Yes, There Was a Fee Increase… But That’s a Good Thing

The groomer's-eye-view coming into Greenville Junction on ITS-86 after a long night.

The groomers-eye-view heading out on ITS-86 from Greenville Junction to The Forks.

As much as I’d like to see the ground freeze up, the uncommonly warm November has been kind of nice, and now that we’ve see the first measurable snowfall in many areas, it can only mean another great winter is right around the corner.

Last year was spectacular, and many long-range forecasters are predicting a similar winter this year. So now it is time to get ready:

Register your sled

Join a snowmobile club

For all you read about the most recent Legislative session, it was a pretty good year for snowmobilers. Best of all was that the Inland Fisheries & Wildlife Committee didn’t take up any snowmobile bills until the third week of April, which meant that we were out enjoying the season with the rest of you instead of moping in the Cross Office Building. The second best was that things worked out pretty darn well for us. Yes, that does mean a fee increase, but that can be good news when it is directed to the folks that make the great trails we all ride on. Here’s what it looks like:

LD-716, An Act To Amend the Fees for Snowmobile Registration, sponsored by Rep. Steve Stanley of Medway, was passed and vetoed by Governor LePage. The veto was overridden, and as it was emergency legislation, it went into effect immediately.  This bill became a comprehensive package of changes in snowmobile registrations. Those changes are:

  • It increases the resident snowmobile registration fee from $40 to $45 and dedicates the $5 increase to the Snowmobile Trail Fund.
  • It increases the 3-day nonresident snowmobile registration fee from $43 to $49 and dedicates the $6 increase to the Snowmobile Trail Fund.
  • It increases the nonresident seasonal snowmobile registration fee from $88 to $99 and dedicates the $11 increase to the Snowmobile Trail Fund.
  • It creates a 10-day nonresident snowmobile registration fee and sets the fee at $75.
  • It directs the Commissioner of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife to create the Snowmobile Trail Fund Donation Sticker Program and to create donation stickers to reflect a donor’s donation of $25, $50 and $100, respectively, of which $2 is retained by the department and the remainder is transferred to the Snowmobile Trail Fund. The donation stickers are not a part of or associated with the State’s snowmobile registration requirements.
  • It directs the Commissioner of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry to develop written policies specifying the criteria the department will us to distribute additional revenues raised pursuant to this amendment to snowmobile clubs and to submit those policies for review to the IF&W Committee no later than January 15, 2016.

This may not seem like much, but any increase is good news for Maine’s clubs, and everyone gets a piece of the pie.

At the MSA, we’re very excited about the new Trail Supporter stickers that riders may purchase in additio0n to their registration. These nice-looking stickers are available in denominations of $25, $50 and $100, and other than a $2 handling fee, it all goes directly to the Snowmobile Trail Fund. We’ll be keeping an eye out for those stickers this season. That means the rider of that sled knows what it takes to maintain our great trails and is willing to step up and help.

The key to the success of this bill for snowmobilers was thanks to the hard work of the IF&W Committee, which spent a lot of time on it and was determined to make sure that every bit of the increase was directed to the 290 clubs statewide that make our trails. Given that the best case scenario for most clubs is that 70% of their expenses will be reimbursed by the Snowmobile Program (the norm is actually closer to 50%), this is a great boon for the clubs. In addition, the language requiring that the Department develop a plan for the distribution of the funds resulted in increases of $600 for each club grant and $20 per mile for larger municipal grants, provided they use up their entire grant. Trust me, they will.

That same groomer heading back into Greenville Junction after a long night's work. Lucky riders! #thankagroomer

That same groomer heading back into Greenville Junction after a long night’s work. Lucky riders! #thankagroomer

So, get registered – winter will be here sooner than you think. All it took was a few inches of snow this week to light up the phones at our office, and clearly folks are ready to ride. That will happen soon enough, and when it does, probably between Christmas and New Year’s, check here to find out all about it.

See you on the trails.