ALPENA -Over the course of the last several weeks the amount of snow in Alpena has been enough to support snowmobile traffic, but because the snow has come later in the winter it is going to be difficult for Alpena City Engineer Rich Sullenger to give an accurate report when he updates Alpena Municipal Council on the route through the city.
Sullenger said there have been a few snowmobiles using the designated trail in town, but in order to make a fair assessment pertaining to the amount of activity on it and its impact on local economics he will need a full season with snow on the ground.
"Even with the snow we have now this winter isn't conducive to snowmobiling," Sullenger said. "There has been some limited usage, but it really has been at a minimum."
Sullenger said he is expected to give a full report on snowmobiling within the city during a council meeting in April. This winter was the second with the trail in place and like last year snow totals weren't very much. Last year council granted Sullenger another winter to test the route and even though there is more snow, the results are still muted. Sullenger said if he had to give the council an update today, he would recommend testing the route for at least another year.
"I think we almost have to do it again for another year. In my opinion we just haven't seen enough activity here yet," Sullenger said. "Have we seen any economic benefits yet? I don't think so because we just haven't had the weather throughout the year to allow that to happen. It would be nice to be able to give detailed information, but we haven't been able to get a full sampling of what the trail might provide."
With limited traffic there also has been few complaints from people who live near the trail. Sullenger said he has received three so far, and one was turned over to the authorities.
"We had one instance where people were riding off of the route and onto another person's property and that was referred to the police," Sullenger said. "I also had two more from people who were upset about the availability of the sidewalks on portions of the trail and how difficult they are to walk on. The complaints have been limited though."
Before this winter started Sullenger made a request to the council to have an additional branch to the route created that would allow snowmobilers access to businesses on Alpena's northside. Sullenger said right now he doesn't anticipate any other amendments to the trail, but said as things play out and traffic increases, changes in the future could take place.
"The route is functioning, but I don't think it will ever be set in stone and that it will change more as time passes," Sullenger said. "Right now I don't have any changes I would recommend, but that could change if things come up. It is a work in progress."
Maps and rules for the route in the city are available at city hall, at the Public Safety Building, at the water plant and also on the city's website www.alpena.mi.us/
Steve Schulwitz can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5689.