Trailing behind

2011-12 snowmobile season slow for police and business

LAKE COUNTY - For a community whose economy is largely based on recreational tourism, the 2011-12 winter season has been almost a non-starter for Lake County.

The snowmobile season?

“It stunk,” reported Lake County Sheriff’s Department Marine and Snowmobile Patrol officer Staff Sergeant Mike Neumann.

For businesses dependent in part on a healthy influx of winter recreationalists, 2011-12 has been tough.

For the Lake County Sheriff’s department, it’s been an easy run of things - but for all the wrong reasons.

“This certainly has been one of the most mild winters anyone has seen in a long time,” noted LCSD Undersheriff Richard Perrin.

“On the upside, there were no serious crashes and no injuries or fatalities.

“On the downside, it is easy to see the adverse affect this winter has had on local businesses.

“Now, most people are also expecting an early thaw, so I guess folks will just need to start looking ahead to a successful Blessing of the Bikes.”

Perrin said it was hard to gauge early on just what the damage to the local economy was as a result of an exceptionally mild winter.

He did point out that for visitors from out of town the whacky weather made it difficult to plan ahead and aim for a good time on a specific weekend.

“People just couldn’t drop everything on the rare occasion when there was snow and head north for what they hoped would be a full weekend of snow-sledding,” he said.

“There were simply too many unknowns.

“Everything put together’s been a very, very slow winter season up here in lake County.”

Neumann had his snowmobile patrol team ready and gassed up to go, but more often than not, there simply wasn’t a need.

“People couldn’t anticipate we’d have such a mild winter,” he said. “Most weekends there was brown ground rather than a good snow base.

“As a patrol, we only used about half of the allocated grant funding from the state. I hope that doesn’t affect us in the future.

“Still there were no major wrecks and no deaths or serious injuries.

“Most of the tickets we needed to hand out on the rare snowmobiling weekends involved riders using railroad property.

“We have been no where near as busy as last year or years past.

“The fact of life is, this has been the most unusual winter weather and winter recreational seasons I’ve see in a decade ... or more.”

Now, the sheriff’s department team begin looking beyond the passing winter, and start planning for not only the coming Blessing weekend, but also how new additions and adaptations to the ORV ordiancne will affect the highways, byways and enforcement of vehicles enjoying Lake County’s back country.

Winter is largely over.

It hasn’t been a great one.

Spring will soon be here, and the summer that follows will hopefully help local businesses make up for the lag.