Ask an Official: Forestry director discusses snowmobile clubs; trail maintenance
This week’s featured question is for Lincoln County Forestry, Land and Parks Director Kevin Kleinschmidt
The question reads:
“How is responsibility divied up for snowmobile trail maintenance and care? I know the clubs do a lot of work but what exactly is the county’s responsibility and what exactly does Lincoln County do to assist? I’ve been told it’s really up to each county so I’m curious. Thanks!”
Answer given by Johnson:
“Lincoln County has around 312 miles of state funded snowmobile trails in our county. These trails are maintained by seven snowmobile clubs and the portions of trail that the various clubs maintain ranges from 15 miles for the smallest club to 85 miles maintained by the largest club. The work that is involved to make our trails a reality every year begins well before the snowmobile season starts. Snowmobile clubs must first obtain land use easements with the landowners that their segment of trail crosses and work with the towns in our county to have certain roads opened up to snowmobile use so that individual segments of trail can make connections to one another.
“Before trails can be opened, the county must verify that all of the required criteria have been met for our funded trails and send that information to the DNR. In fall, club members go through their portion of the trail system to remove fallen trees; cut brush that is hanging onto the trail; and put up signs that will direct snowmobilers where to go, provide information about the trails and warn riders of hazards on the trail. When the weather starts turning colder, club members work on getting swamps and other wet areas frozen so they can be safely crossed, and pack the snow down to provide a base for the trail. When a club has completed all of this work, they contact the county to verify that their segment of trail is safe and ready to open. Since all club sections of trail are interconnected, we must wait until all of the trails in a given area are ready to open so users won’t run into closed or unprepared trails that are not safe to ride on.
“The county oversees this entire process and is responsible for verifying that our state funded trails are in an acceptable condition for snowmobilers to use. In addition, the county works with our various clubs to acquire funding that is available from the state to develop and maintain these trails. During the snowmobile season, club members groom their portions of trail on a regular basis in order to maintain a safe and enjoyable trail to ride on. When trails are ready to be opened, the county does inspections on them to ensure that state statute and natural resource code requirements are being upheld. As club members complete the signing, brushing and grooming of their state funded trails, they turn in timesheets to the county for the work done. The county is responsible for auditing these timesheets and then submitting them to the DNR in order to obtain the funding that we are eligible to receive.
“Clubs receive $250/mile to prepare and maintain their state funded trails throughout the season. In addition, supplemental maintenance funding is also applied for by the county at the end of the season if certain requirements are met in order to cover expenses above the normal maintenance funding. This supplemental payment is based on how much revenue is left in the state snowmobile program in a given year. Most years, this funding is prorated and clubs will only be reimbursed for a percentage of what they have spent to maintain their trails. This is the reason why the clubs in our area have fundraisers and raffles so that they can cover these additional costs. After the snowmobile season is over, the county submits the paperwork to the DNR that is required in order to reimburse clubs for what they are eligible to receive, and makes these payments to the clubs based on the number of miles of trail that they maintain and the costs that they have incurred.
“Besides maintenance funding, financial assistance is also available through the snowmobile program for other projects such as placing or repairing bridges on the trail where needed, re-routing trails where easements have been lost, or improving segments of trail that are in need of repair. The cost estimates, aid applications, permits and other information that is required to be submitted to the DNR in order to fund these types of projects are also the responsibility of the county. Lincoln County must compete with all of the other counties in the state in order to receive funding for these types of projects.
The state-wide snowmobile program is self-funded through the registration and trail passes that are purchased by the snowmobilers who use the trail system. The success of this program is the result of the many landowners who allow the trails to cross through their property, the club volunteers who perform the work needed to maintain the trails and the county that oversees the program and acquires and distributes the funding that is available from the state.
“Our local clubs are always looking for new members who are willing to help with the work that is involved to maintain the trail system that we have here in Lincoln County. The goal of everyone involved is to maintain a safe and enjoyable trail system for snowmobilers to use.”
Have a question or concern you would like to address? Simply send your question or concern to firstname.lastname@example.org along with an indication of which entity your question or concern pertains to. Current participants are the Merrill Police Department, Merrill Fire Department, Tomahawk Police Department, Lincoln County Administrative Coordinator Randy Scholz, Merrill City Administrator Dave Johnson and Merrill Area Housing Authority Director Paul Russell. Please note: Those who submit to the ‘Ask an Official’ feature remain anonymous.