Respect Landowners or Stay Home

Landowner Respect!  By Jim Rolf

Don’t read this if you are a respectful snowmobiler, follow the rules, and don’t illegally trespass off the marked trails!

Hey!   What gives you the right to go off trail, trespass on a landowner’s property, and then give that same landowner a bunch of $#!t when he catches you?  YOU HAVE NO RESPECT AND YOU HAVE NO RIGHT TO CAUSE A TRAIL TO BE SHUT DOWN TO THE REST OF US!  Please sell your sled and get out of the sport!   You are ruining it for the rest of us! 

It seems like this year more than any other a few snowmobilers seem to be causing quite a disproportionate share of problems with landowners.  Those landowners, many who have opened their lands to snowmobiling for decades, are now having strong second thoughts and are choosing to close their land because someone thinks it is there “God-given Right” to ride where ever they want, when they want to!  

A few recent closures in Turin and Osceola, involving unbelievable interactions between riders not being where they were supposed to be (either off the marked trail or on a trail closed due to hunting season/wet ground) highlight this attitude.  Both situations are different, as one had the local law enforcement right on it while in the other, the landowner felt that more could have and should have been done.  That landowner called to discuss the situation.  After hearing his story I had to try to get the message out about what is occurring with trail closures by landowners who are sick and tired of few snowmobilers ruining landowner/club relations.  This landowner is also upset that some rumors and even media reports inaccurately portrayed the situation, stating they were blaming the State for the closure.  This landowner is a snowmobiler, who has had their family land open to the snowmobile trail for decades.  The final straw for them was not feeling as though enough was done to take care of him as a landowner when riders rudely interacted with him.

Clubs have worked for decades on building a trail system that requires the generosity and the trust of many landowners.  Foul-mouthed, disrespectful riders have destroyed those decades of work!    Landowners, who pay the taxes on the lands on which our trails are located, shouldn’t be put into situations where they are verbally abused by riders who are caught off the marked trails.  In that situation, the landowner deserves a humble apology, a thank you for allowing the use of their land, and for you to return to the marked trail.  Without the generosity of the property owners that allow us to utilize their land, we won’t have a trail network to enjoy!

Recently legislation was signed into law which provides a few different positive measures for snowmobile trails.  The new provides more money for law enforcement. The plan is that with more funds available, more patrols will be on the trails to deal with unregistered, uninsured, speeding, reckless drivers, and those that run loud exhausts.  All of those efforts are to remove those that may be jeopardizing the trails in the eyes of other riders and to the landowners, while slowing down those that have some sort of belief that they can ride hard and their actions don’t negatively affect anyone else.

We need law enforcement on the trails and support this new legislation, which also significantly raised the fine associated with riding a snowmobile off one’s own property with no NYS registration.  In the past, the fine was “up to $200.00” when ticketed.  The new law makes that fine “a minimum of $200.00, and a maximum of $500.00”.  Half of the unregistered fine revenue goes into the NYS Snowmobile Trail Fund account which is where the law enforcement funding is generated from in the first place.  Clubs also receive their funding from that dedicated source.

The President of The Osceola Snowmobile Association (which is one of the clubs affected by a landowner who deserved more respect) stated “Don’t make the club volunteers work harder to appease a landowner because of your bad decision.  They don’t get paid to fix your bad idea on riding on a closed trail or running loud pipes when they have to go out to find a possible reroute.”  Chris also reiterated that “Just because you pay your money to join the clubs and register your sled doesn’t entitle you to do whatever you want on other people’s land!”.  The Osceola club is seeking to find a suitable reroute around a closed trail that would never have been closed if riders would have simple stayed on the well-marked trail and NOT interacted with the landowner as they did.  Chris adds that “this longtime landowner, a family that had allowed the trail through for decades now, deserves his privacy also off the snowmobile trail and respect of his land.  All the club can do is apologize.  What we can learn from this is now the trail is closed.  So, please … stay on the trail”.   A very similar situation happened in Turin that resulted in a trail closure as well.

For those of you who just can’t seem to follow the rules you should be aware that you are likely to see more law enforcement out on the trail.  A new law encouraged by NYSSA will put more money and resources in the hands of local law enforcement to go out and enforce snowmobile related laws.  If you ride without a registration be prepared to pay dearly for that violation.

It is NOT worth it for those few to jeopardize the trails by disrespecting the laws and our landowners.  The club volunteers can better concentrate their efforts to improve trails rather than to have to spend time reacting to an upset landowner and then undertake a reroute project.  Use common sense please, stay on the marked trails, don’t run loud exhaust, and RESPECT THE LANDOWNERS!  Your continued appreciation of the trails we have now is what will keep this sport going well into the future!  If you can’t do that, I repeat … sell your sled and get out of the sport!




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