Many people are expected to spend time outdoors over the upcoming three-day Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend. Anticipating an influx of snowmobilers, Michigan Department of Natural Resources conservation officers – joined by local, state and federal officers – will be conducting group patrols to help make sure snowmobilers “Ride Right.”
“It’s always a really busy weekend” said Sgt. Jerry Fitzgibbon, the DNR’s acting district law supervisor for the eastern Upper Peninsula. “We want everyone to know ahead of time that there will be an increased presence of officers conducting snowmobile patrols.”
The most recent snowmobile fatality in Michigan occurred Wednesday night in Sault Ste. Marie in Chippewa County. Fitzgibbon hopes that an increased presence of officers will decrease the number of snowmobile injuries, fatalities and noise complaints.
Last January, five snowmobile fatalities occurred in Michigan on the Friday before Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Alcohol or drugs were confirmed in three of the events and four of those deaths occurred in the Upper Peninsula. So far during the 2019-20 snowmobile season, there have been six snowmobile fatalities in Michigan, including four in the Upper Peninsula.
The DNR’s Ride Right snowmobile safety campaign offers snowmobilers several reminders, including to ride on the right side of the trail, ride at a safe speed and to ride sober.
Fitzgibbon adds that poor visibility can also be a contributing factor to snowmobile accidents.
“Following too close to the snowmobile in front of you or riding during a snowstorm reduces your visibility and increases the risk of missing a curve, colliding with a tree or even other snowmobiles,” said Fitzgibbon. “Everyone should use extreme caution and slow down when their visibility is impacted.”
Officers have also planned additional sound enforcement patrols to maintain legal noise levels, particularly on trails that go through private property and residential areas.
“There will be multiple sound enforcement patrols at various locations, on and off the trails,” said Lt. Ryan Aho, the DNR’s district law supervisor for the western Upper Peninsula. “We don’t want to lose any more snowmobile trails because of noise complaints.”
In recent years, excessive noise from snowmobiles and trespassing complaints have resulted in the loss of over 400 miles of trails after landowners closed access that navigated through their private properties.
Good weekend trail conditions are forecast for much of the region.
“Trails are open and groomed with the exception of portions in the eastern Upper Peninsula,” said Ron Yesney, DNR U.P. trails coordinator. “We have good snow in most of the U.P. and there is more snow on the way.”
The DNR urges all snowmobilers, regardless of age or experience, to take a snowmobile safety class. In Michigan, snowmobile operators between the ages of 12 and 16 are required to take a Michigan-approved snowmobile safety course and obtain a snowmobile safety certificate to ride unsupervised or to operate a snowmobile across a road.
Learn more about snowmobiling opportunities and trail safety resources at Michigan.gov/Snowmobiling. For the latest information on trail and other DNR-managed facility, closures, visit Michigan.gov/DNRClosures.