Clubs laud funding of snowmobile trails

The snowmobiling community, upset since April when about $1 million in snowmobile trail maintenance
PHOTOGRAPHER:

The snowmobiling community, upset since April when about $1 million in snowmobile trail maintenance funds was applied to balance the new state budget, was ecstatic Thursday when Gov. David Paterson announced trail aid will almost double.

“It’s really good news,” said Rory P. Whelan, a spokesman for the New York State Snowmobile Association. Whelan said the association praises Paterson for increasing state trail aid from $2.87 million to $5.34 million while also guaranteeing that all snowmobile registration money will be dedicated to supporting the trail system and related needs.

“We commend Gov. Patterson for taking this action to guarantee that [money] dedicated from snowmobile registration fees will be spent specifically on snowmobile trail maintenance and safety,” Mike Fischer, president of the association, said in a news release.

“This is great news for the state’s 100,000 snowmobilers and the upstate businesses that rely on the $1 billion snowmobiling adds to the state’s economy,” Fischer said.

Under revisions in the funding program announced Thursday, Whelan said the state Department of Environmental Conservation, which now spends about $1.1 million from registration fees to maintain about 2,500 miles of trail on state lands, will reduce its share of the fund over the next three years by a total of $1 million.

That money will be used instead to help fund local trail maintenance grants administered by snowmobile clubs, which tend to the private and state trails in their various territories.

Whelan said snowmobile association officials were assured the reduction in funding for the state-owned portion of the trails will not have an adverse impact on maintenance of those networks.

The association, Fischer said, “has been very concerned about the projected funding levels for the upcoming season’s trail fund grants. We are pleased the governor recognized the serious negative implications a shortfall in funding would have caused and the impact it would have had on the snowmobiling public. We’d also like to thank the many state legislators who supported us, including Assemblywoman RoAnn Destito and Sens. Joe Griffo and Darrel Aubertine,” said Fischer.

Since April, local government bodies and officials of snowmobile clubs joined with the association to protest the April decision to use $1 million from the snowmobile registration fund to balance the state budget. As part of an agreement two years ago with the state, registration fees were raised from $15 per machine to $45 for those in clubs and $100 for others with the understanding the money would be dedicated to snowmobiling needs, which also include insurance costs and law enforcement.

But a spokeswoman for the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, the agency that administers the trail fund, said recently the loss of $1 million would not have affected trail maintenance in the coming winter.

Last year, the state collected $5.4 million from about 128,000 machine registrations.

Categories: Schenectady County

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