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Snomo clubs, volunteers

kept trails well-groomed

A long and grand snowmobiling season ended at midnight Monday in Vilas and Oneida counties when clubs closed their trails and state insurance lapsed on the easements that cross private land.


Like the winter that still lingers here, the trails opened earlier than normal, prior to Christmas, and they were generally in excellent condition throughout January, February and March.


The extreme cold that forced school cancellations and fueled a propane shortage helped create trails with an extremely tough snow and ice base — some of the smoothest, most well-groomed trails since organized trail maintenance began in the 1970s.


The trail network here is undisputably one of the most scenic in Wisconsin. The trails criss-cross a combination of private and public land, including county, state and national forest property. Unlike farm country, trails here wind through heavily forested land.


Because it is far too easy to take great trails for granted, we’d like to acknowledge everyone who had a hand in making the trail network so great this winter. It all starts with snowmobile clubs and grooming organizations, most of which meet the year around and do an enormous amount of equipment maintenance, trail signing, financial work and easement solicitation months before the snow arrives.


It is pretty much the same people who do the trail grooming itself, and they’ve got to be tapped physically and financially after more than three months of grooming. We’d like to commend all of them on a job well done. It’s been years since we fielded that many positive comments about the well-groomed trails.


The business community stepped up once again in a huge way, answering equipment fund drives with donations and special fund-raising events that included spaghetti dinners and vintage sled racing. We believe every business should be contributing to the trail effort in some way, because directly or indirectly, every business is helped when tourists come and tourism thrives.


We are elated that the new annual snowmobile pass system won approval — not because we like new fees and taxes, but because grooming organizations needed a boost from both a financial and manpower perspective. The new pass will raise millions of dollars for trail infrastructure and grooming, while also encouraging sledders to join a snowmobile club in order to keep the money local. More members translates into a more diverse, deeper volunteer work force.


There remains a bright future for the sport of snowmobiling — which almost single-handedly brought North Woods winters to life and helped create a four-season economy where one had never existed before.


We’d also like to mention that there was not one snowmobile-related fatality in Vilas and Oneida counties this winter, which is a testament to how well-maintained and well-signed the trail system has become. Visible law enforcement and a nighttime speed limit of 55 mph may have also helped.


We tip our helmets to the grooming organizations, volunteers and supporting business owners who made it happen.


Behind the editorial ‘we’


Members of the Vilas County News-Review editorial board include Publisher Kurt Krueger, Editor Gary Ridderbusch and Assistant Editor Anthony Drew.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014 9:33 AM

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