A popular activity that existed in the Silver Lake Sand Dunes Off-Road Vehicle area will no longer be allowed.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources reiterated last week that side-by-side “drag” racing in the dunes is illegal under state law.

The activity has gone on for decades, but now park staff will likely have to enforce the law, said Silver Lake State Park Manager Jody Johnston.

“We knew it would probably be an unpopular thing for many people,” Johnston said. “It’s not going to be fun, but we knew we had to address it.”

Under Michigan Compiled Law 257.626a, “It shall be unlawful for any person to operate any vehicle upon any highway, or any other place open to the general public, including any area designated for the parking of motor vehicles, within this state, in a speed or acceleration contest or for the purpose of making a speed record, whether from a standing start or otherwise over a measured or unmeasured distance, or in a drag race as herein defined.

“Drag racing” means the operation of 2 or more vehicles from a point side by side at accelerating speeds in a competitive attempt to out-distance each other over a common selected course or where timing is involved or where timing devices are used in competitive accelerations of speeds by participating vehicles. Persons rendering assistance in any manner to such competitive use of vehicles shall be equally charged as participants. The operation of 2 or more vehicles either at speeds in excess of prima facie lawfully established speeds or rapidly accelerating from a common starting point to a speed in excess of such prima facie lawful speed is prima facie evidence of drag racing and is unlawful.”

Johnston said park staff is trying to come up with a way to accommodate the activity such as through a third party organization or possibly some type of permit to allow the activity to continue.

“We know that’s what our visitors want,” Johnston said.

Dune enthusiasts will still be able to practice “test and tune” for such things as acceleration and shock absorbers within the park.

The off-road vehicle area is scheduled to open for the season today (Thursday, April 1) at 9 a.m. Last year, the off-road vehicle area did not open until mid-June due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Johnston said park staff has been busy preparing the ORV area for the upcoming season. Most of the signage had been placed as of late last week, and the ORV area will have seven outhouses within the dunes this year, which helps to eliminate traffic congestion in the park lot by those needing to come out of the dunes to use the rest room. Johnston also said the popular food concession trailer will also return this year.

Although Johnston said there was no snow on top of the ground within the ORV area, there could be snow patches that have been covered with sand. The “south flats” where much of the drag racing previous occurred is no longer under water as it has been the past couple of seasons due to declining Lake Michigan water levels.