Snowmobile use under scrutiny this winter | SierraSun.com
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Snowmobile use under scrutiny this winter

SHANNON DARLING, Sun News Service

Snowmobilers will be watched closely this winter – closer than ever.

Because of a decision due this spring, the U.S. Forest Service will be watching snowmobilers closely at Tahoe Meadows in an effort to determine if the sport should be banned from the area.

“It’s more important than ever that they abide by existing regulations,” said Stephanie Morelan, recreation planner for the Carson Ranger District.

Tahoe Meadows, a prized 4-acre jewel on Mt. Rose Highway, is currently a battleground between skiers and snowmobilers as the Forest Service considers a forest plan amendment.

One of the options being considered in the amendment is a complete ban of snowmobiles.

On any given winter weekend the sides of the highway are filled with vehicles and the snowy hills are cluttered with sledders, skiers and snowmobilers.

Because of its popularity, user conflict has surfaced.

“There’s a lot of user conflict,” said Morelan, who added any time there are motorized vs. nonmotorized users, complaints will be filed.

“We have over 800 complaints for cross country skiers,” said Morelan.

Some of the complaints include: noise, smell, aggressive driving and driving out of the boundaries.

“That is a multiple use area,” said Morelan. “Everybody needs to play nice.”

Currently, the Forest Service is considering three alternatives to the Forest Plan Amendment: a complete ban of snowmobiles, an area closure that would allow snowmobiles on one side of the street and skiers on the other and to keep everything the way it is, and secure funding for increased enforcement.

Increased enforcement would allow the Forest Service to patrol the area and hopefully keep snowmobiles out of the Mt. Rose Wilderness areas and the Galena closure.

The first alternative is what scared Greg McKay of the Mt. Rose Snowmobiling Alliance into taking action.

“We are trying to do everything we can,” said McKay.

The two groups at odds over the situation got together a couple of weeks ago to mark snowmobiling territory. The two groups worked together for the first time, placing signs marking area boundaries for snowmobiling.

McKay, with others in his snowmobiling club, has also developed a brochure to warn others of the possibility of snowmobiling being taken away and the rules that should be followed to keep this from happening.

The brochure is an action plan of sorts, detailing everything from area boundaries to common courtesy and safety.

But the conflict between nonmotorized users and motorized users will always exist.

On any given winter weekend, Mt. Rose Highway is lined with cars. This situation worries officials of the Nevada Department of Transportation.

Because of the congestion, NDOT is looking at placing signs in the area, said Gary Schiff, District Ranger for the Carson Ranger District.

“They’re much more concerned about the highway that runs down the middle,” said McKay.

With education and enforcement, those who love Tahoe Meadows will continue to ride their snowmobiles here.

“In the Tahoe Basin, they have access to 94 percent, 6 percent is available to snowmobilers,” said McKay.

Proposed Restrictions

A brochure developed by the Mt. Rose Snowmobiling Alliance will be distributed to local snowmobilers and those that use Tahoe Meadows. This action plan will emphasize safety and courtesy.

— When near roads a snowmobile should not travel faster than 5 mph.

— When within 100 feet of people a snowmobile should not travel faster than 5 mph.

— To prevent damage to vegetation, a snowmobile should not travel over snow less than one foot deep.

— Stay out of the Mt. Rose Wilderness Area.

— Stay off private property and the Galena Closure.


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