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Landowners fed up after snowmobilers continue to disregard marked trails

DOWAGIAC, Mich. -- Michiana’s first big snowfall over the weekend brought out the snowmobiles in southern Michigan, but it also brought up some controversy.

Landowners say they’re fed up after seeing too many riders disregard the marked trail.

“Here we are, the first weekend we get to snowmobile, we’re already getting complaints and losing land,” said George Pomazal, a volunteer groomer operator for the Southwest Michigan Snowstompers.

Pomazal helps to decide where the trail goes, mark it, and take care of it. All of that is to ensure the safety of riders.

“We make sure that there are no hazards in there. There’s no pipes, no rocks, no trees down. Anything outside of that trail, we don’t know what’s under there,” said Pomazal.

And he says the frustrating and hazardous part of it is how much off-trail riding has spiked.

“The last three years now it keeps growing, it was really bad last year,” he said.

And landowners agree. After putting up fresh signs and still watching snowmobilers blow right past them, they say they’re fed up and some even already pulling their property off the trail.

“We are now having to reroute it if it’s possible or we’re on the road, which nobody enjoys,” said Pomazal. “Anytime you’re playing with traffic it’s dangerous.”

But for landowners there is more concern than just land being torn up. Only the 30 feet of trail is insured by state funding, so landowners worry about personal liability if riders get off the marked trail.

And when landowners pull their property off the trail, it puts more work on volunteers like Pomazal, who says he’s equally frustrated with riders disobeying the signs.

 “You have to get these people on the game to be willing to let us use their land and once they start getting disrespected they just put an end to it,” he said. “It’s a no win situation for everybody.”

Neighbors who live in the area say the problem continues to get worse, and are pleading with riders to pay attention to markings on the trail.

 

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