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November 12, 2003
By Rachel Odell
Deschutes National Forest officials will not impose a speed limit on snowmobilers at the Dutchman Flat Sno-Park, despite having decided internally that the area warrants speed restrictions.
Marv Lang, recreation specialist for the Bend-Fort Rock Ranger District, told a group of trail users Tuesday night that the agency lacks enough law enforcement officers to enforce a limit. The equivalent of agency police. They district has only two law enforcement officers (LEOs), who are the equivalent of agency police. They carry guns and have the authority to enforce rules and regulations.
"We are backing off from our original intent (to impose a speed limit)," Lang said. "With only two LEOs on the district and with everything else going on during the winter months we cannot afford to be out there every day or every week or every weekend day."
District Ranger Walt Schloer decided earlier this fall to impose speed limits, but that was before consulting with the chief law enforcement ranger for the Deschutes, according to Lang.
Along with lack of personnel, officials do not have the gear - specifically mobile contraptions to record the speed of snowmobilers - to enforce the limit. Those contraptions cost about $1,500, Lang said.
"Simply, if we're going to do it (implement a speed limit), we need to be able to enforce it," he said.
Instead of a speed limit, Forest Service officials will install new orange reflective signs cautioning snowmobilers to slow down, he said.
A wide, open flat area surrounded by forests and buttes, Dutchman Flat sits across the highway from Mount Bachelor. Located in the Deschutes National Forest about 20 miles southwest of Bend on Century Drive, Dutchman Flat is a popular launch point for both snowmobilers and skiers.
That can lead to conflicts between skiers and snowmobilers. Although there has never been a documented collision between the different winter recreationists, angry interactions have prompted people from both camps to complain to the agency.
Dale Neubauer, a skier advocate at Tuesday's meeting, chastised the agency for "backing down on the proposal." He said speeding snowmobilers threaten the safety of those not riding machines. "Without a speed limit, a snowmobiler can go faster at Dutchman Flat than is legal to drive on our nation's highways and be only 25 feet from a grandpa and his grandchild snowshoeing," Neubauer said.
But John Speiger, director of the local chapter of the Oregon State Snowmobile Association, said there is not enough evidence to warrant a speed limit at Dutchman Flat.
Even though the area is crowded, skiers have a nonmotorized trail to use, which should cut down on conflict, he said. He said that snowmobilers do not need a speed limit because they are governed by the basic rule that says they cannot recklessly endanger someone.
"As an organization, the Oregon State Snowmobile Association will put a tremendous amount of pressure out there on our members not to speed," he said. "We have never had an accident up there. I'm not saying it couldn't happen, and God help me if it does happen. But the bottom line is anyone can create a user conflict."
November 13, 2003
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SNOWMOBILES - a history of this discussion:
Snowmobile parking at Kapka Butte and Dutchman Flat revisited in 2009
Proposed Tumalo Recreation Zone in the Deschutes National Forest in 2009
Snowmobiler falls 1,500' into Mt. St. Helens and survives
Map of snowmobile restrictions at Dutchman Flat
Snowmobile restrictions published for Dutchman Flat
Snowmobile Safety Summit on Dutchman Flat area
Report snowmobile renegades - an Editorial
Snowmobiles should not mix with skiers and snowshoers
Snowmobile accident draws $11 million dollar damage award
Snowmobilers keep the Atta Boy Race on track
Snowmobilers must give a little on parking at Dutchman Flat
Recent snowmobile accidents near Bend
Set snowmobile limits at Dutchman Flat
Unregulated OHV use is being reviewed across the western states
Snowmobile access to summit of Mt. St. Helens questioned by The Mountaineers
Snowmobile speed limits on Dutchman Flat in Oregon
Snowmobiles offer thrills
Snowmobiles in Yellowstone
Snowmobiles as a tool for traditional mountaineering