ALPENA-Last year Alpena Municipal Council approved a snowmobile route through a portion of the city that would connect two of northern Michigan's main trails, as well as make local businesses accessible to the riders. The route was to be open for one season, but a lack of snow made it difficult to gauge how the new system worked.
The council decided to extend the use of the route in the city for one more year to get a better grip on the effects it has on local businesses and to the residents.
During Monday's council meeting Monday, City Engineer Rich Sullenger is going to request an expansion of the route to include a portion of Alpena's north side, so stores and restaurants in that area of the city can be reached by the snowmobilers.
"Obviously during the fall and winter of last year there was a limited amount of time for snowmobile activities, so the council authorized us to continue it through this year," Sullenger said. "We are also working on a new spur, or section of the trail which will extend it from Ninth Avenue down to the brewery area. This will allow access to the brewery and the other north side businesses."
Sullenger said even though there wasn't as much snowmobile traffic in Alpena last year as the city would have liked, he said certain aspects of the trail and its use became somewhat clear, and looking back he said all things considering, things went well.
"I consider last year a success and some of the business owners I have talked to said they did see some snowmobile traffic on the days where there was enough snow to ride," Sullenger said. "I mean there were a few complaints and there were some kinks which needed to be worked out, but it was new and we knew it was going to come with issues and concerns, but there were far fewer than what we anticipated."
Sullenger said one of the biggest problems was people who live in town riding further than the allotted distance to get to the trails, or riding in areas where it was permitted. He said as people continue to become familiar with the route and the rules associated with it, he thinks some of those issues will ease.
"Some local residents thought they could ride anywhere and that is not the case," Sullenger said. "There are designated routes they must stay on. If a person lives within 500 feet they can take the closest direct path to the route and ride out to the other trails in the system. The police did issue some tickets and they carry maps with them to use as a reference. Sometimes they just weren't aware of all of the rules and we are doing our best to educate the people on the rules."
Sullenger said the route map and regulations are available on the city's website and at various trailheads in the area. He said the speed limit in the city is 15 mph and can be used from 7 a.m. until 11 p.m. People are encouraged to attend Monday's meeting to learn more about the proposed route changes. The meeting begins at 7 p.m. in the council chambers at city hall.
Steve Schulwitz can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5689.