Snowmobile Rights and Responsibilities Act
Below is a recent letter to the editor from Jim Jennings that explains the bill.
The New York State Snowmobile Association (NYSSA) is firmly behind this legislation, the major feature of which is implementation of a registration system that will boost snowmobile club membership and promote expansion of a “volunteer workforce” large enough to meet the daunting task and responsibility of developing and maintaining the 10,000 miles of trails that make up the state snowmobile trail system.
NYSSA and its 21,000 members and 214 snowmobile clubs are grateful to Assembly Joseph Morelle and Senator Raymond Meier, the prime sponsors of SRRA, and to all the other legislators who are helping to advance this bill on behalf of snowmobilers in this state.
While the bill is designed to promote voluntary club membership, it is first and foremost a comprehensive snowmobile safety initiative. Experience in New York shows that club members, while likely the most active group of snowmobiles, are rarely involved in serious accidents. This outcome is directly attributed to the focus of snowmobile clubs on SAFETY. We at NYSSA are proud that the year after year, the evidence indicates that the safer riders are club members.
As proposed by SRRA, the snowmobile registration fee system will be “two tiered.” That is, club members will pay less to register their sleds in New York than non-club members. This will impart fairness to a situation where club members, not government employees, incur the costs and responsibilities of grooming and maintaining the state’s vast trail system; a system that is predominately located on non-public lands. Currently, the fee for registering a sled is 45.00, with 10.00 of that amount going to the state for administration, and 35.00 going to the state’s trail fund. The fund is used to reimburse clubs for part of the cost they incur from trail grooming and maintenance and for providing liability coverage for the trail system.
SRRA proposes that the sled registration fee be 100.00, with 10.00 going to the state and 90.00 for deposit into the trail fund. To promote club membership, the fee will remain at 45.00 per registration if you are a member of a NYSSA-affiliated trail maintenance snowmobile club.
The other provisions of the bill to promote safe snowmobiling include an enumeration of rights and responsibilities of riders and clubs, raising the youthful operator age, imposing safety training requirements for certain riders, and establishing a maximum statewide speed limit of 55 mph for operation of a snowmobile on the public trail system.
SRRA is supported by NYSSA and the vast majority of those who regularly snowmobile in New York. This is a critical time for the future of snowmobiling in New York. The demands involved and the responsibility for the care of 10,000 miles of trail are stretching the limits of the present corps of volunteer club members. With the help of dedicated leaders like Assemblyman Morelle and Senator Meier, the enactment of SRRA will boost the pool of club volunteers and, at the same time, implement serious rider-safety initiatives that will make New York the premiere snowmobile trail system in the U.S.
Snowmobile Rights and Responsibilities Act
Why SRRA: The primary reason for this legislation is to increase club membership and therefore increase participation for trail maintenance.
Components: SRRA was first written to address the club membership issue, General Obligations Law and some common sense safety concerns.
- Over the years clubs have had 2 issues: Lack of finances for trail maintenance and lack of volunteers to perform the trail maintenance.
- Since 2003 we have had 2 fee increases that have helped considerably with the financial situation. Unfortunately these have not addressed the volunteer aspect.
- In 2001 a process was started to allow clubs to gain/attract more members. We looked at the Trail Pass as a means of accomplishing this, but to do this it meant changing the NYS Trespass Laws. At about this time the New Hampshire Snowmobile Association had successfully lobbied for legislation that increased their fees but would give club members a discount. NYSSA adopted this formula.
- A bill was put together that would address many issues facing clubs today. This bill became known as the Snowmobile Rights and Responsibilities Act.
- Duties of Snowmobile Owners and Operators: This legislation explains some common sense duties for snowmobilers. Among them: Snowmobiling is a voluntary activity that could be hazardous; make sure your equipment is working properly; obey all rules and regulations. Guidelines for Responsible Snowmobilers are posted on the NYSSA Website.
- Duties of Snowmobile Clubs: Please note these duties do not increase the liability for any club. Basically these are all items that clubs should be doing: Mark the trail; encourage snowmobilers to participate in safety programs, and mark the trails as their status of being open or closed.
- Mandatory Insurance: Any snowmobile will now be required to be covered by liability insurance if operated off your own property.
- Youthful Operation: The current law allows anyone 10 years old or older to operate a snowmobile on the trail system alone if they hold a safety certificate. Many felt that anyone under the age of 14 should not be riding the trail system without adult supervision.
Therefore, the minimum age a youth with a safety certificate can ride alone is 14. Youth's between the age of 10 and 14 can still operate a snowmobile if they are within 500' of a guardian 18 or older.
- Two-Tier: This is the most important aspect of the legislation. It increases the total fee to 100.00 UNLESS one member of the household is a club member. If that is the case then every sled registered by that household will only pay 45.00 /snowmobile. In other words if you are already a club member you are not impacted financially in any way by the Two-Tier language in this legislation.
- Speed limit: A maximum 55 MPH speed limit will become law on public trails and lands, however safe & prudent speed for the trail and conditions prevail, but not to exceed 55 MPH. This does not include lakes unless posted locally. Speed limits in our neighboring states and Canada are all lower than 55.
- Increased Club Membership: As stated earlier, New Hampshire has adopted two-tier and according to their numbers over 90% of snowmobilers in NH now belong to a club. Also according to NH volunteerism has also increased. More snowmobilers now realize that trails just don't appear out of nowhere. It takes volunteers to build and maintain these trails. By increasing club membership, NYSSA membership also increases, making our voice stronger to government, insurance and other entities associated with our sport.
- Safety & Education: Studies have shown that snowmobilers who belong to clubs are more educated regarding our sport. This education allows our trails to be safer and more enjoyable for everyone.
- Landowners: Through conversations with landowners it is clear landowners prefer only club members use their property to ride on.
Financial: Additional club membership will give clubs additional revenue to allow them more flexibility in their trail maintenance activities.