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Thread: Trail question

  1. #131
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    skegpro's Avatar
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    May 2009
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    Re: Trail question

    Outta the US of A

    There’s More Than One Way to Ride Our Trails

    This meager snow year has gotten many of us thinking about alternate means of enjoying our winter snow trails and I have seen quite a bit of chatter on various club’s Facebook pages about what is legal and what is not legal when it comes to the use of roads and trails on our public lands. The more comments that I read, the more confused I got and this led me to contact the Deschutes National Forest with a list of questions for clarification. After getting bounced around like a hot potato, my list of questions landed on the desk of Marv Lang with the Bend-Fort Rock Ranger District of the Deschutes National Forest. Now, mind you, the Deschutes National Forest does not answer for all National Forest Ranger Districts but it does interpret and enforce these rules based upon national guide lines set by the United States Forest Service. With this in mind, the answers to these questions should be interpreted and enforced very close to the same in all National Forest Ranger Districts.

    Let’s start with some explanations of a few of the terms and acronyms that will be used in the Q&A:
    • Class I = ATV (quad) wheeled vehicle under 50 inches wide
    • Class II = Jeeps
    • Class III = motorcycles
    • Class IV = utv or side by side’s
    • Snowmobile = (over the snow vehicle; steered with a ski(s) and powered with a track.
    • MVUM = Motor Vehicle Use Map or MVU Map
    • Seasonal Designation = restrictions that limit use during certain seasons
    • Winter Trail = a designated winter trail as shown on NFS winter trail maps … not typically shown on MVU maps unless it coincides with an NFS road, in which case it is shown as having a seasonal designation.
    • Highway Legal Vehicle = licensed and titled by State law for use on roads and highways

    Q: In general, what are the rules for operating ATV’s and side-by-side vehicles on snowmobile trails?
    A: On groomed snowmobile trails on the Deschutes National Forest, Class I’s (with tires) and snowmobiles are allowed, with the exception of trails in Newberry National Volcanic Monument, where Class I’s are not allowed at anytime. So, in general, wheeled Class I’s are allowed and snowmobiles are allowed but class I’s with tracks and Class IV’s are not allowed as they become Class II’s (jeeps) by definition which are not allowed. The same rule would apply to any snowcat. From a safety point, they are wide and take up a lot of trail and so pose a hazard with snowmobilers who are usually moving at a higher rate of speed. A tracked machine can be permitted with a special use permit, but that is usually part of a commercial venture of some sort.

    Q: Can a tracked ATV be registered as a snowmobile, like a dirt bike can, that would make it legal on all snowmobile trails?
    A: When you put tracks on a Class I it exceeds the 50 inch limit and by Oregon state code, becomes a Class II by definition, which are not allowed on snowmobile trails. Class IV’s with or without tracks (usually) exceed the width limit as well and become a Class II by definition.

    Q: If a person was to come up with a track system for an ATV that is 50" wide, or less, would it be legal on groomed snowmobile trails?
    A: No, because the definition of a Class I vehicle is a wheeled vehicle. Only Class I and snowmobiles are allowed on groomed snowmobile trails and putting tracks on a Class I vehicle kicks it out of that category, whether under 50 inches or not.

    Q: Is a Class IV vehicle (side-by-side), that is less than 50" wide (tracked or wheeled), allowed on groomed snowmobile trail?
    A: No, because by definition it is a Class IV and only Class I’s and snowmobiles are allowed.

    Q: Where can Class I and Class IV vehicles (ATV’s and side-by-sides), outfitted with tracks, legally operate in winter?
    A: Any route shown as open to all vehicles on the Motor Vehicle Use Maps which does not have a winter seasonal restriction or is a designated winter trail. Not all designated “winter trails” are shown on the MVU maps but this information is available from the local Ranger District office and is generally published on winter trail and snowmobile maps.

    Q: Are the roads, with the seasonal "Road Closed" signs, only closed to Class II vehicles?
    A: These roads are closed to all vehicles except Class I and snowmobiles as they either are, or turn into, winter trails.

    Q: Are these seasonal closures listed on the MVU maps?
    A: Yes, these roads are indicated on the MVU Maps with “route numbers” and have seasonal designations as per the map legend.

    Q: Many roads are open to winter use by tracked vehicles but all the roads to and from the snow parks, leading to the open roads, are usually either groomed snowmobile trails or have Seasonal Designations. How does one park, unload and get to the open roads?
    A: I don’t really have a good answer, except parking in a legal area of the road adjacent to an open road. Motor vehicles may be parked within one vehicle length from the edge of the road surface when it is safe to do so without causing damage to NFS resources, unless prohibited by a State law.

    Q: Are snow conditions ever a determining factor in what is allowed and what isn't allowed, when it comes to NFS road and trail use?
    A: No, the seasonal restrictions generally apply from December 1st to March 31st.

    Q: Are fat tired mountain bikes allowed on groomed snowmobile trails?
    A: Yes, they are allowed everywhere except designated Wilderness, unless it is an area closure to bikes.

    It is always the responsibility of the user to know if, and when, the road he/she is using is open for the vehicle that he/she is operating and all regulations apply regardless of the presence or absence of signs. MVU maps are available, free of charge, at ranger district offices. They are also available online and downloadable in a file for use with Avenza Maps.

    A big “Thank You” goes out to Marv Lang, with the Deschutes National Forest, for putting his foot in his mouth and answering these questions for us … and a big reminder goes out to you to not shoot the messenger.

    Until next time, keep the track side down and remember … friends don’t let friends ride alone! (even on ATV’s)
    Submitted by: Jack Reynolds, La Pine Lodgepole Dodgers



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