Land owners announce re-opening of snowmobile trail access to Lake Alexander
A local snowmobile trail which had been closed for the last week due to an incident on Friday, Jan. 31, will re-open effective 8 a.m. Sunday, Feb. 9
During that incident, Scott Hinz of Merrill is accused of entering land owned by Stacy and Scott Pettit of Merrill, without permission. During which, Hinz reportedly placed signage on the property which contained offensive language. According to court records, Hinz has since been cited for Trespassing and Disorderly Conduct.
Following the incident, the Pettit’s have announced the snowmobile trail, which crosses their property, would remain closed pending an apology from Hinz.
Known as Trail X, the trail which crosses the Pettit’s property provides the only direct access for snowmobilers to Lake Alexander and the many events held on the ice every winter.
The following is a statement issued by Stacy Pettit regarding re-opening of the trail and the event leading to its closure.”On the morning of Friday, Jan. 31 I received a message from a neighbor with a picture of the signs attached to the gates. I reported it to the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Department. Although I have never had any personal interaction or conversations with Hinz, his past unprovoked threats and similar behavior towards me indicated that he was likely responsible for the signs being placed.
“The sheriff’s deputy approached him about the signs and he readily admitted to his actions. Because the investigation was ongoing and he hadn’t officially been charged in the court system, the signs were left in place. He was subsequently cited with disorderly conduct and trespassing.
“The snowmobile trail across our property had not been open yet this season, initially because of very poor ice conditions and ice depth. This fall we worked with Rock Island X-Press Snowmobile Club to put up extra signage, fencing, roping, and flags in an effort to keep riders on the trail and off of our newly seeded hayfield and private use trails. We looked the other way early on as a few riders had come off the lake and onto the property, despite all the indications of trail closure.
“On January 23, with the trail set to open the next day, a snowmobiler came off the lake and went a quarter mile through the property, between the farm buildings, down the driveway, and up Hwy 107. I contacted the club and indicated the trail would remain closed until that person came forward. Incidentally, we had a forestry project taking place on the property at the same time this was taking place. We again worked with the club to set a trail opening date of February 5, taking into consideration safety concerns with the forestry operator working along and around the snowmobile trail, how his machine would affect the quality of the trail, and continued concerns with lake conditions and impending warm weather.
“It was for no other reason than these facts that the snowmobile trail hadn’t been open yet this year. Anything other than these facts are rumor, speculation, or assumption. Clearly Hinz counted on me to be passive, he counted wrong. His words didn’t hurt my feelings; personally, I was unaffected.
“What he did accomplish was bringing unforeseen negative attention to himself and his business. Unfortunately, his self-righteous act only hurt trail users and other groups that counted on the trail being open to raise funds for families and children in need. We as private property owners, and I. received a tremendous amount of positive support from around the country, despite the fact we’ve been vilified locally for keeping the trail closed for legitimate reasons. The public needs to come to terms with the fact that private property and the decisions affecting that property is just that; private and rightful. We initially asked for an apology and explanation from Hinz. Clearly his actions are an indication of his character and it is unlikely this is going to happen. His actions alone have negatively impacted the entire community.
“Had an apology and explanation come forward through the Foto News, we were willing to open the snowmobile trail at 8 am Saturday. We have now decided to open the trail as of 8 a.m. Sunday, February 9, so that the legitimate fundraising events around the area can benefit from the additional trail traffic.
“We did nothing to provoke his behavior and as a result owe nothing to anyone. The decision to open the trail for the remainder of the year has been well thought out and is an indication of our character and integrity. We ask that all trail users follow the rules, respect all landowners, recognize the privilege of using the trail system, and join a snowmobile club.
“We ask that all business owners respect landowners who allow public use of their property that ultimately benefits their business. The graciousness of all landowners providing trail access in Wisconsin should not be taken for granted.”
Efforts to reach Scott Hinz to discuss the matter proved unsuccessful.