| It’s time once again for our annual Maine snowmobile news update. Maine’s snowmobile season is well underway, and February is a popular time for snowmobile trail riding and snowmobile festivals. Maine has over 13,000 miles of trails enjoyed by tens of thousands of riders each year, and the Maine Warden Service wants to make sure that you ride responsibly while enjoying Maine’s winter. Snowmobiling is popular throughout the state. Last year, 88,237 riders registered their snowmobiles in Maine, including 19,020 non-residents (and we’ll have big news for them a little later). Recent estimates have put the impact of recreational snowmobiling in Maine at over $350 million. The impact is greatest in rural areas of the state, and snowmobiling supports many small family businesses such as restaurants, motels gas stations, lodges, etc.
“Snowmobiling is a safe, enjoyable and fun winter activity in Maine. Maine game wardens work hard to keep it safe and fun, but rider responsibility is of the utmost importance for all snowmobilers,” said Colonel Thomas Santaguida, chief of Maine’s Warden Service, who also emphasized that the Maine Warden Service takes a tough stance on violations that endanger people or involve drunk driving.
The Warden Service conducts safety and trail checks throughout the winter in addition to enforcement patrols and checkpoints. Last year, game wardens checked approximately 25,000 riders. While the vast majority of riders operate their machines responsibly, game wardens will take enforcement action when snowmobile law violations are encountered. Wardens are directed to take a strict stance on violations that involve endangering people or animals, imprudent speed and operating under the influence.
The Maine Warden Service oversees the safety of those enjoying Maine’s snowmobile trails, and reminds people to “Ride Right, Ride Safe” this winter.
• Ride Sober. Maine’s snowmobile operating under the influence law is one of the toughest in the country. Any rider found operating a snowmobile under the influence of alcohol or drugs will be arrested on the spot, and faces fines of up to $1,000 and six months in jail.
• Ride Right. Stay to the right side of the trail. Operating to the left of the center of the trail may endanger oncoming riders.
• Ride Safe. Maine law requires that you operate at a reasonable and prudent speed. Conditions change and so should your speed. Stay in control. If you are not in control of your sled, you are going too fast.
Riders: Always remember to tell someone where you are going and when you expect to return. That way, if you have unexpected trouble on the trails game wardens, who are called to search for you, will be able to locate you quickly.
And, in the last of our snowmobile news update, Governor John E. Baldacci recently signed a bill that will allow the commissioner of the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife to non-resident snowmobilers to ride on trails during special events without registering their sleds.
“This bill will provide a direct economic impact in the areas where there are snowmobile festivals. These festivals have the ability to draw over 1,000 riders, and these riders need to purchase meals, gas and other supplies, injecting money into the local economy,” said Roland D. Martin, Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife commissioner.
The bill, which takes effect immediately, allows snowmobiles registered in another state or in a Canadian province to be operated without a Maine registration at a special event or festival organized to occur in this state if approved by the commissioner. An event or festival organizer must submit a request in writing to the commissioner 60 days prior to the event or festival and shall include a map of the trails where operation will be allowed.