Finishing up a season is one of the hardest things to get excited about when writing a column or article for SnowRider. By the time you get this, Arctic Man is ongoing and almost everyone else is concentrating on getting summer started. Many of us will hang on until the very last minute, and just to make a point, flatly refuse to summarize the snowmobiles until June or July.
Going through snow withdrawal is something that happens each year here in Alaska. It seems the weather likes to take a break and gets warm and sunny for a while. While I am sure this is a good breather for Mother Nature, it is sometimes frustrating for those of us who would rather have another 3 feet of snow, rather than the melt cycle we get into.
While all we city dwellers are whining about the melting and ice, though, there are an others around the state who quietly continue riding the fresh snow in their area. Up and down the highway, it is still winter in lots of places. North of the Susitna River crossing, and as we found out last weekend, south of the Kenai River, snow still abounds.
Lots of planning will be going on this summer. I sat down with several of the larger club presidents and some officers to discuss a path forward for our SnoTrac program, the grooming pool and the need for a statewide safety program. Steve P was gracious enough to invite us to his B&B in Homer where we fleshed out several of the ideas that have been kicked around for awhile, including the direction that DNR was going with the program.
A lot of the discussion revolved around raising the $5 per year fee for snowmobile registration to allow for increased funding for projects that weren’t readily identified. To most of us in the snow community, that seemed a lot like getting the cart before the horse. One of the intents with the initial conversation revolved around what did we want the program to accomplish, and how would we best get there? If we couldn’t articulate what we wanted out of the Point of Sale program, why would anyone support changing the funding mechanism and/or totals? The grooming pool has been an extremely successful component of the DNR administered program, but is that what we wanted the program to focus on? We will be discussing with our state representatives, including the governor’s office, the direction we would like to see our program go.
Things that we discussed and are in process of fleshing out are:
Funding mechanisms that include a possible raise in the registration fee coupled with matching funds from the State of Alaska.
Winter Trails Coordinator to work on converging the various programs currently in place.
Alaska Statewide Snowmobile Safety Program that can be taught by local organizations and be customized for regional requirements.
Determination as to the appropriate residence of this snowmobile program. Line-authority issues have given rise to both DNR and the SnoTrac board discussion of moving from a director’s advisory board to a Governor’s board within current guidelines. This puts some distance between the DNR and the SnoTrac board decisions. Even if the program remains under the department of Outdoor Recreation, it formalized the process.
Moving the SnoTrac board to a Governor’s board also gives us an opportunity to reorganize the representation to more traditionally reflect the original intent, which was to allow the organized snowmobile groups to select regional representation.
Obviously, there’s much more to come. We still need to bring in some of the other regions to gather their input. We have to begin the process of making this program work the way it was intended and with the biggest benefit to snowmobilers statewide.