Treating West Michigan snowmobile trails with care

EGELSTON TOWNSHIP, Mich. -- Thanks to the snowier, colder weather this winter, snowmobile permit sales are up 5 to 7 percent in Michigan. This is good news for winter tourism, and for those who enjoy maintaining the trail systems across the state.

The West Shore Snowmobile Council in Muskegon County maintains 188 miles of trails in Muskegon, Oceana, Newaygo and Ottawa counties.

"Our council is made up of five clubs, all volunteers that donate their time to mark and sign the trails that you see here," said Oscar Reed, the Council's Treasurer. "Our council was incorporated in 1978. We started with two old groomers, and now we're up to five groomers."

Each groomer costs around $250,000, and is funded by trail permits. Each trail permit costs $48, and over 200,000 of them have been sold this winter season in the state of Michigan.

"The trail permits pay for the snowmobile trail system and all the maintenance that goes into it," said Chris Simpson, a Conservation Officer with the Michigan DNR. "So it’s revenue that goes back to the clubs that keep the trails maintained. So we enforce the trail permit quite a bit.”

The DNR also wants to make sure riders stay on designated trails and off of private property. Snowmobiling on private property could lead to a fine of up to $500, jail time, and even a reduced trail system in Michigan.

"Just because a field has snowmobile tracks going through it doesn't mean it's a trail," said Simpson. "A lot of these snowmobile trails are leased onto private property, and we're losing some of these leases due to off trail riding... Riders that are tearing up crop fields such as winter wheat or just riding off trail in fresh powder."

The DNR is also reminding snowmobilers to travel at a safe and reasonable speed, and to avoid alcohol until you're done riding for the day.

“Each sled you figure is going to be $20 dollars, plus you got meals," said Paul Rogers with the Michigan DNR. "And then if they’re from out of state we’ve got a lot of riders that come up into the southern part of Michigan and they have to get hotel rooms. And that again helps the local economy.”

If you'd like to volunteer to help maintain Michigan's snowmobile trails, you can go to this website.

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