By Molly Miron, Special to the Pioneer
BEMIDJI – Snowmobile club volunteers groom, maintain and erect signage on Minnesota’s vast network of trails.
The clubs turn in work logs to the Department of Natural Resources Trails Division detailing the hours of service and miles of grooming members provide each year. The DNR pays the clubs a per-mile rate for the work involved.
For 2013, Beltrami County snowmobile clubs will receive DNR Grants In Aid funding – at a rate of $357 per mile of grooming – for a total of $220,351, according to David Schotzko of the Trails Division.
Schotzko presented the snowmobile club figures to the Beltrami County Board of Commissioners during last week’s work session. He is based at Lake Bemidji State Park, but works closely with local clubs in securing GIA funding for trail development and maintenance. He manages trails in the counties of Beltrami, Becker, Cass, Clearwater, Hubbard, Mahnomen and Wadena.
Statewide, the GIA trail system has increased to 21,205 miles since the program started in 1973, Schotzko said. The funds are granted by the State Legislature.
“There’s a Grant in Aid program for snowmobiling, for skiing and for ATV,” Schotzko said.
The Beltrami County snowmobile clubs receiving the GIA funding are North Country Trails, Lost River Trails and Stumpjumpers/Northland Trail.
“By our policy, we have to monitor half the clubs each year,” Schotzko said, adding that he actually checks on every club in his district every year.
“I think our snowmobile clubs and the people who use (trails) put grant money to good use for us,” said Commissioner Joe Vene.
Schotzko said every trail is measured with GPS so clubs don’t get over- or underpaid for their work. The clubs also need a local government sponsor, in this case the County Board, to ensure the snowmobile trails are prepared at the start of the season, adequately groomed and closed in the spring. Clubs must complete benchmarks and submit forms attesting that the trails are open and ready for use and properly groomed from opening day to the end of the season.
Schotzko said the DNR Trails Division works with county and state highway departments on safety considerations, as well as with loggers and ATV users to make sure snowmobile trails are not damaged and rutted. He said he also works with landowners so that trees are not planted or obstacles installed on trails and rights of way.
County Administrator Kay Mack cited the economic and tourism benefits of the area snowmobile trails, which draws visitors from all over the United States. But the northern Minnesota needs more snow, Schotzko said.