss equestrian access to the Pigeon River Country State Forest (PRC), a vast expanse of state land where access to trails was a hotspot in 2007-2008.  The equestrians had mostly unfettered access to the PRC at that time, and the DNR issued a land use order that restricted equestrian use to certain trails, roads and pathways.  At the same time, the MMBA fought to maintain mountain bike access to the High Country Pathway and the Shingle Mill Pathway.  

The Equestrian Right to Ride Laws forced the DNRE to abandon its comprehensive management plan for the PRC and forced them to deal with equestrian access under the tight timeframes set forth by the equestrian legislation.  Ultimately, this consisted of taking on equestrian issues and understanding their request for additional access.  

Proposed Plan for Equestrian Access
 

The DNRE proposed a new straw plan to grant additional access to the equestrians by adding five to six miles of new connector trails to the existing system.  Neither the existing horse trails, nor the proposed additions would impact the High Country Pathway and the Shingle Mill Pathway.  

Both the DNRE and the equestrian groups present at the meeting agreed that the High Country Pathway and the Shingle Mill Pathway are bike and hike trails only. The meeting members provided their comments to the straw plan, comments that were focused on increased trail signage; and the equestrians focused their comments on better access to the equestrian-designated campgrounds.

 

The MMBA leadership focused their comments on the following items:
  1. Years of stewardship of the High Country Pathway and Shingle Mill Pathway by the MMBA;
  2. The High Country Pathway and Shingle Mill Pathway are not open to equestrians; and
  3. The increased need for citations to be issued for any unauthorized use of trails, especially that of equestrians on the High Country Pathway and Shingle Mill Pathway.


I am happy to report that the straw plan and all comments provided will not impact mountain bike usage of either the Shingle Mill Pathway or the High Country Pathway.  The MMBA will continue to monitor any changes to access rights and will attend future workgroup meetings on the PRC, as well as upcoming meetings that will impact other state parks and forests.
 
John Gonway
Advocacy Director
Michigan Mountain Biking Association
advocacydirector@mmba.org
Office: (248) 359-7509
Mobile: (248) 514-8382