Discussions About the Future of Snowmobiling
The winter has been a bit of puzzler to everyone this year. December started the season with statewide grooming opportunities for the Christmas Holiday week, which has not been the case for many years now. The temperatures set records for lows and everyone felt the trail base would be set for the winter.
January 12th then hit us with temps in the 50’s and torrential rains for 24 hours across the entire state. We lost a lot of base and surface snow that weekend. February turned out like last February did: we actually had our average February snows, but we set warm temperature records in NH for the second February in a row! The net result, an early end to riding in much of the state. Now, I don’t have to write about this, riders could look out their windows and see it for themselves.
This leads to the topic of article; where are we headed? Pretty much everyone agrees that we will continue to have winter in NH. The question is when will it start and end and what kind of riding season will it leave us?
Several years ago NHSA and Trails Bureau staff met with the USFS Hubbard Brook Research staff to talk about winter research and what is tells us about winters in the future. The researchers agreed that we will continue to have winter, but it might mean 10 weeks instead of 14 of riding. it might mean less regular snow storms and more storms of increased intensity but further apart; it might mean more extreme temperature fluctuations, etc. It might mean a lot, it might mean a little but we have to figure out what the true season in NH might look like and how to fund for it.
We have been meeting with a sub-committee from NHSA, F&G and Trails to talk about future funding for the program and how to not decrease the level of trail maintenance that occurs today; if possible. Stay tuned as we look to start implementing some potential changes to grant programs, registrations, and overall program management in an effort to protect the snowmobile program for the future.
Use of RTP Funds for Grooming Only?
The Recreational Trails Program (RTP) is a popular grant program managed by the Trails Bureau. Funding for this program comes from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and is based on federal gas tax dollars spent by off road recreational vehicle users (snowmobile, OHRV, SUV, trailbikes, etc).
Overall, these fuel consumers spend $270 million annually on gas that is used off of highways and the Federal Highway Bill returns a portion of it ($84 million nationwide) to State’s to use for trail projects.
In the past the RTP was a popular place for snowmobile clubs to seek funds to help buy trail grooming equipment; often paired with GIA funds as Match funding.
Buy America Provision
Several years ago a long-forgotten provisions of the Federal Highway Law was found and enforced: Buy America for steel. The law was created more than 60 years ago, when the U. S. was a major steel producer and it ensured that if you used Federal Highway funds for projects (bridge beams, etc) you had to use U. S. made steel. I can agree with the idea and its attempt to protect American jobs. However, today it is tougher to find U. S. steel and the provision applies to equipment.
In the snowmobile world the most expensive items needed are trail groomers. There are only a few options available for manufacturers; Prinoth, Kassbohrer, Tucker and tractors that can be converted (this is for large groomers). Guess what; they are built elsewhere and use steel from elsewhere, so they can no longer be funded by RTP (this is a very simplified version of what we are actually dealing with).
Anyway, one thought now is that we use the portion of Motorized Grant Funds (part of the 30% dedicated to motorized trails) that is associated with snowmobile registrations to offset costs for trail grooming. This would guarantee we spend the funds annually and not risk losing them for uncompleted projects; but snowmobile clubs would no longer be able to apply for these funds for other projects (in the Motorized category; they could still apply in Diversified). Just a thought we are looking hard at.
Cloutier Family: 2017 Landowner of the Year
On February 22nd the Trails Bureau was finally able to catch up with a few members of the Cloutier Family, from Coos County.
Brothers Albert and Norman Cloutier attended the February Coos County Snowmobile Club monthly meeting so we could present them with the plaque for the 2017 Landowners of the Year. The award is typically awarded by the Bureau at the NHSA Annual Meeting in May, however just before the 2017 meeting their father, Albert Sr, passed due to a long illness. It had been the Bureau’s hope to be able to present this award to both brothers and their father; however that was not able to occur.
The Cloutier Family has been involved in snowmobiling for multiple decades and the family has supported snowmobile trails on their properties since the 1970’s. At least four NH snowmobile clubs have trails on Cloutier property and the family members continue to support and be active in the sport today; as landowners, club members, club officers, local officials and advocates. Our sincere thanks to the Cloutier Family, and all landowners that continue to allow public use of their lands here in NH.