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E-M:/ Snowmobiles have taken over Island Lake Rec. Area

Enviro-Mich message from "Rita Jack" <ritaj@flint.umich.edu>

Hello Enviro-Michers -

I apologize for the long post - but I'd like your help.  My husband 
and I went to Island Lake Recreation Area yesterday, to help out with 
a bunch of friends who were doing their annual February paddle along 
the river.  My husband and I are not kayakers (yet) so decided to 
cross-country ski while we were there.

Boy - was that ever naive.  All the trails have been completely taken 
over by snowmobilers, including unpaved trails, and trails that are 
not currently snow-covered - these are now mud, and completely torn 
up.  Unpaved trails that used to be one mountain bike wide are now 
over two ski poles wide, and have several of the loops where the 
snowmobilers have gone off the trail to the side.  They are running 
over sapling trees, they are running over vegetation that will never 
recover, no matter what the DNR officer at the guard shack says.  Any 
vegetation that does recover will be exotic - no native vegetation 
will come back there unless it is placed there by humans and 
protected.  And if that occurs this spring and summer, the 
snowmobilers will run it down again next winter.  The hills are 
completely criss-crossed with snowmobile tracks, and the unpaved 
edges of the roads are all covered with snowmobile tracks as well.  
Several passed us on the road as we drove in, running toward us on 
both sides of the road, going well over the 25 mph speed limit that 
the cars are required by law to adhere to.

While skiing on one trail, we were passed by 6 snowmobiles.  We had 
to get off the trail, and wait in the smoke and sickening fumes while 
they went by us.  I choked on the fumes of the incompleley burned 
gasoline.  While we were out yesterday, sharing these multiple use 
trails, we heard not one bird, until we finally got off the trail and 
went to the river.  We heard only one Red-bellied Woodpecker.

The DNR employee at the guard shack informed me of the reasons that 
snowmobilers have been allowed to take over Island Lake Recreation 
Area:  The employees don't have a snowmobile to chase the bad 
snowmobilers, there aren't enough employees on staff at one time to 
have one enforcer while the other guards the park's entrance.  (I 
don't know why they bother to guard anything - they're letting the 
law breakers in along with the law keepers.)  He also informed that 
the problem is the growing population in the area - there are just 
too many people.  He also told me that the receipts at the gate have 
been much higher than they ever have been before.  --That tells me 
that they should be able to afford to hire an enforcer.  He did offer 
me a brochure with the park's office address and his supervisor's 
name:  Joanne Stritmatter, Island Lake Recreation Area, 12950 East 
Grand River, Brighton, MI 48116, ph. 810-229-7067.  The brochure did 
not describe any rules for snowmobilers, or for any users of the 

When I returned home, I got on the Internet to find out what the 
rules are for snowmobilers in state Recreation Areas run by the DNR.  
I found nothing useful.  I found a few brief lines about the 
Snowmobile Enforcement Subprogram.  This section seems to be more 
concerned with snowmobile use in the northern parts of the state.  
There is a line about snowmobile safety, and coordinating with and 
supporting snowmobile organizations to provide snowmobile safety 
classes in each county.   I found nothing about rules and regulations 
for use of snowmobiles in State Parks and Recreation Areas.

So - where do we go from here??  I will write to and talk to Joanne 
Stritmatter - but I doubt that will make a difference.  I will also 
take photos of the damage, and attempt to monitor the damage as it 
occurs.  Ironically, they are looking for volunteers to help restore 
prairie habitat at several places around the state - including Island 
Lake Recreation area.  They need people on Sept. 26 and October 10 - 
(unless I was reading an old note from last year.)  Are they going to 
restore the prairie habitat just to destroy it by running it down 
again next winter?

Thanks for listening and for your shared wisdom -
Rita (who is really discouraged and really upset about all this) Jack

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