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

Enviro-Mich message from John Rebers <jrebers@nmu.edu>

Rita - a few thoughts:

First, separate snowmobiling and skiing trails work far better than merged
trails, for safety reasons as well as the aesthetics. I've been skiing in a few
places, like on Grand Island, where the number of snowmobiles and their speed
is low enough that sharing is tolerable, but in most places it doesn't work. So
working with the DNR to get some trails designated specifically as ski trails
would be the best option.

It's possible you might be able to contact local snowmobiling clubs to resolve
the trail damage issues you mention. Although there are a fairly significant
number of alcohol-saturated jerks who are only interested in how fast they can
go, there are some relatively responsible family type users out there. If you
can find some in a local club, they might be able to help cut down on damage by
the jerk subset. If the diplomatic approach doesn't work, I'd suggest taking
photographs of the worst offenses, taking them to the editor of the outdoor
section of the local paper, and seeing if you can get them to do an article. If
this doesn't work, a letter to the editor would be worthwhile, although that
won't have the impact of an article with photos (maybe you could send in a
picture with your letter, but I've haven't seen letters to the editor published
with pictures).

For non-snow off-road vehicle use, some of the fee collected for the ORV
permits is used to remediate damage done by ORVs (not a lot, but some....).
There is a fee collected for snowmobiles to maintain trails, and an argument
could be made that a portion of that fee should be used to remediate the type
of damage (loss of vegetation, trail widening, and erosion) that you mention.
I'm not aware of a precedent for this, but it's still worth asking for.

John Rebers

At 10:29 AM 2/7/2000 -0500, you wrote:
>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
>ENVIRO-MICH:  Internet List and Forum for Michigan Environmental
>and Conservation Issues and Michigan-based Citizen Action.   Archives at
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John Rebers (jrebers@nmu.edu)
Central Upper Peninsula Group, Sierra Club
338 West Crescent Street
Marquette, MI  49855

906-228-3617 (H)
906-227-1585 (w)

This message uses 100% recycled electrons. :-)

ENVIRO-MICH:  Internet List and Forum for Michigan Environmental
and Conservation Issues and Michigan-based Citizen Action.   Archives at

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