THIS IS JUST IN!!!!!!!
Snowmobile Industry Avoids
Trail Shutdown for ’07-’08 Season
DNR & Trail Volunteers Poised to Sign Agreements to Open Trails Dec. 1
Grand Rapids, Mich. – Today the Michigan Snowmobile Association (MSA) announced that trail grooming clubs, known as grant sponsors, reached an agreement with the Department of Natural Resources to avoid a shutdown of Michigan’s snowmobile trails this winter. A prior disagreement regarding ownership rights of grooming equipment threatened to cripple the industry.
“The grant sponsors had very serious equipment ownership concerns that were addressed under the handbook agreement. We were at a critical stage where it could have gone either way, so I am relieved that the industry and the businesses that rely upon it will thrive this winter,” said Bill Manson, Executive Director.
The handbook agreement means that sixty-seven grant sponsors will sign this year’s “Grant Sponsor Handbook” with the DNR. The handbook establishes a binding financial agreement to administer the trail grooming snowmobile program. Trail grooming is absolutely essential to the snowmobiling industry. Trails must be groomed, have visible signage, and be free of debris for safe riding. Moreover, it is mandatory for access to many remote trail networks throughout the state.
The grooming program is funded entirely by snowmobile trail users, and not from tax dollars. User fees are administered by the DNR so the grooming clubs must get reimbursed for purchasing tractors and other equipment. The equipment is very expensive requiring many of the non-profit groups to obtain personal bank loans for purchase and maintenance.
The trail grooming program still would not be possible without the volunteer services of the grant sponsor clubs, which are very passionate about making Michigan’s trails the best in the country. The clubs keep 6,400 miles of trail network operational; last year the grant sponsors groomed over 352,048 trail miles, during a season with poor snowfall.
The trail grooming agreement was facilitated by members of the Natural Resources Commission. Chairman Keith Charters and Commissioner Frank Wheatlake played a key role in resolving the dispute.
“The MSA is thankful for their leadership on this very important issue, and we applaud their service to the public. We would also like to acknowledge the commitment on the part of the DNR to reach this agreement,” said Manson.
Acting on behalf of the DNR was Mindy Koch, Lynn Boyd, and Jim Radabaugh.
Snowmobiling is a crucial segment of Michigan’s tourism economy. It generates over $1 billion annually for the state’s economy through purchase of related goods and services like snowmobiles, equipment, food, lodging, and gasoline. Over 7,000 direct jobs are supported by the state’s snowmobile industry.
“Snowmobiling is absolutely essential to our winter tourism season. We look forward to a
successful snowmobiling season that will benefit the entire tourism industry,” said Manson.
The trail grooming sponsors are comprised of snowmobile clubs, business groups, or a
combination of both. Snowmobile trails in Michigan are open from December 1st through March 31st.
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