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OpEd: Snowmobiles should not mix with skiers and snowshoers

Snowmobiles should not mix with skiers and snowshoers
Op-Ed to The Bulletin
by Dale Neubauer
February 18, 2004

The acknowledged value of the editorial page is that it allows local citizens to engage in the public discourse of issues important to themselves and to the community. It also provides an equally important venue in which to express disagreement with previously printed editorials. It is unfortunate that some choose to squander that opportunity by submitting what could be termed “issue-avoidance” editorials.

In December of 2003 I submitted an editorial that specifically discussed the unrestrained high-speed activity of snowmobilers on Dutchman Flat and Tumalo Mountain, and questioned the appropriateness of it. Recognizing that modern snowmobiles have double, triple, and even quadruple the horsepower of my Harley Davidson motorcycle, I stated a firm belief that the Forest Service should implement a speed limit for recreational vehicles in the area, and that such action would be well supported by the public at large.

Mr. Riser’s January 23rd response was, however, an eloquent example of an issue-avoidance editorial. Instead of offering compelling arguments (if they exist) of the appropriateness of intermixing these impressively powerful vehicles with skiers and snowshoers, Mr. Riser instead suggested that maybe I should spend time opposing the Forest Service Fee Demonstration Program. In an effort to practice what I preach, I will specifically respond to Mr. Riser by noting that I have been involved in opposing this program (developed by the commercial recreation industry) and I have volunteered an enormous amount of time raising public awareness of the issue. That said; my level of active opposition to Fee Demo has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with the subject of children, teenage boys, and tourists operating high-speed vehicles in the immediate vicinity of pedestrians.

Those who dismiss the clear and documented problems that exist on Dutchman Flat are doing a disservice to the responsible operators of snowmobiles who, unfortunately, will be unfairly associated with those in denial of the obvious. The claims that “snow is for everyone”, “all we need to do is share” or “we have never had an accident up there” are little more than irresponsible over-simplifications that do not address the well-founded concerns of skiers and snowshoers. This issue is not about asking grade school kids to “share” playground equipment: it is about unrestrained motorized activity on the playground. This issue is not about skiers wanting to kick snowmobiles off public lands: but rather where, and under what guidelines, is shared-use appropriate. And regarding the comments suggesting that nothing needs to be done since no skier has yet been hit by a snowmobiler: well, that would be laughable if it were not so absurd.

For the record I fully support multiple use of the Deschutes National Forest – use that includes snowmobiles. But this is public land, and therefore it is subject to the rules common to our society. I challenge those opposed to speed limits in this congested area to specifically address the issue at hand. Publicly state why you believe motorized users should be exempt from a speed limit. If slowing down is just too dramatic of an imposition for you to tolerate – state your reasons. Keep in mind, of course, that it is not just snowmobilers that will read your thoughts. It will be grandmas and grandpas, public officials and intellectuals, soccer moms and neighbors who will judge the validity of your argument. If you can provide information regarding this issue that proves me wrong, I will honorably admit my error. Until then, I stand by the facts presented in my previous In My View.

In closing I would like to note that the Editorial page is an important extension of our treasured freedom of speech, and I am grateful for the Bulletin’s willingness to provide space for public comment. Additionally, I would like to offer praise to Supervisor Leslie Weldon of the Deschutes National Forest. Her leadership in initiating a formal review of the current, and future, management of Dutchman Flat and Tumalo Mountain is very much appreciated.


Speed and inexperience are problems for snowmobilers. Read the USFS Trail Tip reproduced below

Snow/trail conditions have improved at most elevations   01.27.04
Snow/trail conditions have improved at most elevations with 2-16" of new snow over the past few days. Forecast for next few days calls for more precipitation.

Just a safety reminder for all users to be aware of other users on/off the trails and for snowmobile operators that may tend to ride on the fast side, to slow down. During the Martin Luther King Weekend on the Bend/Ft. Rock Ranger District there were 5 injury (broken bones) snowmobile accidents which were mostly attributable to either inexperience and/or speed.

Another serious injury snowmobile accident occurred near Odell Lake last Saturday that may have also involved riding too fast for the conditions.

Remember, share the trails safely. Have a safe week!
--Chris Sabo, Trails/Wilderness





Read more . . .
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