WETMORE — The closure of a thirteen–mile snowmobile trail in Alger County has gotten a rise out of the snowmobiling community. The Alger County Road Commission held a special meeting this morning to discuss the issue.
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources recently announced that Trail #422 in Alger County would be closed this season. The reason given for the closure was the Alger County Road Commission’s decision not to grant the DNR access to a stretch of Highway 58 that makes up a small portion of the groomed snowmobile trail.
“Over the many years that it’s been a designated trail, we have [had] annual damage from studs, from carbides, and from the groomer itself,” said Alger County Road Commission Engineering Manager Bob Lindbeck. “About two years ago, we began meeting with the DNR and asking for maybe some help with annual maintenance costs on these eroded ruts that occur, and the DNR hoped to help us and then found they were unable to supply us with annual patching costs.”
Lindbeck called the damage “a hazard to motorists and an annual expense to the Road Commission” in a letter sent to the DNR back in January. Alternative solutions were brought forth by the commission, including having the DNR aid in procuring funding for resurfacing that portion of the highway with a surface better capable of dealing with the added wear and tear, or having the trail relocated. The letter explained the Commission’s efforts to work with the DNR on the situation, and it also explained how they would be forced to close the stretch of trail if something wasn’t decided by December 1st.
“We as road commissioners would be remiss in our duty as elected officials to allow this type of damage to continue if we are unable to recover funding for damage by groomers, snowmobiles, and off–road recreational vehicles,” said Doug Miron, Chairman of the Board for the Road Commission.
The Road Commission and county officials are hoping to clarify what’s going on to the public, as the closure has resulted in negative feedback from snowmobile enthusiasts.
“We don’t need a bad name in this area,” said Jerry Doucette, Alger County Board Chair and President of the Michigan Association of Counties. “We want folks to come in and enjoy our beautiful area.”
For now, the trail remains closed, but officials are hopeful that they will be able to continue to work hand–in–hand with the parties involved to come to a solution.
“It’s now time the DNR, the Alger County Road Commission, and others get on the same page and improve the situation,” added Miron.
“We are going to be planning and setting up meetings so we can resolve some of these issues,” Doucette said. “I think if we all get together in a room — and its been my experience that when that happens, things get accomplished.”