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104 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
an application of leave.”Just got this from the local paper, know let's see if the snowmobilers can make this work ? let's hope so.

Journal Staff Writers
MARQUETTE — After a Michigan Appeals Court ruling released Wednesday, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources will be allowed to open a snowmobile trail through a residential section of Chocolay Township this winter.
But the next question is exactly how snowmobile use will be regulated along the roughly 8-mile section of railroad grade, which passes dozens of homes.
“We’ll try working with the township to try to mitigate some of the negativity and minimize impacts as much as we can,” said Debbie Begalle, western Upper Peninsula district supervisor for the DNR’s Forest, Mineral and Fire Management Division in Marquette.
In reversing a decision made in January by Marquette County Circuit Judge Thomas L. Solka, state Appeals Court judges Patrick Meter, Henry Saad and Bill Schuette ruled that the DNR is not subject to Chocolay Township zoning rules prohibiting snowmobiles on certain state land.
“The Legislature, through the provisions set forth in the snowmobiles act, intended that the designation of land for snowmobile operation on state-owned or state-controlled lands should not be preempted by restrictions of a local unit of government, including township zoning ordinances,” the appellate court decision read. “Therefore, the DNR has unrestricted authority to establish a snowmobile trail through the residential district of Chocolay Township. The trial court erred in granting a preliminary injunction to (the) plaintiff (Chocolay Township).”
Township Treasurer John Greenberg said he is disappointed with the ruling. The township board will discuss the ruling with the township attorney, Michael Summers.
“What we’re trying to establish with him is what our options are,” Greenberg said.
Greenberg said he’s not sure if the board will meet on the issue early, or wait until the next regular meeting Nov. 17.
Even if the township cannot stop the trail from coming through, Greenberg said it may be able to regulate traffic on it.
“I think speed limits and curfews would solve a big part of the problem with having snowmobiles in a residential area,” he said.
State law allows ordinances to be passed including speed limits or curfews, to regulate snowmobiles to try to alleviate problems of noise, speed and trespass experienced by local residents.
Some restrictions are already in place as part of state snowmobile laws. The DNR would follow a process outlined in those statutes for working with the township to review and establish any regulations. The state would seek a special departmental director’s order for new rules specifically set for that trail.
But exactly how that process will work or how any potential regulations will be enforced is currently being evaluated. The DNR patrols state trail systems, but has limited resources.
The township does not have the resources to enforce regulations either, Greenberg said.
“The township doesn’t, and I don’t think the DNR or the state would help with that.”
The DNR says the ruling opens the way to connect the Chocolay Township segment to 18 additional miles of former Wisconsin Railroad grade the state owns, extending east into Alger County.
The 26-mile stretch will allow riders to reach trails in the west and east, via a route safer than riding along state highways.
“We’re very pleased with the decision,” Begalle said. “This is important to connect the trails east and west.”
The DNR intends to open the trail this winter.
Pat Black, director of the Marquette Country Convention and Visitors Bureau and a supporter of the trail, said she was pleased it can open this year.
“I think it’s going to have a huge impact on this winter’s economy,” she said. “The only thing that can hurt us is no snow.”
Having a trail for snowmobilers will be safer than last year, Black said.
“Last winter was so dangerous on M-28 with the snowmobilers being forced to ride on both sides of the highway,” she said. “They belong on a trail.”
Black said news of the trail ruling is already on the bureau’s Web site.
“It will take no time at all for that word to get around,” she said. “People have been really interested in this.”
Black said she would support a speed limit and curfews on the section of trail through the residential area, and hopes the township and the DNR discuss that.
Summers said that if the township decides to continue fighting the trail in court, it would have to file an application to appeal the decision to the Michigan Supreme Court. An appeals hearing is not automatically granted.
“They don’t take every case,” Summers said. “It’s a political, legal decision of the (township) board whether it wants me to file

104 Posts
Discussion Starter · #2 ·
MARQUETTE — State and local officials are anticipating the opening of a controversial snowmobile trail this week in Chocolay Township.
After a court injunction to stop it, an appellate court reversal and hours of public testimony and debate, the new Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ snowmobile trail will officially open Monday.
That’s the day first day of the winter snowmobile season across Michigan — the day when trail grooming contracts with the state go into effect until March 31.
But riders won’t actually be using the trail until Mother Nature cooperates. Once sufficient snowfall arrives, snowmobilers will be able to ride the 37-mile trail from Marquette to Munising Junction in Alger County’s AuTrain Township, connecting to other trails and destinations to the east.
But both the proponents of the trail who fought to have it opened, and the township officials who have appealed the decision to the Michigan Supreme Court, are concerned about a roughly 8-mile section of the trail that runs through Chocolay Township.
About half of that distance has residential homes situated very close to the trail. Officials on both sides of the issue want to minimize potential problems there this winter.
Township officials concede that if a Supreme Court hearing on the trail is granted it will likely be months off. This leaves them trying to make the best of the situation for now.
The township plans to enforce snowmobile laws, monitor problems and field complaints from riders and residents.
“What we’re doing at this end is making sure that we have as much coverage as we can to make sure that the trail is going to be as safe and hopefully as compatible with the neighborhood as can be expected under the situation,” said Chocolay Township Supervisor Greg Seppanen. “We’ll be monitoring and we’ll be doing our best to help all the residents out with issue.”
Meanwhile, the DNR and the Marquette Country Convention and Visitors Bureau are urging riders to have consideration for local residents when using the trail.
“We’re trying everything we can to get people to understand that this is a sensitive area and they need to get through it as quietly as possible,” said Pat Black, executive director of the visitors bureau. “People live here. They (riders) have to be respectful to get it (the trail) to work.”
The DNR, the visitors bureau, Hiawatha Trails and Chocolay Township business owners have sponsored two trail signs that will be situated at both ends of the residential section of trail in Chocolay Township.
The kiosk-type signs are placed at areas where snowmobilers can pull off the trail to stop and read. One side of the sign will feature a map of the area; the other side has several messages.
The sign reads:
“For the next four miles you will be riding through a residential area that is patrolled. Please adhere to the following:
• Between the hours of midnight a 6 a.m., the law requires using a speed no greater than the minimum to maintain movement within 100 feet of dwellings. At other times, please use a conservative speed.
• Avoid acceleration and revving your engine.
• Come to a complete stop at trail crossings.
• Watch for children and pedestrians.
“We need your cooperation. Riding behavior on this trail will influence future trail regulation. Please set a good example.”
The sign also lists the sponsors and the telephone number for emergency assistance.
Debbie Begalle, western Upper Peninsula district supervisor for the DNR’s Forest, Mineral and Fire Management Division in Marquette, said the township has been issued a state grant for law enforcement along the trail.
The DNR paid $2,831, which is 75 percent of the total. The township is discussing how it will pay for the required 25 percent local match. The DNR said it would grant more money if it is requested by the township. Money for the grants comes from the sale of permit stickers to snowmobilers.
The DNR plans to send a letter to Chocolay residents this week who are living along the railroad grade. The letter discuss events leading up to the trail being opened, monitoring trail use and suggesting calls to law enforcement to report trail problems.
Discussions will also take place between DNR and township officials about how trail usage and problems can be evaluated.
“We have been communicating with them,” Begalle said. “We’ll be meeting with their planning commission to see what we can do to monitor the trail.”
Monitoring to collect baseline data will be conducted before potentially adding other rules for the trail.
“We’re not going to look for any speed limit or restrictions yet before we see where the problems are,” Begalle said.
Rubber belting had been laid over bridge decking along the trail last year. New stop signs and other markers have been put up over the past couple of weeks and the Chocolay portion of the trail was graded by Hiawatha Trails Inc., the local group that will be grooming the trail this winter from Marquette east to the Ojibwa II Casino.
The remaining length of the trail into Alger County is being maintained and groomed by Trails Inc.

The new trail, along a former Wisconsin Central Railroad grade, is among roughly 3,000 miles of state snowmobile trails in the Upper Peninsula.

104 Posts
Discussion Starter · #3 ·
MARQUETTE — Local law enforcement officials are seeking more funds to control a two-cycle storm expected to sweep up from the south this snowmobile season.
Recent snowstorms and the addition of an 8-mile section of Michigan Department of Natural Resources snowmobile trail have Chocolay Township preparing for a major increase in snow machine traffic this year.

“The trail is definitely here, and as a planning body we have to do what we can to minimize the impact,” Chocolay Township Planning Commissioner Steve Kinnunen said at a meeting Monday. “The one thing we can do is enforce it, get the word out: ‘They’re not messing around in Chocolay.’”

The trail was opened following a Court of Appeals ruling overturning a local court’s injunction that kept it closed last season.

The township, on behalf of residents who live near the former railroad grade, has fought its creation and is now asking the Michigan Supreme Court to consider an appeal of the ruling. A decision on whether the appeal will be heard isn’t expected until at least mid-winter, so the trail will most likely remain open through the snowmobiling season.
In the meantime, the township is looking to enforcement as the main option for dealing with the trail and the complaints of noise, trespass and high speed that are coming with it. On Monday the township planning commission and board met in joint session to discuss the issue.
During the meeting, planning commissioners described the DNR snowmobile trail fee fund as “flush” with money that can be used for enforcement, provided there is a 25 percent local match. This season the township has DNR funding for 100 hours of trail patrol.
“One hundred hours isn’t a heck of a lot,” Chocolay Police Chief Greg Zyburt said. “It just scratches the surface.”
The township is expected to apply today for 250 additional hours, using a $2,000 donation from Harvey business owners as the match. The money was presented to the township during Monday’s meeting by Dry Dock Tavern owner Stan Hubert on behalf of about a half dozen area businesses.
Zyburt said last season trail patrol was done on a volunteer basis. However, with the increased need for patrol this season, Zyburt plans to schedule a full-time officer to trail duty for about four hours per weekday during times that would have seen an overlap in shifts. On weekends, when the overlap wouldn’t have occurred, overtime will have to be used. However, Zyburt said this season is a learning process and details are still being worked out.
“This whole thing is new, we’re learning as we go along,” Zyburt said.
Chocolay cops won’t be the only officers on the trail this season. Marquette County Undersheriff Jack Schneider said his department has applied for 80 additional patrol hours from the DNR fund to be dedicated in Chocolay Township.
“We’re hoping the Chocolay trail will be successful,” Schneider said. “Hopefully they’ll all use the trail and not the M-28 right-of-way and people’s driveways.”
The sheriff’s department has two snowmobiles and two special operations officers funded through a millage for snowmobile, marine and ORV patrol.
Both Schneider and Zyburt said their departments plan to work together as much as possible to control traffic on the trail and ensure safety for riders and the public.
“Obviously we’re going to give the trail a chance,” Schneider said. “Hopefully we can keep people off private property and prevent injury.”

589 Posts
I have looked on the DNR website, and it still shows that there is no trail there. I know last year was a problem. I stayed in Marquette, and I could not head east without dipping way south and running out of snow. On another note, did they open the trail from L'anse around the bay twords Houghton. Last year you could try to cross the bay, or pay a guy $10 per sled each way where the trail was closed.
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