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MADISON — Two changes in Wisconsin snowmobile laws in recent weeks promise to enhance enjoyment of the sport’s heritage and encourage support for the voluntary trail maintenance efforts that make Wisconsin a standout winter recreation destination.
Cathy Burrow, snowmobile grant manager with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, says snowmobile enthusiasts provided important support for 2013 Wisconsin Act 233, a law designed to spur interest in Wisconsin’s rich snowmobile history and promote tourism by encouraging owners to showcase their vintage sleds. Modern snowmobiles trace their roots to the Motor Toboggan invented by Carl Eliason in Vilas County in 1924 and today, antique snowmobiles fill numerous sheds and storage rooms around the state.
Burrow says Act 233 expands on a previous law that enabled owners of snowmobiles with a model year of 1966 or older to register as an antique. The new law expands the definition of antique to include all snowmobiles 35 years and older.
It also provides incentives for collectors to register their sleds 35 years and older by establishing an initial registration fee of $20 and a renewal fee of $5 every two years. Under this new structure, owners will receive a distinctive antique registration certificate and decals and will be able to participate in special rallies and trail rides organized by Wisconsin clubs without purchasing a separate trail pass.
“Antique snowmobile shows are growing in popularity and we believe the expanded historic designation will highlight the unique role snowmobiles have played in recreation as well as our economy through the years,” Burrow says. “Our vintage enthusiasts probably won’t be taking their older models for long trail rides, but with the expanded designation, we do anticipate seeing more of the machines out of storage and back on the snow from time to time.”
By encouraging more collectors to register their vintage snowmobiles, enthusiasts also hope to generate additional revenue for trail development and maintenance – a goal shared by supporters of 2013 Wisconsin Act 142. Burrow says this law establishes a new trail fee system that includes opportunities for club members to purchase discounted passes.
Under Act 142, which goes into effect on July 1, 2015, snowmobile registration will cost $30 and will be extended to three years from the current two years. Meanwhile, all snowmobiles operating on public trails will now be required to display a trail pass.
To encourage enthusiasts to become involved in local clubs and help with trail maintenance, members who belong to both a club and the Association of Wisconsin Snowmobile Clubs will be able to purchase an annual trail pass for $10. Snowmobile owners who don’t hold memberships in these groups will pay $30 for the required trail pass. Non-resident trail passes will increase from $35 to $50 per year.
Burrow says the new fee structure recognizes the important role volunteer members of snowmobile clubs play in maintaining the state’s 25,000 miles of snowmobile trails.
“Volunteers provide, maintain and keep trails open. Without volunteers, the state’s snowmobile trail resources would be far more limited,” she says. “Revenue generated from the sale of the new trail passes will go into the state snowmobile program’s segregated fund. It’s our hope this effort will establish a consistent source of dedicated funds so that trails can be properly maintained over time.”
Dave Newman, president of the Association of Wisconsin Snowmobile Clubs, says clubs statewide are preparing for implementation of the new laws and anticipate renewed support for trail initiatives in the years to come.
“We are pleased to be able to work with our members, affiliated clubs and the DNR to keep snowmobile trails safe and accessible,” Newman says. “We appreciate the effort by legislators, the governor and the DNR to seek ideas from key stakeholder groups that enabled development of these important new laws.”
For more information on snowmobiling in Wisconsin, search the DNR website dnr.wi.gov for keyword “snowmobile.”