MSA News & Snowmobiling Issues
Posted:Maine Snowmobile Association Presents Annual Awards
MSA Presents Annual Awards
Issues in the Sport
Safe snowmobiling in the Allagash
Snowmobile Trail funding survey
The Maine Snowmobile Association recognized a number of snowmobile club volunteers and friends of Maine snowmobiling during the association Annual Meeting held April 13, 2013 at the Penobscot County Conservation Association clubhouse in Brewer. Honorees for the 2012-2013 winter snowmobile season are:
The President's Award: Colonel Joel Wilkinson, Chief of the Maine Warden Service
MSA President Jim White selected Wilkinson as the recipient of this recognition. The colonel became Chief of the Service in 2007, a time of financial challenges and low morale at the Department. During the past six years, his progressive and inspirational leadership have helped to transform the Warden Service, one of the nation's most highly regarded law enforcement agencies. The Warden Service was established in 1880. Over the past 130 years, their mission has expanded greatly to include responsibility for issues far beyond their original mandate. Col. Wilkinson has worked to restructure the Service and led it through a process that dictates how Wardens will serve the people of Maine. He has worked closely with the MSA on enforcement plans and community outreach, and these efforts show on the trails. The accident rate is going down, and there seems to be an increased awareness of snowmobile safety among Maine snowmobilers.
Snowmobile Club of the Year: Bog Hooters Snowmobile Club of Mechanic Falls-President Peter Ford
The members of the Bog Hooters Snowmobile Club of Mechanic Falls were honored for getting things done. Despite being a relatively small club of 25 family memberships and 10 business members, this group of volunteers is an active, lively and contributing part of their community. The club maintains 25 miles of snowmobile trail, has added a mile of new trail and completed a new bridge this season and are active participants in the development of the area's Corridor 26 trail project. They have a clubhouse, and host a popular chili-chowder cook-off, hunters' breakfast and classic car cruise-in breakfast, as well as a Landowner Dinner honoring those who allow snowmobile trails on their property. This year the club purchased refrigerator magnets for all their landowners with the club officers' contact information in case any questions or problems arose during the snowmobile season. Club volunteers are also organizing a fund raising dinner-dance to benefit a club member whose home was lost to fire this winter.
Snowmobiler of the Year: Edward "Sonny" Fogg of Penobscot
A member of the Family Snowmobile Club of Bucksport, Fogg has been active in organized snowmobiling for well over 40 years. One of the founding members of the Family Snowmobile Club, originally known as the Jed Prouty Snowmobile Club, he has helped to build and maintain Maine's snowmobile trails for decades. His current contributions include cutting brush, building bridges and fundraising. He loves to ride, averaging 3000 miles each winter on his Ski-doo Touring sled. He has made numerous trips across Maine, New Brunswick and the Gaspe region of Quebec and continues to join his club on multiple-day winter trips covering hundreds of miles. Club members describe him as humble and helpful, and a goodwill ambassador for the club, the MSA and the sport of snowmobiling through his interactions with Maine riders and visiting snowmobilers from other states.
Groomer of the Year: Maber Cronkite of Etna
Groomer operator Maber Cronkite maintains trails for the Sebasticook Valley Snowmobile Club. A member of the club since 1980, Cronkite accepts responsibility for landowner contacts in his area, and grooms 30 plus miles of the club's 92 miles of trail in the towns of Stetson, Etna and Newport. The trails in Etna are "his deal" according to fellow club members. His grooming experience started with long track snowmobiles, moving up to double tracks and Bombi groomers. After a short lived experiment with a Track Truck, he moved into Tucker groomers and currently operates a Tucker 1000. Over the last few seasons he has led his crew in relocating several miles of ITS 83. Over the years, Maber Cronkite has devoted thousands of hours to grooming, and thousands more to trail work, grant paperwork and landowner relations, to keep snowmobiling safe and enjoyable in his area of the state.
Supporting Business of the Year: Awards, Signage and Trophies of Brewer-Owner Bob Dion
A long standing Business Member of the Eastern Maine Snowmobilers club of Holden, Bob Dion has supported many snowmobile club suppers and fundraisers over the years and is an active member of the greater Bangor community. Dion is involved with the Kiwanis and the Masonic Fraternity, and has volunteered at the American Folk Festival and at the Pine Tree Camp for those with physical and/or developmental disabilities. He has owned his business for over 20 years, supplying trophies and other recognitions to his customers, including many snowmobile club members who find Bob and his staff to be friendly, accommodating, professional and fair.
Issues in the Sport
The winter of 2012-13 came roaring in shortly after Christmas and provide a much-needed season of riding after two dry years. For a while it seemed like every weekend would bring another foot of snow in one part or the state or another, and at some point during the year just about every inch of trails in the state had rideable snow. Riders responded by getting out there and doing what they do best - riding!
Registration numbers at mid-March were impressive: Total registrations were at 64,599, up 29% over last year at the same time and already surpassing last season's dismal total of 62,700. Lodging establishments, restaurants and other businesses serving snowmobilers were all reporting very good sales, and in some areas rooms were hard to come by on busy weekends. As of press time, many areas were reporting the end of grooming for the season, but most were noting that back country riding would likely be available into April.
Final registration figures will likely not be available until mid to late June, but it looks like total season registrations will reach the historical averages of seasons previous to 2011-12.
With that in mind, and with most clubs facing huge additional costs dealing with all the snow (and in some cases the damage caused by that snow), the Snowmobile Advisory Council recommended by a majority vote on March 14 to restore the anticipated 10% cuts in this year's municipal grant projects. However there was a caveat added that projects that anticipated reaching or exceeding their approved dollars this year must file their reimbursement requests no later than April 15, rather than the usual deadline of May 31. The decision on whether to restore the 10% cuts to club grants will be made at a later date.
The 126th Legislature is running at full tilt and the MSA has been testifying on and tracking a number of bills as they work their way through the legislative process. Here's where things are at as of press time:
LD-154, An Act To Amend the Laws Governing Limited Liability for Recreational or Harvesting Activities, sponsored by Rep. Dennis Keschl of Belgrade, was heard by the Judiciary Committee on February 21. This bill was an attempt to resolve issues regarding private rail crossings that would have inadvertently significantly modified the landowner liability law, potentially opening the door to exclusive use of private property or pay per use. The MSA opposed this bill, as did the ME Trial Lawyers Association and SWOAM. At the work session on the bill, the committee voted to strip away the changes to the Landowner Liability Law and deal with the railroad issue separately.
LD-404, An Act To Exempt Snowmobile Clubs from Certain Department of Transportation Sign Requirements, sponsored by Rep. Joe Brooks of Winterport. This bill would allow certain directional signs for snowmobile clubs to be placed without fees to the Dept. of Transportation. The MSA supported this bill. This bill was killed at the work session.
LD-572, An Act Regarding Games of Chance Operated by Snowmobile Clubs, was heard by the Veterans and Legal Affairs on March 6. This bill, sponsored by Rep. Mike Shaw of Standish is an MSA bill and would increase the limit clubs could charge for a hand in poker runs to up to $50.
LD-89, An Act To Establish a Deadline for Snowmobile Registration, sponsored by Sen. Doug Thomas of Piscataquis County, is an MSA bill. This bill would establish a deadline of December 31 for registering snowmobiles, after which a $20 penalty would be assessed. The goal of the bill is to provide predictability in funding for the Snowmobile Program. A second bill, LD-268, An Act to Improve Snowmobiling in the State, proposed a $20 registration increase with a $10 discount for sleds registered after January 1. It also proposed a 7-day non-resident registration. The hearings on both bills was held on March 7. After an initial work session, the Committee tabled both bills and a second work session is scheduled for April 4. It is likely that the Committee will opt for a more modest across the board increase, likely in the neighborhood of $5.
LD-172, An Act To Make Permanent the Reciprocal Agreement between Maine and Other States Regarding a Snowmobile Weekend, sponsored by Sen. Tom Saviello of Franklin County. The MSA has consistently supported eliminating reciprocity with any state and province since non-resident registrations were established in 1995. This bill was unanimously approved by the Committee at the work session.
The public hearing on LD-837, An Act To Clarify the Laws Establishing the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, sponsored by Rep. Ken Fredette of Newport, was held on March 26. The Natural Resource Network, a group of forestry, agricultural and recreational interests, of which the MSA is a member, proposed an amendment to the administrationŐs plan that would better align the diverse interests and missions of the various bureaus within the combined agencies. The work session has not yet been held.
The MSA testified in support of LD-115, An Act To Join in a Prohibition on Motor Fuel Containing Corn-based Ethanol, sponsored by Rep. Jeff Timberlake of Turner. The bill was one of four ethanol bills heard by the Environment and Natural Resources Committee on March 20. All four bills intend to either reduce or eliminate ethanol as a gas additive in Maine, or at the very least to prevent the federal EPA's rush to introduce E-15 on a national level.
A comment about the bills on the MSA Facebook page by Bob Meyers about the hearing generated over 2,000 views and dozens of comments in a matter of hours. The consensus of the readers was clearly to ban ethanol. The federal Clean Air Act clearly complicates this issue, but there are ways to work around it, particularly if other New England states would join on the prohibition. The New Hampshire House of Representatives recently passed a similar bill and it is pending in their senate.
The MSA opposed LD-720, An Act To Eliminate Sales Tax Exemptions for Snowmobiles and All-terrain Vehicles Purchased by Nonresidents for Use in the State, sponsored by Rep. Donald Marean of Hollis. This bill would eliminate the tax exemption for sleds sold to non-residents that has been in the law since 1995, the year non-resident registrations went into effect. The MSA is coordinating efforts with dealers across the state in opposing this bill, which could severely affect sales by many dealers in the state and possibly risk losing these non-residents as riders. The bill was voted ought-to-pass in a split vote by the committee.
On April 4, the Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee will be hearing LD-505, Resolve, Directing the Commissioner of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry To Conduct an Internal Review of the Snowmobile Trail Fund, sponsored by Sen. Tom Saviello of Franklin County. This resolve would require the ACF commissioner to conduct an evaluation on all aspects of the Snowmobile Program and report back to the legislature on how Trail Fund money could be better utilized. It is an MSA bill.
There's more on the way, including recently released bills that will deal with abandoned and discontinued roads and another attempt at requiring that titles be issued to new snowmobiles. - Bob Meyers
Play it safe when snowmobiling off-trail in the Allagash
By Matthew LaRoche, Superintendent, Allagash Wilderness Waterway
Snowmobiling on the Allagash Wilderness Waterway (AWW) headwater lakes can be a very enjoyable experience. You should be aware, however that when traveling on frozen lakes you could be just one poor decision or miscalculation away from plunging into the icy waters of the Allagash.
Before you venture out onto the ice, especially early in the winter, you should check the thickness of the ice. It doesn't take very long to chop a hole in the ice with an axe or chisel. I usually chop until I can see at least 6 inches of good dark ice. Six inches of ice is enough to support 4,000 pounds according to the U.S. Army Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory. I figure that is plenty to support me and my snowmobile. Don't assume that if there is a track on the lake that the ice is safe!
To minimize your risk when traveling on frozen lakes, you should check with the rangers or wardens who patrol the area where you plan to take a trip. The AWW usually has a ranger on duty at Chamberlain Bridge. He will know the current ice conditions and give you advice concerning areas to avoid.
When riding on large, inter-connected lakes such as Chamberlain and Telos, some hazard areas to avoid are: thoroughfares, inlets, outlets, pressure ridges, and spring holes. Basically, anywhere there is moving water should be avoided because moving water will not freeze as easily as standing water. I have seen the thoroughfare between Round Pond and Telos covered with snow and ice one day and the same area be open water the next day after a warm-up in temperature.
I recommend that you bring some basic safety equipment on your winter excursions on frozen lakes. My emergency equipment includes a throw bag for pulling someone else out of the water and the "picks of life" for pulling myself out of the water. These are nothing more than ice picks with a retractable cover over the sharp end. A couple of good-sized spikes will serve the same purpose. I also pack matches in a watertight container, a compass, a flashlight, and a small first aid kit. Allagash rangers usually patrol the waterway alone and carry extra equipment such as a two-way radio, snowshoes, shovel, space blanket, GPS unit, and some high energy food.
Even when there is plenty of ice, night travel and snowstorms add to the risk of becoming disoriented. When you put the two together it can become dangerous even for experienced winter adventurers.
One evening, I was invited for supper at Nugent's Camps on Chamberlain Lake. I accepted the offer and stayed for a visit after the meal. It had started to snow while I was visiting with John and Reggie. I left the camps at about 8 p.m. and headed down to the ranger station at the bridge. I had been this route a hundred times and figured I wouldn't have any trouble making it down the lake. When I got out in the middle of the lake, I couldn't see any landmarks and became a little disoriented. Luckily, I had my compass and took a westerly bearing until I came to the west side of the lake and followed the shoreline down to the snowmobile trail at the south end.
One of the most important things you can do for your safety when embarking on any outdoor adventure is to tell someone where you are going and what time you expect to return. This will help rangers and wardens find you when you really need help.
So play it safe - no ride is worth your life. You will be responsible for retrieving your snowmobile if it does fall through the ice. Remember that the use of automobiles and trucks on ice-covered portions of the watercourse is prohibited in the AWW.
For information on the AWW, go to: www.maine.gov/acf/, call 207-941-4014, email, or write to the Division of Parks and Public Lands, 106 Hogan Road, Bangor, ME 04401.
Report of the Snowmobile Trail Funding Survey:
This is the report on the results of the Snowmobile Trail Grooming Funding Survey that was undertaken in the winter and spring of 2011 by Dr. Stephen Reiling of the University of Maine Orono in conjunction with the MSA Trails Committee. The study was funded as part of the MSA Trails Committee contract with the Department of Conservation this past season. There was a great response from clubs and municipal projects across the state, and the results are interesting reading - see what folks think here:Click here to view the report.
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