Snowmobile clubs and municipalities to get more trail funds

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AUGUSTA – Snowmobile clubs and municipalities with snowmobile trails this year are receiving more grant money for trail maintenance, according to Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands officials.

Eligible clubs will receive in total about $100,000 more this year than last year, while municipalities will see their grants increase in total by about $285,000, Scott Ramsay, director of the BPL Off Road Vehicle Division said this week.

It is the first increase in the grant awards seen in four years, Ramsay said. The funding will go toward maintaining about 8,443 miles of club trails and 5,497 miles of municipal trails, he said.

The funding, generated by increased snowmobile registration fees, was requested by snowmobile users and approved last year by the state Legislature. Qualified clubs still can apply for the Club Trail Maintenance Grant until Wednesday, Dec. 31.

“Snowmobiling is such an integral part of the Maine winter experience and an incredible asset to the state economy through the tourism and business sector,” Commissioner Patrick McGowan of the Maine Department of Conservation, which oversees the BPL, said. “It’s great that clubs and communities all over the state will benefit from the foresight of the snowmobilers and the Legislature in responding to the need to maintain and improve our user-friendly trail system.”

“It’s just another way for people to take it outside and enjoy our natural winter recreation,” Will Harris, BPL director said.

“We were really pleased to work with the Legislature and the Maine Snowmobile Association to be able to help shepherd that legislation through in difficult economic times,” Ramsay said. “The snowmobilers responsibly asked to increase their own fees to cover increased maintenance costs.

“It shows the integrity and cooperation between the private sector, private clubs and state government,” the division director said.

Ramsay also credited Rick LeVasseur, chairman of the MDOC Snowmobile Advisory Council and owner of Five Lakes Lodge near Millinocket, for working with the Legislature about the need for the funding.

Last year, the state Legislature passed legislation calling for an increase in snowmobile registration fees “specifically earmarked for these grants,” Ramsay explained. The legislation was initiated by the Maine Snowmobile Association working with Rep. Herbert Clark (D-Millinocket) and state Sen. Roger Sherman (R-Houlton).

Registration for Maine residents went up by $2 to a fee of $36 per year, while the seasonal non-resident registration fee went up by $20 to $88. About 102,000 snowmobiles were registered, generating a total of $385,000 for the division’s grant programs and an additional $21,000 to the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife for law enforcement, safety training, and education.

The overall grant award to the clubs now has increased this year by about $100,000, from about $750,000 to $850,000, Ramsay said. Clubs request grants according to the mileage of trail to be maintained, with a cap of 30 miles.

About 270 qualified clubs will receive an overall 12-percent increase in the per-mile award, from $110 to $125 per mile, Ramsay said. The maximum that a club can receive is $3,750, an increase this year of $450 for each club, he said.

“That means more money to help cover what we know has been increasing — fuel, insurance and equipment costs,” the division director said.

The remaining funds — $285,000 – goes to increase grants to municipalities that have applied to help snowmobile trail upkeep, Ramsay said. Last year, the Municipal Grant Program for Snowmobile Trail Development and Maintenance approved slightly more than $2 million in MDOC grants from DOC, while this year it will approve $2.3 million in grants, he said.

The municipal program will fund 116 applications, which will be awarded by Dec. 19, Ramsay said.

“These receive a little more allocation because they tend to be busier trails, with more traffic, more expenses,” he said. “Consequently, the grants are larger.”

The municipalities are receiving an across-the-board 8 percent increase in the funding awards, Ramsay said. Grants, however, are based on such factors as location in a heavy tourist zone, the number of miles, the amount of traffic, the length of the snowmobile season, and the kinds of equipment operated.

The division director cited several examples of increased funding for the municipalities:
Madawaska, received last year $22,600; this year, $24,600;
Eagle Lake, last year, $20,800; this year, $23,534;
Eustis, last year, $51,000; this year, $57,600;
Rangeley, last year, $75,000; this year, $84,700.

Snowmobile clubs still can apply for their share of the funding, Ramsay said. He said “warning letters” will be sent out next week to remind clubs of the upcoming deadline.

Interested clubs can call: 800-462-1019 or (207) 287-4957 or email: Shannon.d.morin@maine.com

For more information, go to: http://www.maine.gov/doc/parks/programs/snowmobile

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