2013-10-10 / Front Page

SCMTA: Help prevent damage to trails

Assoc. needs public’s help to avoid reroutes

A damaged gate is shown along one of the trails managed by the SCMTA. 
Courtesy photo A damaged gate is shown along one of the trails managed by the SCMTA. Courtesy photo MANISTIQUE – The Schoolcraft County Motorized Trails Association is asking for the public’s help to prevent and report trail damage. According to one representative, if the recent bouts of damage do not stop, it could mean miles of trails lost to the snowmobiling and ORV communities.

Gerald Reese, president of the SCMTA, said the volunteer organization is getting frustrated with the bout of damage caused to the trails – most recently to the gates intended to keep ORVs off snowmobile trails. He explained that gates on the east and west side of an area in Brace Creek Swamp were damaged and breeched this spring, most likely with something other than an ORV.

“We’re talking about intentional, malicious damage,” he said. “An ORV cannot do that extent of damage to those gates – it has to be done with a truck.”

According to Reese, the people vandalizing the gates are now threatening many miles of precious snowmobile trail north of the Haywire Grade Trail. The trail, referred to as “Trail 2” – a snowmobiler’s version of U.S. 2 – has a section that crosses a private landowner’s property, then continues on to the approximate ly 65 miles of trail. The landowner recently acquired the property, explained Reese, and has already had extensive damage to the gates on both the east and west side of the land. These gates, he added, are opened in December and closed in March, since it is snowmobile only.

“If we can’t secure his property, on his behalf, he’s going to yank his landowner permission,” he said. “So, now we lose 65 miles of trail east of Haywire Grade … unless we can find a reroute.”

Reese said reroutes are more costly than most residents understand. The most recent reroute, which occurred after a different land owner pulled the agreement allowing riders to cross the property, took the association two years, 13 land owner agreements, and cost $30,000.

“The challenge is … their (vandals) ignorance or their total disregard for property,” he said. “It isn’t just ‘rip out the gates so I can go through there’, it’s ‘rip out the gates and totally destroy them so they can never be reused’.”

Funds normally spent maintaining and improving the trails are now being spent repairing damage and attempting to secure areas where standard gates should be sufficient, Reese explained.

“We’re a volunteer organization. We have to keep going out and fixing trail damage and the gates, so our people are getting tired of it,” he said. “We’re into program money and program costs, labor and material.”

The association and landowner have filed complaints in regard to the recent damage, Reese said, and are currently attempting to come up with more “substantial” gates for that property. A project which, again, takes away from why the organization is there, he added.

“That’s my issue. It should be a community issue,” Reese said.

The snowmobile trails in the area contribute to the economy, Reese explained, and the association has spent approximately $20,000 on trails this year alone.

“We’re trying to market our trail system as the best in the Upper Peninsula,” he said. “We can make that argument to try to draw revenue into the community.”

Reese said he believes the people who are damaging the gates and properties are local, not transient traffic. He also noted the association will be working with various entities to prosecute the people responsible once they’re caught.

In the meantime, he said, the organization is requesting the public’s assistance in stopping the people involved with the damage.

“Would you rather have program money improving stuff, or repairing and fixing?” he said. “If you want money to improve stuff, then you need to be our eyes and ears and be more proactive about catching the people who are doing this type of damage.” To report trail damage, contact Reese at (906) 450-2580, greese@centurylink.net or call the Schoolcraft County Sheriff’s Department at 341-2122.

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