Snowmobile clubs offer safety tips, fun

It's more than just the riding and the snow for local snowmobile clubs.

In fact, a great deal of time is spent on trail maintenance and grooming. For the Moonlight Riders, based in West Eaton, that involves 85 miles of state sanctioned trails through five townships (Georgetown, Lebanon, Morrisville/Eaton, Smithfield and Stockbridge/Munnsville).

"We have hardworking people and a number of people just doing stuff. They're dedicated without being asked," Moonlight Riders' Richard Taber.

Meanwhile, South Shore Trailblazers, based in Bridgeport, maintains approximately 30 miles of trails within Madison and Onondaga Counties.

"We do try to get groups together to go on rides but it's hard for us to do that," Trailblazers' Kevin Donnelly said. "We do trail maintenance outside of winter."

Maintenance just doesn't involve the trails either.

When it does come time to ride, one of the big things both Taber and Donnelly look at is establishing and maintaining relationships with landowners.

"Without landowners we do not have a trail system. We're actually going though people's property," Donnelly said.

Donnelly said that once a landowner decides to keep snowmobiles off his or her property, it takes a long to designate and redo a trail, a process he is currently going through.

"It's hard to reroute a trail," he added.

Taber experiences both sides of the activity, both riding and owning almost a mile of land with a trail.

"It takes work to maintain relationships. You have to work hard to get and maintain permission from landowners," Taber said.

Beyond a good relationship with landowners, the biggest concern is safety. In a press release from New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation in recognition of Snowmobile Safety Week, which occurred Jan. 10-16, it was noted that unsafe speeds are the leading cause of all accidents and alcohol consumption factored in 24 of the 83 snowmobile-related fatalities over the last five year, 14 of which were in the 2008-09 season.

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