I attended my first NHSA President’s meeting in Gilford in September. It was a great opportunity to meet club representatives from throughout NH’s snowmobile community. One familiar face I bumped into was Don Revane, President of the Washington Snow Riders. The Washington Snow Riders was one of the local clubs from my old patrol area and I have been privileged to ride and patrol on their trails for the past 15 years.
Reroutes and Closures
Don and I caught up on recent club news and he brought me up to speed on another new trail reroute in Washington. These reroutes have been necessary after a large landowner closed and posted approximately 300 acres of land. This closure came as a surprise to all of us when it happened a few years back. Many folks in the community, including both the Snow Riders and I, attempted to reach out to the landowner in hopes of helping with any issues. Just communicating with this landowner was difficult as they were not local and only wanted to communicate through their attorneys.
It has never been clearly articulated as to why they closed and posted their property in the first place. Unfortunately this landowner has not been willing to leave their land open and a key section of the snowmobile trail was lost. This was in spite of the fact that they have liability protection by various state statutes.
The issue of access is not a new one. Sometimes, like the landowner described above, landowners are not willing to accept help and have no real appreciation for the NH tradition of access to private land.
70% of NH Land Under Private Ownership
Luckily though, many of our landowners still have an understanding that more than 70% of New Hampshire’s land is under private ownership and an appreciation that the key to quality outdoor experiences is the ability to access those private lands. Even with that understanding and appreciation though, many landowners are faced with issues each year that force them to contemplate closing their property. Many times these issues involve litter, excessive noise from ATV’s and snowmobiles, and off-trail riding.
Stop and Say Hello
Many of you within the snowmobile community know that those issues are coming from a small minority of the riders. However, many of our large landowners may not realize this fact. It is imperative that as ambassadors to the sport, each of us take the time to not only thank landowners for granting us access to their lands but also to educate them. Stopping to simply say hello and asking them if they are experiencing any problems on their land is a very simple and easy way of educating landowners to the fact that most riders are responsible.
When I was a field CO and taught the Law portion of Hunter Safety classes, I ended each class on the subject of landowner relations. If we do not maintain good landowner relations we will lose access and in turn the recreational opportunities we cherish. Whether it is hunting or snowmobiling, the easiest way to gain and keep access is to proactively reach out to landowners, thank them, and find out how to help alleviate any problems they may be having.
As is the case with many of life’s challenges, communication is the key to solving most problems. The more responsible riders that a landowner meets, the less apt that landowner is to close their land when they do experience a problem such as a loud exhaust on the trail next to their house at 2 A.M.
All of our local snowmobile clubs are already doing this but they cannot and should not have to do it alone. Access to private land is a privilege and it is the responsibility of all to maintain it.