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Challenges, Solutions and Accomplishments

By Jim Duke

On Oct. 15, the Snowmobile Advisory Workgroup (SAW) finally achieved a long-fought solution to provide a grant sponsor closure on an issue that could have been monumental had the SAW not intervened. The workgroup elected to assist in the finalization of a shortfall where the purchase price and the final delivery cost were at stake. This was but one action item on the recent SAW agenda, but one that all would have to agree ended in a win for snowmobilers.

In other concerns, DNR representatives from the Forest Management Division addressed the ongoing safety issue of timber contracts and violations when logging contractors fail to complete contractual agreements to remove stumps and other accumulated debris, which become a huge safety hazard once snow has covered the area and trail grooming has begun. A major cause of equipment failure during early trail preparation is damage from hidden stumps and other debris left at the work sites after loggers fail to finish the required clean up. 

Another hot topic was the continuing and yet unresolved issue of wheeled vehicles on designated snowmobile trails between Dec. 1 and March 31 of each year. Once snow has covered the trail surface sufficiently for grooming and the initial pan-packing has taken place, some irresponsible individuals see that smooth surface as an excellent route through the woods, never considering the money that went into that pristine condition. The resulting damage has effectively rendered many hours of volunteer labor useless and, in most cases, unsafe for snowmobilers.

Another concern for several seasons has been when the designated trail utilizes a seasonal county road for either a connector or a specified segment of the trail. Conflicts arise as to which agency has the final say about whether the road can be closed to wheeled traffic or not. County Road Commissions would normally be the governing agency and will usually say they cannot officially close the road. They can, however, leave them unplowed with proper signage, which will eventually make it impassable except for snowmobiles and tracked grooming machines.

On the positive side, it appears all the players are moving forward with common goals and snowmobilers will reap the most benefits from these meetings. On the negative side, the continuing COVID-19 pandemic mandates and state government travel restrictions make it impossible for the pertinent DNR personnel to attend meetings in person, so the Dec. 3 SAW meeting will not take place in Christmas, Michigan, as planned. Instead it will be another virtual meeting, presumably on that same date.

MISORVA                                                                                                                                    On Oct. 17, the Michigan Snowmobile and ORV Association held its annual meeting via Zoom with approximately 40 attendees. They discussed items of interest, finalized immediate goals and elected those who will serve in leadership positions for the ensuing year. Of particular note was the approval of bylaws amendments clarifying eligibility of candidates for office and doubling consecutive terms for the President and Vice President from two one-year terms to four one-year terms.

The annual reports by standing committee chairs were presented and accepted, along with reports from each officer and the Executive Director. Other pertinent notices and reports were also provided.

Tentative dates and locations for the winter ride-in and the summer campout and ORV ride were presented and discussed. The Recreation Committee Chair will finalize the events and report back to the board. 

During nominations for the four officer positions, Vice President John Newman was the single candidate for the office of President and was elected by a unanimous vote of confidence. Originally, there were two candidates for Vice President, but one member declined the nomination prior to final call; the remaining candidate, Jeramey Valley, is the Vice President-elect. Incumbent Treasurer Mark Pankner was re-elected, and Secretary-elect is Stephanie Hubbarth-Bergen. Out-going President Jim Kelts and out-going Secretary Karyn Hautamaki will be working on a smooth transition with the incoming officers who assume their new duties Jan. 1, 2021.

There was a split vote as to whether MISORVA might be able to hold the usual final meeting and first ride of the season on Dec. 5 in Christmas. Considering the present mandates for gatherings and whether the facilities might be unable to provide adequate occupancy, the official meeting will be held on Zoom. Those wishing to have a first ride from Christmas can do so individually.

As we prepare for the upcoming snowmobile season, we hope this pandemic will be short and every snowmobiler can enjoy the season without worry of contracting the virus. The snowmobile-related businesses, such as dealerships, hotel/motels, restaurants and rental agencies, will be working to make sure all patrons have a safe and secure environment. Please be respectful of their requirements and wear a mask where required to do so and, above all, get outside and enjoy our winter recreational activities.

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