Snowmobile club gets set for winter

CLEARING THE WAY: Trail groomers work to clear areas of the Rails-to-Trails to prepare for winter recreational travelers.
CLEARING THE WAY: Trail groomers work to clear areas of the Rails-to-Trails to prepare for winter recreational travelers.

MECOSTA-OSCEOLA – It may still be early autumn, but plenty of people are already looking forward to winter.

Welllll ...some people. Folks such as those who really love winter outdoor sports - ice fishing, skiing, snowmobiling and the like.

While leaves on area trees may still be in full autumn glory, members of the Pere Marquette Snowmobile Club are out on the trails making sure things are safe, secure, and easily accessible for the coming winter snowmobile enthusiasts.

For days, groups of trail groomers have been out hacking, slashing, cutting and trimming new and old growth into to a manageable state.

This year, the crews also have the added task of removing any old directional signs that may still be standing along the Rails-to-Trails on both the Pere Marquette, (east-west), or White Pine, (north-south), trails.

Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources announced a reduction in the number of signs that will be allowed along state managed trails - more than 10,000 miles throughout the state.

A citizens' advisory workgroup, (comprised of trail-riding enthusiasts, trail maintenance organizations, members of the DNR’s Snowmobile Advisory Workgroup and the Michigan Snowmobile Association), made recommendations to the DNR, resulting in these upcoming changes. Technical support for the workgroup was provided by recreation and law enforcement staff of the DNR and the U.S. Forest Service.

Changes include the elimination of 10 workgroup-selected snowmobile signs, the addition of five new snowmobile signs along with guidelines for placement. Also, there will be a reduction in the size of regulatory signs in the ORV program to make them consistent with snowmobile signage.

The following snowmobile trail signs will be removed:

  • Bridge Ahead
  • Directional chevrons
  • Deer Crossing
  • Drift Area
  • Narrow Bridge
  • Narrow Trail
  • Trail Crossing
  • Truck Traffic
  • Two Way Trail
  • Winding Trail

The DNR will continue to mark 90-degree turns with “sharp turn” warning signs supplemented with a new directional arrow.

“Several of the other snowmobile states and Ontario have reduced their signs and have seen a reduction in accidents,” reported Bill Manson, executive director of the Michigan Snowmobile Association. “Our objective is to provide a safe, family-oriented trail system for snowmobiling in Michigan.”

“The changes to the motorized trail signage program is the result of a collaborative process with stakeholder groups and should be a real improvement for trail users,” said Ron Olson, chief of the DNR’s Parks and Recreation Division. “The sign reductions will result in less clutter along the trails and provide for more consistency statewide.”

Locally, the Pere Marquette crews are working with the DNR to remove old and discontinued signs, and installing the occasional new signage.

Mostly though, work continues on clearing trails and tracks while preparing for the busy season ahead.

“We follow state mandates and guidelines in placing and maintaining signs,” explained Dan Daggy, of the PMSC.

“The state figures they will save $350,000 each year with the elimination of unnecessary signage.

“I guess we’ll have to wait and see if eliminating the signs is a good idea. Whatever the case, we do what we can to make our trailways as safe as possible.

“We’ve been seriously cutting back intersections so that cars and snowmobiles can clearly see each other.

“It’s a lot of work.”

The crew began ‘brushing’ and trimming in the LeRoy area in Osceola County and were working their way south toward the Meceola line.

They expect to be completed with all maintenance work and ready for continued trail grooming well before snow flies.