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Officers to increase snowmobile patrols for long weekend

For many, this will be a three-day weekend with Martin Luther King Jr. holiday Monday.

Some will spend much of that time on a snowmobile, cruising the many recreational trails in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Anticipating that influx, the state’s Department of Natural Resources conservation officers — joined by local, state and federal officers — will do group patrols to help make sure snowmobilers “Ride Right.”

“It’s always a really busy weekend” said Sgt. Jerry Fitzgibbon, the DNR’s acting district law supervisor for the eastern Upper Peninsula. “We want everyone to know ahead of time that there will be an increased presence of officers conducting snowmobile patrols.”

Fitzgibbon hopes an increased presence of officers will decrease the number of snowmobile injuries, fatalities and noise complaints.

In January 2019, Michigan had five snowmobile fatalities — four in the Upper Peninsula — on the Friday before Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Alcohol or drugs were confirmed in three of the events.

The 2019-20 snowmobile season so far has seen six snowmobile fatalities in Michigan, including four in the Upper Peninsula. The most recent snowmobile fatality in Michigan occurred Wednesday in Sault Ste. Marie in Chippewa County.

The DNR’s Ride Right snowmobile safety campaign offers snowmobilers several reminders, including to ride on the right side of the trail, ride at a safe speed and to ride sober.

Officers also plan additional sound enforcement patrols to maintain legal noise levels, particularly on trails that go through private property and residential areas.

“There will be multiple sound enforcement patrols at various locations, on and off the trails,” said Lt. Ryan Aho, the DNR’s district law supervisor for the western Upper Peninsula. “We don’t want to lose any more snowmobile trails because of noise complaints.”

In recent years, excessive noise from snowmobiles and trespassing complaints have resulted in the loss of over 400 miles of trails after landowners closed access that navigated through their private properties.

The DNR urges all snowmobilers, regardless of age or experience, take a snowmobile safety class. In Michigan, snowmobile operators between the ages of 12 and 16 are required to take a Michigan-approved snowmobile safety course and obtain a snowmobile safety certificate to ride unsupervised or to operate a snowmobile across a road.

Learn more about snowmobiling opportunities and trail safety resources at Michigan.gov/Snowmobiling. For the latest information on trail and other DNR-managed closures, go to Michigan.gov/DNRClosures.

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