The Maine legislature, regrettably, can’t make it snow, but they are acting to boost our snowmobile industry by allowing snowmobilers to use trails near controlled access highways. A bill sponsored by Representative Robert Saucier would amend Maine law so that the commissioner of transportation would be able to permit the construction of all-terrain vehicle and snowmobile trails within the right-of-way limits of newly constructed controlled access highways. His bill would also permit the operations of all-terrain vehicles and snowmobiles on those trail segments.
The legislature’s Transportation Committee gave Saucier’s bill a unanimous bipartisan endorsement on Tuesday, good news for all Maine snowmobilers and the snowmobiling industry. Now, if we could just get some snow!
“Aroostook County relies on the economic benefits that the snowmobile industry brings to our area,” said Saucier, D-Presque Isle. “Amending this law will ensure that snowmobiling can continue and that all our trails will remain connected and properly functioning.”
Last winter, Saucier learned that construction of a new bypass in Presque Isle was to take place and that the snowmobile trail was going to be disconnected due to language in Maine statute that forbids the operation of an ATV or snowmobile on a controlled access highway. If his proposal is enacted, a trail would be able to connect the multi-use rail trail from Houlton to Presque Isle with the multi-use rail trail on the north side of Presque Isle proper that continues to Caribou and New Sweden and connects to the trail north to Van Buren and south to Mapleton.
As Bob Meyers, the executive director of the Maine Snowmobile Association told me, ”It was a pretty straightforward bill. Another problem solved.” If you would like to know more about this issue, here is Bob’s testimony on the bill.
Testimony in Support of LD-1567. “An Act To Amend the Laws Regarding the Operation of an All-terrain Vehicle or Snowmobile on a Controlled Access Highway”
Presented by Bob Meyers, Executive Director. Maine Snowmobile Association
The Maine Snowmobile Association represents 25,000 snowmobilers and 2,000 businesses in 290 snowmobile clubs across the state. The volunteers in our clubs maintain and groom 14,500 miles of snowmobile trails that are the infrastructure of the winter economy in many rural areas of the state. Most recent estimates of snowmobile activity note that it generates millions of dollars per year in sales tax and provides the full-time equivalent of 2,300 jobs statewide. The total economic value of snowmobiling in Maine is estimated to be in excess of $300 million.
There some very basic things that help ensure the success of snowmobiling in Maine. They include thousands of willing volunteers to maintain the trails and an almost equal number of generous landowners who allow us to use their property. A third component that is very important to the success of Maine’s snowmobile trail system is the continuity of the trails themselves. Maine is known throughout the Northeast for the opportunities that are afforded to riders who can literally ride from one end of the state to the other on an interconnected trail system.
Clearly there are barriers along the way, like rivers and streams, and of course controlled-access highways. The highways can be a little tricky some times, but over the years policies and limited legislation has allowed these crossing to work while ensuring the safety of both highway and recreational users.
LD-1567 applies those same common-sense rules to the construction period of controlled-access highways. It establishes a process that allows continued recreational access during the construction period to ensure the safety of all involved and at the same time preserve the important continuity of the state’s trail system.
Thank you in advance for your support and I’d be happy to answer any questions.